Mitchum organized JROTC program at Lancaster High

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By Jesef Williams

B.W. Mitchum is being remembered as someone who instilled discipline and motivated the people he was around.

Mitchum, a retired U.S. Army colonel and JROTC instructor at Lancaster High School, died Monday. He was 80.

Mitchum organized Lancaster High's JROTC program after he retired from the active Army, and served as the program's senior Army instructor for 18 years.

Ernie Clyburn, a former Lancaster High principal, said Mitchum always pushed to make the JROTC program stronger.

Clyburn doesn't think the school could have picked a better person for the job.

"He was a very motivating person," Clyburn said. "I was very much impressed by Col. Mitchum and his activities. Anything he did, he did well."

Mitchum was a hard worker, whom many of his students can thank for their own success and leadership, Mitchum said.

Clyburn said Mitchum will be missed.

"He instilled a sense of pride in the youngsters,' he said.

Melinda Woodhurst, one of Mitchum's former students, credits him for her 25-year Army career, which she said allowed her to travel the world and recently retire as colonel.

Woodhurst, who was in the JROTC program all four years in high school, said Mitchum was her mentor – inspiring her to go to basic training, which allowed her to attend college.

Woodhurst also said Mitchum instilled a sense of community in his students.

He required students to do community service, such as car washes and food drives over Christmas.

"He led by example," Woodhurst said. "He took teens with no direction and molded them into adults."

Woodhurst, who kept in contact with Mitchum off and on over the years, said Mitchum's death was "absolutely devastating."

"It crushed me just knowing that individual is gone," she said. "So many lives have been touched by his loyalty and dedication."

Mitchum's funeral was Friday at Lancaster's Memorial Gardens with full military honors.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152