Mill Creek principal retiring to battle cancer

HOSCHTON — Mill Creek High School Principal James Markham, 69, was hoping to mark his 50-year milestone as an educator, but health issues have forced him to cut that goal short.

The veteran administrator recently announced his plans to retire on Dec. 1, leaving the state’s largest high school after a run of several decades with Gwinnett County Public Schools and 45 years total as an educator.

Having opened Mill Creek nine years ago, working as a teacher and assistant principal at Parkview High School for nine years and Berkmar for 10 years, Markham said being employed by the local district has been a good experience.

“The opportunities Gwinnett County Public Schools has afforded us have been incredible,” said Markham, whose wife, Ruth, is principal at Jackson Elementary in Lawrenceville. “We both came here as teachers, and we’ve both enjoyed our leadership positions here.”

Leaving his leadership post, Markham said, was necessary.

“I felt like it was the best time to go ahead and retire, rather than become an absentee principal because of my health,” he said. “I felt like it was time to step away and take care of this health business.”

Markham’s multiple myloma, a type of cancer that starts in bone marrow, recently came out of remission. “I was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam,” he said. “This is a direct result of that exposure.”

Having been diagnosed with cancer 15 years ago, he has battled it for some time, but felt that his upcoming treatment regimen would require him to miss substantial amounts of time away from school.

“Furthermore,” Markham said, “I felt like it was just time to step away and do some of the things I’ve always wanted to do.”

One of those things includes penning non-fiction books. “I’m writing a quasi-autobiographical novel as well as a book on leadership that perhaps principals could one day put to good use,” he said.

As a longtime administrator in GCPS, Markham said it’s been a good run.

“I like the fact that principals in this district have massive amounts of autonomy in terms of our leadership styles,” Markham said. “We’re not a top down dogmatic leadership style. We’re provided with advice and guidance, but basically we get the opportunity to lead entire communities.”

Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said Markham’s community leadership has been effective.

“Dr. Markham has had a long and successful career,” Wilbanks said. “He certainly has influenced a lot of students, as well as adults, in our school system. We will certainly miss him, but wish him well in his retirement.”

A spokesperson with the district said the search has begun to name Markham’s successor.

Markham and his wife live in Chateau Elan. They raised two children and have six grandchildren.


GwinnettFan 3 years, 2 months ago

Jim Markham has been an educator who never saw color, always saw potential, demanded high standards, and led by example. All who know him are aware that his military training never left him, runs a taut ship. He will be sincerely missed at Mill Creek.


YouMustBeKidding 3 years, 2 months ago

Mr. Markham is the most wonderful, supportive principal that any high school could ever have. I have a lot of respect for him, and his support of the staff and students at Mill Creek, especially the Special Ed corridor. God bless!


ssilover1 3 years, 2 months ago

We wish him well. Prayers your way.


JimmyOrr 3 years, 1 month ago

Mill Creek's absolute best, one of Gwinnett County's best, and one of America's best. Thank YOU Dr. Markham for your service as an educator in our county and for your service to our country in Vietnam. You got Mill Creek up and running and whoever is selected to backfill your position will have a big pair of shoes to fill. He/she will be fortunate to have the opportunity to build upon the excellent foundation you have laid at Mill Creek. God bless. James H. (Jimmy) Orr, Jr.


NewsReader 3 years, 1 month ago

I could not articulate any better than what Mr. Orr, Jr. had to say. Thanks for putting my thoughts into your own words for me Jimmy! The best to you and bless you and your family Mr. Markham. Whatever the future holds for you, I wish for it to be a pleasant journey.


Susan 3 years, 1 month ago

I admire Jim as an educator, a veteran and a friend. He was definitely one of GCPS's best! I wish him the best in his retirement.


hopetwin 3 years, 1 month ago

Dr Markham has been my boss for 4 years and he is a wonderful Boss and person . Dr Markham id like to Thank You for making Mill Creek a top school and making my Daughter's high school years great. Us Lunch ladies will miss you !

God Bless you Dr Markham your in our thoughts and prayers

Hope Thompson & Your Mill Creek Lunch ladies


JimmyOrr 3 years, 1 month ago

One thing that I forgot to mention in an earlier post and that is I trust the 2012 Mill Creek Football Hawks will dedicate the 2012 season to Dr. Jim. James H. (Jimmy) Orr, Jr.


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