Colleagues, community grieve loss of inspirational leader
On Sunday, May 8, Robbie Newton, principal of Nantahala School, passed away after a long battle with cancer. Newton, 39, was loved and respected by the students and teachers at Nantahala School, and on Monday colleagues from around the county spoke of the positive role-model and inspiration he had been.
“It’s a great personal loss for me,” Franklin High School principal Chris Baldwin said of Newton’s passing. Before moving to FHS this year, Baldwin had been principal at Nantahala School and had worked with Newton for a number of years.
“It’s also, in my opinion, a huge loss for the community and the school. He touched the lives of many students and colleagues over the past 15 or so years that he worked at Nantahala School.”
Classes at the K-12 school were canceled on Monday out of respect for Newton’s passing.
Newton began teaching at the school in 1996 after receiving his B.A. from Western Carolina University. He held numerous teaching certificates and in 2009 was awarded an M.A. in Education Administration and Supervision from Lincoln Memorial University.
In his time at the Nantahala School, Newton wore many hats. He was the middle school math teacher for many years before taking over as principal after Baldwin’s transfer last summer. He was also the head basketball coach for boys and girls teams and led both to the conference championships in 2007. Newton, who was coowner of a timber frame construction company in Nantahala with his step-father, Charles Mingus, also taught construction at Nantahala School.
Over the past year, Newton was often too sick to work, but he still attempted to stay as involved as possible with the school. “He has fought quite a battle over the last year and was an inspiration to me and many others in the way he conducted himself and in the battle that he put up,” Baldwin said.
“He was a quality individual and always did an excellent job,” said school board member and former FHS principal, Gary Shields. Shields noted that despite his illness, Newton regularly attended district principals’ meetings over the last year. “Even though it was a struggle, he was there. I really think the love and concern he had for the kids at Nantahala was his motivation, and it was an inspiration to me and others.”
“His family and the students and teachers at Nantahala School thought the world of him,” said school board chairman, Tommy Cabe. “He is going to be missed.”
“Robbie Newton was a tremendous leader, a passionate educator and a dear friend,” said Superintendent Dan Brigman said. “He devoted many years to Nantahala School and the students there. It's a great loss for our students, our staff and our school system.”
Son of Robert Louis Newton, Jr., and Christine Hamilton Mingus, Newton was a native of Mecklenberg County, N.C. Besides being an educator, Newton was coowner of Newton-Mingus Construction Company with his stepfather, Charles Mingus. Newton was a member of Aquone Baptist Church.
Funerals services for Newton were held on Wednesday in the Nantahala School Gymnasium.
In addition to his parents, Newton is survived by his wife, Tammy; two sons, Eric and Blake; two daughters, Brooke and Brysen; and one brother, Mark Newton of Gastonia, N.C. His father- and mother-in-law, Thomas and Shirley Baldwin, also live in the Nantahala area.