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The year of 3 Popes




Evening Times Editor

To say that things have been thrown into disarray at the West Memphis School Distirct is probably somewhat of an understatement. Less than a year removed from a period of chaos after the school board unceremoniously fired a perfectly capable superintendent, Richard Atwill, without cause (their own word) and then hired an unqualified Willie Rhodes to be the interim, the district was finally able to retrurn to normalcy thanks to the arrival of New Superintendent Dr. Terrence Brown, who tragically passed away Tuesday morning, right as the school year is coming to an end and there are a lot of end-of-year items that are going to be complicated by his death.

On Aug. 6, 1978, Pope Paul VI died after 15 years as Pope. He was 80 years old, so while sad, it was neither tragic nor a great shock. Less than three weeks later, his successor, who took the


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name Pope John Paul I, was chosen. However, just 33 days later, Pope John Paul I suffered a heart attack and died at age 65, leaving the Catholic Church to mourn a leader for the second time in a matter of weeks. His time as pope was the 10th shortest of all time and the shortest in more than 400 years. Finally, on Oct. 16, 1978, a new pope, Pope John Paul II, was chosen. And with his rise to the position, stability was restored to the Church’s leadership, as Pope John Paul II went on to reign for more than 26 years.

Pope John Paul II became one of the most well-known and beloved world figures during his time in the Vatican. And 1978 became known as The Year of Three Popes. There are actually 12 such years in the 2000 year history of the Catholic Church, but again, the first in more than 400 years (the last was 1605).

Fun fact: Well, maybe not “fun” but interesting, twice in U.S. History have we had a Year of Three Presidents. In March of 1841, President Martin Van Buren left office and William Henry Harrison was sworn in but died after only a month in office. John Tyler, the vice-president took his place. The same thing happened in 1881 with Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield and Chester Arthur.

And this year, sadly, we’ll have another Year of Three Superintendents in the West Memphis School District.

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