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Thornton’s legacy blends music with spirit of loyalty, determination

MADISON – Without a doubt, Doyle Thornton will be remembered for sharing his knowledge of music but also for undying loyalty and commitment to thousands of young men and women that he mentored.

Thornton died at his home in Madison on June 30. He was born on Nov. 8, 1949 in Winfield. As a high school junior, he moved to Warner Robins, Ga. where he met his future wife, Ginger. They married in Clermont, Ga.

Thornton earned a bachelor’s degree in music at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. He directed bands until settling at Bob Jones High School in 1989. During that time, he received his master’s degree in music education from Auburn University. In 2015, he retired from teaching music and marching band techniques for 27 years at Bob Jones.

“I loved Mr. Thornton, in spite of his many quirks,” Maggie Heeger, mother of two band alumni, said. “Maybe it was the quirks that made him special.”

“I loved how he had nearly unending patience with the most volatile group of humans around: teenagers! He knew when to double down and he knew when to lighten up,” Heeger said.

“I can’t tell you how often I heard of a kind thing he did or arranged because he knew a band student needed that gesture. He arranged for band fees to be paid for expensive competition trips. Nothing was ever said or mentioned about it,” Heeger said.

Highly educated, Thornton could have been a well-paid composer or conductor, but he chose to teach high school band. “Anyone who would go out in the blazing Alabama summer sun, year after year, to coach hundreds of musicians at band camp as they worked on their routines … obviously, he did it out of love,” Heeger said.

Robby Parker considered Doyle Thornton a special person. Parker was in his second year at Bob Jones when Thornton started in 1989; they worked together until Thornton’s retirement in 2015. (Parker formerly served as Madison City Schools Superintendent and now is Principal of Whitesburg Christian Academy, Upper School.)

“I watched the band explode from 20-something students to more than 200. No one loved Bob Jones more than Doyle Thornton,” Parker said. “Doyle said that he and I were either the two hardest working people in the world … or the dumbest.” They both arrived at school around 7 a.m. as Parker headed to an athletic field, and Thornton prepared for the band to rehearse marching drills/music.

“People show their love in different ways. Doyle showed his love by never wavering, being there for the kids, sharing his expertise,” Parker said. “It hurts my heart that he’s gone. He was a good man.”

Thornton was inducted into the Bob Jones Hall of Fame in 2017.

Each year, Bob Jones seniors who have completed seven or eight semesters in the band program received the “Doyle Thornton Award.”

Thornton is survived by his wife, Ginger; one son, Robert A Thornton; and two granddaughters, Mia and Marlie.

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