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Principal shares misfortune to inspire students

Crenshaw overcomes disabling leg condition

Principal+James+Crenshaw+sits+at+his+office+desk+on+Feb.+21.+Beginning+in+the+first+grade%2C+he+spent+three+years+in+a+wheelchair+due+to+a+leg+condition.
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Principal shares misfortune to inspire students

Principal James Crenshaw sits at his office desk on Feb. 21. Beginning in the first grade, he spent three years in a wheelchair due to a leg condition.

Principal James Crenshaw sits at his office desk on Feb. 21. Beginning in the first grade, he spent three years in a wheelchair due to a leg condition.

Photo by Blaine Young

Principal James Crenshaw sits at his office desk on Feb. 21. Beginning in the first grade, he spent three years in a wheelchair due to a leg condition.

Photo by Blaine Young

Photo by Blaine Young

Principal James Crenshaw sits at his office desk on Feb. 21. Beginning in the first grade, he spent three years in a wheelchair due to a leg condition.

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Under the glass sheet of principal James Crenshaw’s desk lies a mosaic of pictures, news clippings, quotes and prints of artwork. In the middle facing out from beneath the glass is an old news article, and in the picture a young boy in a wheelchair with a brace on his legs. He looks happy to have gotten a new wheelchair donated to him, equipped with a desk to play board games on.

That same boy sits on the other side of the desk; 48 years older and his condition fully healed. Despite his past hardship, he now heads a school of nearly 2,000 students and 200 faculty members.

When he was in the first grade, Crenshaw complained to his mom that his leg hurt. After several visits to the doctor and finding nothing wrong, the doctor took his mom aside and told her that he thought Crenshaw had problems at school and didn’t want to go.

When his mom confronted him about this, he told her that he loves school, but he was in pain. His mom immediately drove him to Corpus Christi from the doctor’s office in Aransas Pass, where the doctors might have known a little more.

“She didn’t even stop. We drove straight to Corpus to a pediatrician’s office,” Crenshaw said. “When I got in the pediatrician’s office, she took one look at me and said ‘you’re not gonna believe this, but my son had this condition in both legs. I can’t be sure, but I think your son has Leggs-Perthes.’ ”

Photo courtesy of James Crenshaw
Six-year-old James Crenshaw poses for a picture. The wheelchair was donated by the Aransas Pass Rotary Club.

After getting X-rays, an orthopedist confirmed that Crenshaw had Legg-Calve-Perthes, a condition where the blood flow to the hip is cut off, causing the ball joint to deteriorate. This makes it painful to walk. To treat it, Crenshaw was put in a brace that took the weight off his hip and a wheelchair, although he could use crutches to walk short distances.

Being in the brace for several years gave his joint time to grow back. Every month or 90 days, he went to the doctor for an X-ray. The doctor then compared the new X-ray to the previous one, he said.

“You can literally watch my hip joints grow,” Crenshaw said. “So over the course of a couple years you just saw it grow in. One thing that was nice about that is I could go to the doctor’s, and I knew I was getting better.”

Despite being able to see his hip grow back and the motivation the doctor gave him, his stepbrother and others said they doubted that he would ever be able to do anything athletic.

“(They) weren’t mean, but when I would say that I was going to play football, or when I would say I was going to do this and that, they would say ‘you’re never going to do that’,” Crenshaw said. “So the fact that somebody said that I was never going to do that was a great deal of motivation.”

Photo courtesy of James Crenshaw
James Crenshaw stands next to his parents in his football uniform. Crenshaw played offensive tackle for Aransas Pass High School and graduated in 1982.

He also found motivation in his childhood hero, Lou Ferrigno, who was a bodybuilder in the 1970s and starred as the Hulk in the 1977-1982 “Incredible Hulk” TV series. Ferrigno also had disabilities of his own – a speech impediment and hearing loss.

“When I got out of my crutches and my brace, I learned everything I could learn about bodybuilding and weightlifting,” Crenshaw said. “Then I started listening and hearing all the things that Lou Ferrigno was doing to get big, so I was really into muscle and fitness, and I was going to play football no matter what,” he said.

Crenshaw, despite his condition, was able to play football at Aransas Pass High School, where he was an offensive tackle. A picture of him can be found on the left corner of his desk: he stands upright with his parents on either side of him; his football helmet in his left hand and a white number 70 stitched onto the purple uniform.

Crenshaw likes to keep that news article on his desk to show students and inspire them.

“I want kids to see that all humans struggle,” Crenshaw said. “I wasn’t born a 230 pound principal. I just think that sometimes kids get down on themselves because they don’t realize that it’s a process of growing up. I have that on my desk because I want kids to see that who you are is not who you become.”

Crenshaw would also like to share some advice to anyone going through anything negative in their life.Rely on the people that love you, and remember that how you are today doesn’t necessarily equal your future,” he said. “You don’t have the power to change things, but you have the power to change how you feel about things and if you feel more positively about things, you get more positive results.”

3 Comments

3 Responses to “Principal shares misfortune to inspire students”

  1. DeWolfe on February 23rd, 2018 3:55 pm

    This is very interesting.

  2. Spence on May 31st, 2018 10:59 am

    I am inspired.

  3. Juile Fomenko on August 4th, 2018 3:43 pm

    I just found this journal and this was the first article I read. Very inspirational and so glad you share this story with your students! Keep up the good work Mr. Crenshaw!!

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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Principal shares misfortune to inspire students