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Son of a sharecropper, Luck keeps up pace beyond point of retirement

South Boston News / February 20, 2020

Lealand Luck was born the son of a sharecropper five miles east of Danville in the village of Blairs. He says his father was a loving man who worked hard and never complained. His mother taught him and his 13 siblings to love one another. They were not allowed to go to bed mad at their brothers and sisters. Instead they had to kiss and make up.

After graduating from Virginia State College with a degree in Vocational Agriculture, Luck accepted a position teaching in 1966 at Mary Bethune High School, the county’s segregated school for black students in the Jim Crow era.

“I had only expected to teach there [at Bethune] for one year,” said Luck, who instead became one of five African American teachers to be hired at Halifax County High School the following year. After 25 years of teaching at the high school he retired in 1991.

The conclusion of his teaching career coincided with the tenure of the country’s first African American governor since Reconstruction, Douglas Wilder. Then-Gov. Wilder dealt with a severe budget crunch by offering an early retirement plan to state employees who had worked for 25 years and were at least 50 years old.

“I wasn’t burned out, it was still fun,” said Luck of teaching, adding the governor thought it was a good idea to get rid of seasoned employees to lower payroll costs. Wilder’s retirement plan was a good offer, with no strings attached, and it never happened again.

True to his upbringing, Luck has kept busy at work since.

He has yet to officially retire and probably won’t. After teaching at the high school, he worked for Tractor Supply and Banister Senior Services, an adult home in Halifax for seniors. Almost nine years later, Luck took a position at Berry Hill Resort as a security officer and night auditor. Today he is still employed by the resort as a historical tour guide.

“This job is absolutely wonderful and I still love it,” said Luck. He had always been interested in the mansion, but had never seen the estate until the day he turned in his job application. He enjoys meeting and talking with guests and other people at Berry Hill. With the mansion’s reputation for being haunted, Luck says he has heard spooky footsteps, but he’s never seen anything supernatural.

“Sometimes I get kudos on social media, and Martha likes that, so she keeps me around,” chuckled Luck. Martha Borg is the owner of The Berry Hill Resort and Conference Center.

In addition to being a historic tour guide, Luck books gigs as a comedian. His entertainment business is called Laff-A-Little.

“I believe laughter is therapeutic and it’s good to keep a smile in your heart,” he said. Luck performs stand-up comedy entertainment for family reunions, receptions, banquets and other gala events.

He keeps busy even when he’s off the clock by exercising his body and mind. Luck enjoys riding his bicycle on the Tobacco Heritage Trail, clocking in at six miles in an hour and walking two miles in an hour around the track at the high school.

Every morning, he stops at Food Lion and picks up a copy of the Danville Register & Bee for the crossword puzzle.

“I pick up the paper and talk a little politics,” Luck said, adding that he also submits photos and articles to the Register & Bee and Time Magazine, with some published from time to time.

During the 1980s Luck was recognized with several awards. In 1983 he was named Virginia’s Outstanding Teacher of Agriculture. In 1988 he was awarded the fourth place prize in the National Future Farmers of America Foundation Award contest for top agriculture science teacher, at an event held in Kansas City, Mo. Luck was selected as Man of the Year by the Halifax/South Boston Business and Professional Men’s Club in 1988.

Luck is a member of the Banister Hill Baptist Church and Halifax County Business and Professional Council. He was married for 47 years to his late wife, Garnet Mitchell Luck, who died in 2014. They had three children, Yolanda, Mitchell, and Shanna. He has five sisters who are still living: Lois, Sally, Ola, Willa, and Arhonda. Luck spent eight years on the Southside Community Services Board and the Southside Virginia Community College Board. He served as president of both the Halifax Education Association and the Halifax Retired Teachers Association, the executive director of the Mentor Role Model Program, and campaign chairman for the United Way.

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