brightens day


For 48 years Maniel Brown has served Madison county school district

The squeak of a garbage can’s wheels down the hall and a simple “hey, hey” are enough to brighten any day for Madison County School District central office staff.

Those sounds let them know that the central office custodian Maniel Brown, 77, is making his way to their office.

Brown, a Madison native, is the longest-serving Madison County School District staff member and a favorite around central office.

“You could ask anybody in this office about Mr. Brown and they would tell you he brings so much joy to the workplace,” said Gene Wright. 

Brown began working with the Madison County School District in 1971 when he took a job with the school district’s trade school the year it opened.

He was also working at a wood plant at that time but took on the new job to support his family.

“If anybody else can do it, you can do it if you want to,” he said of being successful and cultivating a good work ethic.

Anyone who has worked with Brown would tell you that he works hard with a smile on his face and brings encouragement to everyone he meets.

“I feel like the garbage can he pushes around is just a disguise he uses to check on and encourage us,” said Jill Newell, behavior specialist/counseling coordinator. “He uses it to come around to make sure we are OK and greet us with a smile. Mr. Brown has often talked to me about the importance of building relationships with others.  He has shared that throughout his years of working in the schools, he talked with students daily about respect, hard work and kindness.”

He awakes promptly at 4 a.m. to pray for the faculty, staff and students at Madison County schools, even though he does not arrive at work until 11:30 a.m. each day.

Always punctual, Brown arrives at central office ready to take on the afternoon of cleaning, collecting garbage and other needed tasks around the office.

He has worked as a custodian for the school district for nearly 48 years.

One of his favorite things to do is sing while he works.

“The vacuum is the lead singer,” he said. “When I’d crank the vacuum up, I’d start singing. The principal would sometimes have to come tell me to quiet down a little bit. Every time I’d crank it up, a song would come up. I sing for the Lord. When you’re singing, you’re enjoying what you’re doing.”


Staff at central office smile at the sound of his songs. It brings happiness to their work week.

“I love it when he walks around singing; it makes a bad day wonderful,” receptionist Brandy Day said. “He is one of the best men I know and love.”

Brown said he enjoys his work and the people of the Madison County school district.

 “Everybody here, I can go in their office and talk to them. When I pray at night, I ask the Lord to go from office to office, I remember them,” Brown said.

As for why he has stuck around at central office for so long, Brown said it has a lot to do with his work ethic.

“You can do anything, but you have to have God to help you,” he said. “If you hang in there, He will bless you with it. You have to hang in there and love what you do.”

“Mr. Brown is a ray of sunshine,” said Director of Student Data Stephanie Permenter. “His altruistic outlook on life is a reflection of his true positive inner beauty. Although his life has not been easy, he always chooses joy. He is an inspiration.”

Brown and his wife Dorothy have been married for more than 40 years. He has two children, Lisa and Anthony, and eight grandchildren.


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Madison-Ridgeland Academy students who maintained the highest academic average among all sports and activities for the 2018-2019 school year were (from left) Alexandra Cullom, Nicolas Rowan, Bryce