Murphy worked in the Wake County Public School System for 36 years — including holding the position of principal at East Wake and Sanderson High — and is most remembered by the Leesville community for his leading role in establishing Leesville Road High School in 1993. LRHS, at its opening, was the first new high school constructed in Wake County since 1978.
“I will never forget our tour of Leesville, in hardhats, when the gym floor was still dirt. He generated such energy and enthusiasm for what Leesville could become that day,” said Ann Hamilton, a staff member who began working at LRHS in its first year. “What a privilege it was to be part of that vision.”
Having literally built the school as it stands today, all who knew Murphy can say with certainty that his mark was left on the community in the physical manifestation of the LRHS building as well as the memory of an upstart philosophy that defines our school to this day.
“I began my first year of teaching here at Leesville under Mr. Murphy’s leadership,” said Angie Scioli, a Leesville social studies teacher. “His excitement and vision for opening a new school was infectious… the educational community has lost a brilliant mind and a great visionary, but [I am] so grateful that my career was built on and will always be guided by his leadership.”
Murphy was accomplished outside of WCPSS also, having played soccer for Campbell University at the All-American level.
But among all the highlights of Murphy’s tragically truncated life, the largest impact was almost indisputably the opening of LRHS, which remains as the cornerstone of the community as we see it today, as well as being routinely one of Wake County’s highest-performing schools. The News & Observer obituary termed this “a lifelong dream” of his.
“He was a great community leader,” said Carly Jones, Class of 2004. Jones was Leesville’s student body president. “I remember his distinct voice on the announcements every day. Although he was somewhat private, you could tell that he cared about education and the Leesville community… he made it his responsibility to know everyone and keep the school well-organized.”
Richard J. Murphy will be remembered here primarily as our first principal and the key component in laying the groundwork for the building blocks of the Leesville we know and love. Only some of the current staff of LRHS remember the days the school operated under his leadership, but all of them appreciate and respect what Murphy brought to Leesville as a leader and a visionary. He will be missed, even by those who never had the benefit of his direct tutelage.