Longtime Huntsville community leader Mary Jane Caylor passes away

Mary Jane Caylor, a long-time fixture in Huntsville education, politics and business has passed away. Caylor was 81 years old.
Published: Nov. 12, 2023 at 8:55 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 14, 2023 at 8:37 AM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Mary Jane Caylor, a long-time fixture in Huntsville education, politics and business has passed away. Caylor was 81-years-old.

Multiple sources confirm to WAFF 48 that Caylor passed at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville on Saturday.

Caylor spent almost her entire adult life in education. She graduated from the University of Alabama with a B.S. in elementary education and a master’s degree in special education. She also earned an Ed.D. in educational administration and planning. She taught as an elementary school teacher and adjunct professor with UAH and Athens State, as well as Troy and Alabama A&M.

From 1982-1991, she was the Superintendent of Huntsville’s City School system. She was awarded Superintendent of the Year in the state of Alabama in 1990. Following her time as Superintendent, she was elected to four consecutive terms representing north Alabama on the State Board of Education from 1994 - 2011.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle released the following statement on Caylor’s passing:

“Dr. Mary Jane Caylor was a tour de force in her work as an educator, business advocate and community leader. Forward thinking, strong-willed and effective, Dr. Caylor was never afraid to take a stand to support what she believed was right. Her compassion and dedication to our community will be missed. Our hearts go out to her family as we remember this remarkable woman and tireless advocate.”

Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Clarence Sutton released the following statement on Caylor’s passing:

“Dr. Caylor was a true innovator and advocate of public education,” said Dr. Clarence Sutton, HCS Superintendent. “Her passion for educating students, supporting teachers and staff members, and engaging the community remain hallmarks of her leadership. She paved the way and set the bar high for the direction we are going together as a school system.”

Caylor also was deeply involved in local politics. As the Pentagon went through its Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process in the early 2000s, Caylor was part of the recruitment team that helped Redstone Arsenal grow while other bases were cut. Surviving and thriving during BRAC is one of the most critical components that sparked Huntsville’s massive growth in the late 2000s that continues to this day.

At the same time, Caylor served as the executive director of Big Spring Partners from 2005 - 2012. The group is responsible for many crucial projects including the Huntsville Madison Veterans Memorial, Tom Thrasher Fountain at Big Spring Park and Bicentennial Park. She also spearheaded bicentennial celebrations for the city of Huntsville in 2005.

Caylor ran an unsuccessful campaign for Huntsville mayor in 2004, and another unsuccessful campaign for city council in 2018. She retired in 2016 after working as the dean for workforce development at JF Drake State Community and Technical College.

Sunday night, a release from The Driscoll Group summed up her life this way: Dr. Mary Jane Caylor lived by the motto, “I would rather wear out than rust out.”

Funeral arrangements for Caylor are as follows:

Visitation will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. November 16 at The Episcopal Church of the Nativity followed by the service at 1 p.m. with the Reverend Dr. Virginia Monroe officiating.

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