Jesse C. Long Sr.; Longtime president of Greater Atlanta Christian

To say Jesse C. Long Sr. knew every nook and cranny of the Greater Atlanta Christian School campus is hardly an understatement. From helping install the infrastructure for the Norcross school, to welcoming the first students, Long had a story about every building.

“No job was beneath him when it came to the school,” said his son Ned O’Brien, of Duluth.

“Building by building, he could tell you stories about the people who got their hands dirty while building the school,” said Jill Morris, the school’s director of public relations. “And he was a storyteller before storytelling was cool.”

Long served as the president of the Christian school from 1963, the year before its first students entered, until his retirement in 1998, when he became the institution’s chancellor, Morris said.

“Our current president, only our second in 50 years, is a ‘what’s next’ kind of president,” she said. “But Jesse was about the beginning. He was a dream builder.”

Jesse Ceymore Long Sr., of Johns Creek, died Thursday of complication from Parkinson’s disease. He was 81.

A funeral is planned for 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Long Forum at Greater Atlanta Christian School, Norcross. Burial will follow at Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs. Crowell Brothers Funeral Home is in charge of final arrangements.

Long was born in Jackson County, Tenn., and began to understand the importance of education from an early age. Long’s mother was a schoolteacher and wanted her sons to have a “good Christian education,” O’Brien said. After the family left Tennessee, they settled in Ohio, but Long’s parents sent him and a younger brother to a Christian boarding school in Valdosta for their primary education.

Long embraced preaching as his vocation, and often found ways to merge his love of education and religion, including the establishment of Greater Atlanta Christian. He was a minister for over 30 years and an elder of the Campus Church of Christ from 1972 until he died.

While Long was adamant about educating young people while teaching Christian values, he was not a fan of the spotlight, friends and family said.

“He wanted to give the credit not only to God, but to the people helping him along the way,” O’Brien said. “He was really a humble, servant type of person.”

The way Long loved children was not only evident at the school, but also in his personal life. After the death of his first wife Jacqulin Turner Long, he married Marilyn O’Brien, who had children from a previous marriage.

“We blended our families quite well,” O’Brien said. “He introduced me as his son, simple as that, and that is the way it has always been.”

Morris said that in her 19 years at the school, she can’t remember a time she didn’t see Long engaged with the school’s students. The relationships he established with the young people carried over into adulthood, said Ronnalee Strickland, a graduate and now employee of Greater Atlanta Christian.

“He was a person people came back to talk to and to seek advice from,” Strickland said. “He wanted to train children to go other places to serve and work, but they came back to see him.”

Jesse C. Long Jr., of Lubbock, Texas, said at the end of the day, his father wanted to help educate children and glorify the kingdom of God.

“He preached a sermon and in it said, ‘When I die, I don’t want people to remember me, I want them to remember Jesus,’ ” Long said, of his father. “He wanted God to get the glory.”

In addition to his namesake and Ned O’Brien, Long is survived by sons, Mark Long and Marc O’Brien, both of Duluth; daughter Gay Lewis of Lawrenceville; brother William J. Long, of Dunwoody; sister Anne Gentry, of Mount Juliet, Tenn.; 13 grandchildren; and 4 great-grandchildren.