Long before Rex Tillerson became the chief operating officer of one of the country's most profitable companies and President-elect Donald Trump's nomination to be the next secretary of state, he was a student "mature beyond his years," walking the halls at Huntsville High School.
Former Hornets band director Richard Wuensche took a stroll down memory lane Thursday as he flipped through old Huntsville High School yearbooks, pointing out pictures of Tillerson, who earned spots in the all-district and all-region bands during his senior year in 1970.
"My memory is a little foggy because this was a long time ago, but it seems like Rex came to Huntsville after school started his junior year and then graduated the next," Wuensche said. "He was a section leader in the percussion section. He never looked like a high school student. He was very mature looking and acting person. He was just an All-American kid, squeaky clean."
Tillerson, who was born in Wichita Falls in 1952, moved to Huntsville with his family during the 1968-69 school year because of his father's work with the Boy Scouts of America. Wuensche said Tillerson played the timpani during concert season and switched to the snare drum during marching season.
As a senior, Tillerson was vice president of the Hornet Concert Band and a "leader" who helped keep his bandmates in line.
"We had a band council where we got together to discuss ways to improve and things, and I remember he was quiet, but he contributed," Wuensche said. "He had all the attributes a band director would like to have. I didn't have to worry about the percussion section because I had someone there who knows something, and if there was a problem, Rex could fix it."
Tillerson, whose sister Rae Ann was a drum majorette at Huntsville High School, also played varsity tennis, helping guide the Hornets to a district championship in his junior year.
Wuensche remembers Tillerson for what he brought to the band program. The Eagle Scout showed then that he had the makeup to go on to graduate from the University of Texas with an engineering degree, take a job with Exxon Mobil and work his way to the top of world's largest oil and gas company, which has put him in line to be the next U.S. secretary of state.
"He was just a steady guy who never got out of line," said Wuensche, who served as Huntsville's band director for 18 years. "He was perceived as being in charge. His presence was strong. He was a 'yes sir, no sir' kind of guy. He was extremely polite and just an all-around good guy. What else can you say about a guy who showed up and did his job?"
Tillerson's twin sons from his previous marriage have followed in their father's footsteps. Robert and Michael Tillerson were the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of Huntsville High School's class of 1996 and were in the band.
The twins also graduated from the University of Texas with engineering degrees.
"Robert and Michael were very close in the val and sal standings that year," said Wuensche's wife, Linda, who was the head counselor at Huntsville High School when the Tillerson brothers were in school. "One was ahead of the other and it came down to one test. There was only like a hundredth of a point of a difference between them. They were very, very bright young men."