Two years ago, Huff became a national figure after he declared days after a monster tornado tore through Joplin and ravaged 10 schools that the school year would start as scheduled Aug. 17. And it did.
A sign at a local car lot acknowledged the accomplishment and
The tornado killed 161 people. "Seven of them were my children," he said, his voice choking with emotion.
Huff described his efforts -- even before the tornado struck -- to involve the community in solving the problems of a low-income city in a low-income state.
In a meeting of 150 community leaders, he realized the pastors were missing.
"I don't blame the faith community," he said in an interview after his talk. "It's the fault of the schools for not inviting them in."
A 1948 U.S. Supreme Court decision banning religious instruction by public schools had a chilling effect on churches' involvement in schools, he said.
So in Joplin, he arranged a special meeting with the city's faith leaders. A pastor stood up and said, "We can't be the voice of God in the schools, but we can be the hands of God."