JONESBORO — Jason Smith likes to say his longtime friend Greg Rainwater was tri-vocational.
Rainwater served Nettleton Public Schools in two capacities, filling the roles of athletic director and transportation director. He was also pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Walcott and made numerous mission trips to Africa.
“For anybody he came across, there was no question he was a man of Christ. That just resonated with people,” said Smith, who is Nettleton High School’s girls basketball coach as well as Dean of Students at Fox Meadow School of Creative Media. “He touched thousands and thousands of lives whether it was in southern Africa or Maynard, Arkansas, or anywhere. He just had a way of doing good things.
“One of the things I’ve thought about is he did 100 tiny things throughout a random day that made the world a better place, and he did that every day. We’re going to figure out pretty quick all the little things that Greg did for the good of Nettleton, for Jonesboro, for Northeast Arkansas and ultimately the world. I feel blessed to call him my friend. I’ve known him for almost 25 years and I’ve never known a guy who just did so much good.”
Rainwater, who died early Saturday, spent 29 years in education. He was the high school girls’ basketball coach in his hometown of Maynard and then at Riverside before working at Nettleton, where he worked in different capacities before becoming the school’s athletic director in 2017.
Riverside boys basketball coach Buster Campbell said he was heartbroken to hear of Rainwater’s passing.
“It felt like I was run over by a truck when I heard that Saturday morning,” said Campbell, who has two daughters who played basketball for Rainwater at Riverside. “He was the kind of guy that I might ask him to preach at my funeral and now I’m going to have to go to his. There’s one thing for certain, everybody knows where Greg’s at. There’s some people you may have a question about, but not him.”
Rainwater, 51, coached at Maynard for five years before moving to Riverside, where he worked until accepting a position as girls basketball coach at Nettleton Junior High in 2008. He made his first mission trip to Africa in 2006 and lived in Uganda from 2010-12, doing mission work through food relief and producing wells. Rainwater continued to make mission trips to Uganda after resuming his work in education.
In 2012, Rainwater returned to Nettleton as assistant junior girls’ basketball coach and social studies teacher. He later became principal at Nettleton Middle School before following Darrel Dover as athletic director in 2017. His wife, Tammy, is assistant principal at Fox Meadow.
Nettleton boys basketball coach Aaron “Bubba” Deaton described Rainwater as a mentor who encouraged him last winter during his first year leading the Raiders.
“His office door was always open. Greg was a perfect example of someone who talked it and walked it,” Deaton said. “He was a great Christian man, always positive and upbeat.”
Smith said Rainwater was still trying to conduct the 5A-East junior high volleyball tournament through his phone when they spoke Friday night.
“He never seemed to have a bad day. Even if he was having one, you wouldn’t know it,” Smith said. “If he did it once, he did it a thousand times, buying a kid’s supper or making sure he didn’t just ask how the game was, but how the family was, how an older brother or sister was.
“He just had that kind of impact, and he was the best. He’s just a good guy who never wanted credit for anything, never expected credit for anything.”
Campbell described Rainwater in the same way.
“He was one of the best guys. You won’t find anybody who will say anything bad about Greg Rainwater,” Campbell said. “Forget the coaching. We all lost a great friend, we really did, and not just in this area. I don’t know how many mission trips he went on to Uganda. He did a lot of great work over there.
“Sometimes all of us become saints when we die, but he was one while he was still walking.”