yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

From Lillye Younger, The History of Decatur County Past and Present (Southhaven, MS: Carter Printing Company, 1978).
Special thanks to Constance Collett for permission to make these web pages.

In Memory of Lillye Washburn Younger 1912-1998.


Chapter XIV

Jackie Sperry

Kennie Kimbrough Houston

Kennie Kimbrough (K.K.) Houston son of James Franklin and Martha Isabelle Long was one of the prominent citizens of his generation. He was born November, 3rd 1893, died August 21, 1971.

Even as a young boy he was known to be quite a scholar. He attended the first school in Parsons from 1900 through 1907 — for his elementary schooling; he attended secondary school in Parsons from 1908 through 1909. At the age of 13 he took the exam given by the state for County Supt. passed it, but was too young to qualify for the position. However, he did teach school at the age of fourteen. Many of his students were older than he, but he never had a problem with discipline.

To further his education he attended Union Univ. at Jackson and The University of Tennessee from 1911-13. Quite a few years later he received his B. A. degree from Union University, 1929.

He taught school in Decatur County for many years — desiring to see part of the world, he went to Green County Oklahoma to teach several years. His teaching career was interrupted by the first World War. He was inducted into the United States Army in 1918 — discharged that same year as a Second Lieutenant.

December 15, 1919 he gave up his freedom and married Mable C. Davis a daughter of Jesse (Jack) and Eva McKelvey Davis of Chesterfield, Tennessee. The story goes that Mr. Davis did not approve of his daughter's choice in beaus as he had another gentleman chosen to be his first son-in-law. Mable not wanting to see the fire in her father's eye decided to elope at the age of twenty-four. She rode by train to Lexington where she met Kennie. They went by buggy to Rev. Fleetwood Ball's home. Fearing that her father might show up on the scene, she requested that they be married outside seated in the buggy, ready for take off. Rev. Ball obliged and married the young couple.

The newlyweds moved to Akron. Ohio where K. K was employed by Firestone. It was in Akron their first child was born, a boy, given the name Hugh Harold on Oct. 30, 1920. Needless to say the Houstons were proud of their son — especially the mother.

From Akron K. K. was transferred to Jackson, Mississippi where they lived for a year or two. With a young son to rear, no family near, the Houstons longed to be back in their native Tennessee. Encouragement from both sides of the family made the decision to return to Decatur easy for the young couple. They came back to Decatur County to build their future.

Back in God's country, K. K. worked for a time as a clerk, but returned to his first love, teaching. He stayed in the field of education until 1940.

On August 9, 1930 the second child was born to this union, a girl named Betty Marylyn. She was the apple of her Daddy's eye. Then on July 30,1933 much to the amazement of both K. K. and Mable, they were blessed with two girls, Jimmie and Jackie. Mr. Connie Maxwell told the twins many times about Kennie literally running to town — into the store shouting —There's two of them - got to have more clothes — then dashing home again.

Having more mouths to feed, K. K. decided to move up the ladder in the field of education by seeking the office of County Supt. He became a candidate and was successful in winning that elected position; he served two terms in office.

 Toward the end of his second term as Supt. of Schools another major decision had to be made by K. K. and Mable. What to do? With urging from his wife he decided to take a step into the business world. They went into the General Mercantile business — where they built a thriving business which exists today, owned and operated by their son, Hugh and his wife Lorraine.

K. K. believed life should not be all work and no play. For pure relaxation he fished. His special fishing buddy was his brother in-law Jack Bell. He enjoyed reading. It didn't really matter what the material was from comic strips to the classics. History was his favorite. He could quote historical events and dates like some of us do our ABC's.

His one hobby that dominated the last ten years of his life was tracing his family tree. He became completely engrossed in the research and genealogy of his family. In the beginning be believed that he came from a direct line of Gen. Sam Houston, but after much research and hours of hard work he concluded that he had not been a direct descendent of Sam. He said his grandfather Samuel Houston told him when he was a mere lad of a boy that he (grandfather) was a third cousin of Texas Sam. He showed him a tree where he said Sam Houston and David Crockett made speeches. Knowing that his grandfather was a mite windy he never knew whether the tale was wind or truth. K. K. did trace his ancestry back to the 1100's and to Peter Houston who fought in the Rev., giving his descendants the right to membership in the sons of the Revolution. K. K. made many friends through the years of corresponding with hundreds of other individuals seeking to find their roots.

 As a citizen of Decatur County and business man in Parsons, he was for progress. He was instrumental in influencing industry to Parsons. He was a member of Parsons First Baptist Church. A Mason, a charter member of the Lions Club, a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Sons of the Revolution. He served as service officer for the American Legion for twenty years.

 Still another K. K. was husband and father in both he was the ultimate. As a husband he was truly the head of the house hold, but Mable knew just how to manipulate him to get what she wanted without his knowing it was all her idea. A firm disciplinarian of the old school he was; the children knew that no was no without question. And there was no doubt that Daddy would always be there for advice and encouragement when needed no matter what age the kids were. The Houston's were always parents to their deaths. They not only encouraged their children to continue their educations after high school, but simply let it be known that they would further their education in some field of study.

Hugh attended the University of Tennessee Martin branch. After high school for one year, then worked for a year to help finance his education, he went back to U. T. where he worked for a teaching certificate. He came back to Decatur County the next year to teach. World War II came along, he enlisted in the Merchant Marine along with two friends from U. T. and two hometown friends. Freck Bawcum and James Arnold. While in service Hugh married a Decatur County girl, Lorraine Crawley. After the war years Hugh came back to Parsons where he taught school and continued his education during the summers at Union University and Lambeth in Jackson, Tenn. After receiving his bachelors degree he began working toward his M.A. at George Peabody in Nashville. He taught science in Parsons and later Riverside High Schools for twenty years. In 1964 he and Lorraine took over the family business.

Betty attended Martin U. T. after graduating from high school then transferred to Memphis State Univ. where she worked for a degree in Business Administration. She graduated from Memphis State in 1951, worked for a chemical company a year, then as a research asst. at Univ. of Tenn. Med School in the dept. of Physiology until 1955. In 1955 she married William D. Roper. a young lieutenant in the Air Force stationed with the weather station in Memphis. They have three children, Billy Jr., Judy and Mitchell. All in college now, Billy in graduate school with a full fellowship in Chemistry, Judy studing Chem. engeneering and Mitchell in first year premed. The Ropers now in Belleville, Ill., where Bill is retired as a Lt. Col. from the Air force — now working for Peabody Mines as an environmental consultant. Betty has gone back to the Houston tradition of teaching school.

Jimmie and Jackie attended Memphis State University where they graduated in 1956. Jimmie received a degree in Education Jackie a degree in Biology. Jimmie married Robert E. Knowling, in 1956, a young medical student at the time. She taught school in Memphis while Ed was in med school. Their first two children, Cindy and Ed Jr. were born while they were in Memphis. Later the couple had Michael Houston and Kathy. Cindy and Ed Jr. are both attending the University of Tennessee studying in the pre-med. program. Mike and Kathy are in secondary school in Knoxville. Dr. Knowling is a well known plastic surgeon in the medical field. Jimmie stays busy now being a wife and mother.

Jackie chose not to teach after finishing college but instead worked at the University of Tennessee Medical School, Dept. of Physiology as a research assistant until Oct. 1960. At that time she married a young army officer, Lt. L. E. (Tiger) Sperry. They moved around quite a bit for eight years. Two children, both girls were born to this couple, Shelley and Teri. After retirement from the Army as a Major, Tiger moved the family to Memphis where he continued his education at Memphis State University. In 1974 the Sperrys moved west to Nebraska where Tiger was reared. Mr. Sperry is principal of the local school in Wallace, Neb.

To you K. K. and Mable — your children say thank you for giving us that something you can not put a price or label on.

Compiled by Jackie Sperry

Note: This article was followed by an 1l-page descendant outline of the Houston family based on the research of K. K. Houston. It cannot be reproduced in HTML. It is confusing in some sections where heading levels are mixed up and one descendant line was omitted. Click here for a more detailed genealogy based originally on the omitted outline.

top · home · yesterday's · families · schools · links · what's new · memorial · about

This site was created by David Donahue and Brenda Kirk Fiddler.
This site is currently maintained by Jerry L. Butler
Copyright © 2004 - 2010, All rights reserved