yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

Mrs. Roy N. Stout

Mrs. Decaturville for 1948

“Among Our Neighbors” Series by Gordon H. Turner
The Nashville Tennessean, September 10, 1948

Mrs. Decaturville for 1948 Honored by Old Friends (Photo by Gordon H. Turner with caption: “Mrs. Roy N. Stout, honoree for the 1948 Dr. Rogers Day homecoming at Decaturville was presented a watch by C. R. Avery (second from right), principal of the Decaturville school, and James L. England (right) master of Labor Day ceremonies last week.  At left is Dr. T. Rogers, venerable country doctor for whom the homecoming celebration was instituted in 1947.”)

Decaturville, Tenn. - Mrs. Roy N. Stout is believed to have taught more than half of Decaturville’s townspeople in the first grade during her 40-odd years of school teaching.

The recognition of and appreciation for her contribution, hundreds of Decaturville citizens gathered in court square here this week to shower smiles, kisses, tributes and gifts on Mrs. Stout, as she became the town’s second honoree for the annual Dr. Rogers homecoming celebration.

Sponsored by the 45-member civic club, Labor Day was fixed last year as a permanent annual homecoming date for a big celebration in tribute to some outstanding citizen of Decatur County.  The initial 1947 program honored this county’s venerable country doctor, T. Rogers, as he reviewed a parade of hundreds of his “babies” ranging in ages from two weeks to 58 years.

The deliver-bouquets-to-the-living idea was so popular that club members voted to make the day honoring labor go a little further here each time by calling up for special recognition some man or woman who had worked so long and hard among them.

The plan is for Dr. Rogers to remain the outstanding guest at each year’s gathering as long as he lives.  Other annual top-notchers will in turn join him to form the panel of county greats to watch newcomers ushered into their own hall of fame.

Mrs. Stout was a natural selection for 1948’s blue ribbon selection.  Born in Flatwoods in adjoining Perry County, she began teaching there in 1903.  Coming here in 1907, she was assigned the old Methodist church house for her first-graders until they found a room for her at the public school in 1910.  Still teaching the beginning kiddies in that same room for the 38th year, she declares this year’s class tops all others.

This year’s homecoming saw a parade of former pupils arranged to gladden the heart of “Mrs. Decaturville for 1948.”  Starting at the high school gym, 500 children aged 6 to 51 years, romped and played as they wound through the streets and came to fill much of the courthouse lawn at her feet below the speaker’s stand.

Joined by other town-ites, the jovial holiday crowd heard letters and telegrams from distant former students added to their own cheers for dear teacher.  Attorney James L. England, master of ceremonies, praised Mrs. Stout as the “unknown teacher who has given over 40 years to the training of our first grade children.

Responding at the crowd’s insistence after receiving gifts from various clubs and her former pupils, the day’s honor guest called the occasion the high water mark of her life.  She broke down as she requested that part of her flowers be sent to two of her students too ill to join the festivities.  They were Barney Rogers, son of the famous doctor, a student of 40 years ago, and little Nancy King, in her room this year.  Also active in civic and welfare circles through her long years in the classroom, the venerable school marm taught the adult Methodist Sunday School class 38 years.  Trying to quit two years ago, she compromised by agreeing to stay on as substitute teacher.

The charming Perry county lass came here as Lela Whitaker and old-timers remember that many local Romeos soon lined up to sing at her window.  But R. N. Stout finally won her heart and they were married May 23, 1911.  Stout, scion of a pioneer family, has been her counterpart through the years of the business and political life of the community.  Their son, William, with Beverly and Carolyn, sat in the reviewing stand with his father to witness the program honoring their deluxe teacher, mother, wife and grandma.  The William Stouts live in Nashville where he is an engineer at the municipal airport.

Near the end of her big day the vivacious pedagogue was too excited to elaborate on her days ahead.

“I had thought of quitting at 40,” she said.  “But now after 23 more years, I’ve decided to keep teaching until they put me out.”

And then what?

“Well, I’ll run my own kindergarten for a while.”  She pressed and bit her lips as she watched two children playing in a yard.  “After that, I’ll hire out as a baby sitter the rest of my life,” she said with a smile that went backward 40 years.  “You see, I’ve just got to have my children.”

Neighborhood Notes

C. R. Avery, principal of the splendid high school, is president of the civic club sponsoring the Dr. Rogers day homecoming.  Planning committee for 1948 included Roy McPeake, Byron Smith and Mrs. Wylie Stout.  Estimated 1500 people entered first grade under day’s honoree.  Among now famous doctors whom she taught ABC’s are: James McMIllan, now making a health survey of Peru for a huge U.S. industrial concern; Glenn Johnson, Shreveport, La., and Frank Adair, St. Paul Minn. 

Every one of the school’s present 425 pupils gave 10 cents toward cost of the pretty watch given beloved teacher. Sixty per cent of them have had first grade with her. Civic club paid balance on gift.  Principal and county superintendent here when Mrs. Stout came were J. F. Hughes and Jim Wheat, respectively.  She has taught under 11 others in each position through 41 years.  With old L.I. degree from Nashville Peabody College, the great children’s benefactor earned $720 a year as late as two years ago. Take home pay is now $1215, less than some janitors, cooks and bus drivers get.  Local leaders hope such programs will help to inspire leaders of youth.  H. B. Evans is mayor of this 700-member Lions Club made up of men from both Decaturville and Parsons, meeting alternately in each town.  In speaker’s stand were also Mrs. Stout’s brother, L. C. Whitaker, and his wife.  Living in Hohenwald, he is a banker and lumberman.  Coming from Flatwoods was Miss Jimmie Treadwell, who began as a first-grader under the famous teacher even before she moved here.  Jacob Duncan, county highway employee, won cash award as oldest former pupil present, at age 51.  Mrs. Joe Yarbrough and six children won money as biggest family at celebration all of whose children had first grade work under Mrs. Stout.

Markers in Decaturville City Cemetery

Lela Whitaker Stout:  December 15, 1885-November 26, 1970
Roy Neil Stout:  March 6, 1884-July 15, 1963

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