yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee


Brenda Kirk Fiddler

A two-part series published in the Lexington Progress, February 2, 1994, and April 6, 1994

While researching and collecting Lexington High School Senior Class pictures for a historical exhibit now on permanent display in the lobby of Lexington High School, I compiled a list of the highest ranked students. These students' names are on an Honor Board exhibited in the lobby. Many interesting facts were gathered from school records, yearbooks, the Book, graduates and The Lexington Progress newspaper files.

February 2, 1994
Lexington Progress
Lexington High School Trivia

Three LHS valedictorians are presently teaching at LHS:  Cindy Baker Hatch, Christine Sisson Rogers and Bobby Hatch.

The class of 1916 produced possibly the youngest graduate.  Attorney Joe Davis was only 14 years old when he received his diploma.  In 1924 he was graduated from Georgetown University Law School, where he was handed his degree by President Calvin Coolidge.

The class of 1935 was the first class to graduate in caps and gowns.  The color was dark gray.

Three daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Lon F. Brooks were salutatorians:  Velma in 1921, Mamie in 1928 and Margaret in 1934.  Mr. Brooks' granddaughter, Betty Hay, was valedictorian in 1945.

James Arthur Bobbitt, who won a gold medal for having the highest average in 1913, had five children, all of whom ranked academically:  Ruth (1932 valedictorian), James A. (1942), Julia (1946 valedictorian), Austin (1936 salutatorian) and Evelyn, who finished fourth in 1940.

Several honor students have come from the Connie Hatch family: Bobby (1969 valedictorian), James (1962 salutatorian), Betty (historian) and Inez, who finished fourth in 1955. Inez's son, Donald Scates, was the 1953 salutatorian. A cousin, Mary E. Hatch, was the 1953 valedictorian.

 Several examples of close kin ranking in the top three places include these:  brothers Wayne and Harry Bowman, brothers Joe and Robert Davis, brothers Carl and Joseph Pfountz and sisters Nelle and Beth Goff (whose aunt Nora Smith was valedictorian).  Brother and sister Shawn and Casey McCormick were historians of their classes in 1986 and 1991.

Mother and daughter scholars include Juanita Walker Wallace and Sherry Wallace, Willie Lee Maness McAdams and Ann McAdams, and Gail Middleton Baker and daughters, Cindy, Melanie and Angie.

Irby Park (a top student in 1924) was recognized as the "most senior graduate" of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga when he received his degree in 1987.  When asked what he planned to do with his degree in philosophy, he said, "I'm not going to do anything but think of it.  That's what philosophers do."  Mr. Park, who got his grammar school education at Sweet Bud, a one-teacher school in the old 18th district, was the uncle of Christine Sisson, the top LHS student in 1951.

In 1955 Mrs. Ulysses Moody saw her four grandchildren receive their diplomas:  Louise Bartholomew, Roetta Johnson, Jewell Moody and Eddie Joyce Todd. Eddie Joyce was salutatorian.

In 1929 Henry B. Davenport delivered the salutatory address on "The Power of Purpose."  His daughter, Rosemary, salutatorian in 1963, delivered the same address which still fit the occasion.

In 1964 the Harris triplets (David, Jane and Susan) were graduated in the upper ten per cent of their class.

In 1944 Mrs. Daisy Garner, a senior had a son, Jessie, who was a freshman. Both were reported to be excellent students.

The class of 1927 had three members of the Page family — Clyde, Minnie and Linnie....

Cotton picking recess was abolished in 1967.

In 1947 the County Court approved plans for a new gym costing between $100,000 and $125,000.  Three magistrates voted no because of high construction costs. The gym was torn down in 1993.

Lexington High School, organized in 1909 was first called "Henderson County High School."

The graduation exercises of the class of 1941 were featured in the Memphis Commercial Appeal.  The boys wore navy gowns and the girls wore white.

The class of 1925 produced the first yearbook, the "Black and Gold."  Yearbooks were also printed in 1926 and 1927, but there was not another one until the class of 1947 produced the "Tiger" with the help of photographer William Arnold.  The class of 1938 put together a yearbook called the "Minuteman," but they were unable to get it printed.  The class of 1952 called their book the "Cotton Boll."

Clubs:  The National Honorary Beta Club was organized in 1937 by sponsor Coby Threadgill.  The club had 14 charter members.  The Atom Cracker Club was organized in 1937.  With G. C. Baughan as advisor, the aim of the club was to create a greater appreciation of chemistry.

The class of 1960 was the first class to graduate 100 members.  The class of 1972 was the first class to graduate 200 members.


 April 6, 1994
Lexington Progress
More High School Trivia

Additional information has been compiled on Lexington High School including honor students.  Close kin among LHS include the following:  brothers Landal Powers (1960 valedictorian) and Tony Powers (1971 salutatorian); sisters Margaret Rhodes (1985 valedictorian) and Virginia Rhodes (1988 salutatorian) and sisters Naomi Hopper (1934 valedictorian) and Imogene Hopper (1935 valedictorian).  A cousin to the Hopper sisters was Lorene Fesmire, the 1935 salutatorian.  Mother and son are Beth Martin, salutatorian in 1956, and Joel Townsend, historian in 1978.  The Lanter family has ranked high academically with Michelle (1972 historian) and Jean (1976 salutatorian) and James (1977 salutatorian).

The Davis clan has furnished several honor students. Lessie Davis, the first valedictorian of LHS, was the school's first home economics teacher.  Her husband, Hugh Powers, was the first agricultural teacher. Agriculture and Domestic Science were added to the curriculum in 1913.  By 1920 all girls were required to have two units of cooking and sewing.

Fred Sellers represented three different districts on the School Board — Bargerton Special School District, First and Fifth Districts.  He probably served longer than has any school board member.  His great grandchildren, Jennifer Sellers and Drew Flanagan, were LHS honor students.  Jennifer was historian in 1981 and Drew was salutatorian in 1992.

By 1927, students were participating in many clubs, including ukulele, orchestra, glee and howler's clubs.  Several debating clubs engaged in oratorical contests and competed during Commencement Week.  The J. O. Brown medal was given to the best debater.  Paul Walker, recipient of the medal in 1921, fainted and fell backwards just as he completed his excellent speech.  The medal, thought to have been first awarded to Ernest Bailey, either in 1911 or 1912, was probably last awarded in 1949 when Billy Belew was the recipient.

The first band for LHS was made up of students from the high school and the city elementary school.  In May 1940 twenty mothers under the leadership of Mrs. Lloyd Montgomery organized the music group.  Within a year they had raised money to purchase bolts of red flannel, which they cut and stitched into uniforms.  C. A. Wallick was the first instructor.

Diane Arnold, the valedictorian of the senior class in 1971, was the first black member of the school band.  Montgomery was consolidated with LHS in 1967.  The first senior class to graduate from Montgomery was the class of 1934, with Prof. C. C. Bond as principal, and the last class to graduate was in 1967, with Prof. A. L. Robinson as principal.  Montgomery High School was organized in 1927 under Prof. A. E. Gray, the first principal.

In 1917 Mayor Davis issued a warning to the boys of Lexington who were making paper balloons containing rags or cotton saturated with coal oil and setting them on fire.  This play was extremely dangerous because the flaming balloons were landing on the roofs of houses, most of which were wooden shingles.

School Supt. R. E. Powers, in the mid-1920s, issued a warning to those persons driving cars on school property:  "We have spoken a great deal about protecting and beautifying school property.  Several cars in Lexington have been seen this summer to drive up the sidewalk built last year at the high school.  One car was seen to drive twice the same day within an hour."  The PTA (organized) in 1916 had spent considerable money on the school lawn, yet wagons and automobiles were being driven across it, and area residents were allowing their animals to graze on it, practically turning the lawn into a pasture.

In October 1930 the superintendent issued warnings to the students:  "Demerits will be given to school boys and girls who are found loafing about town on school nights after seven o'clock.  As a general class those who violate this request to remain at home have deficient grades on their report cards."

More than 300 students were enrolled in LHS in the fall of 1935.  A transportation budget of $2,000 provided for five school buses that brought 180 students from the county.  The county purchased a $75 bus and hired a driver for 50 cents a day.  The bus operating west of town was owned and operated by Pafford Anderson.  He made $50 a month.  S. C. Walker drove his bus from the Wildersville area.  James Patton drove from the Bargerton area in his modified Model-A truck/bus.

In 1936 Valous Bush from Mt. Gilead ran the bus for the 104 North area.  The seats in his bus ran lengthwise with a bench in the center of the aisle.  The students east of town rode J. A. Long's bus.  By the fall of 1943, 289 students were riding buses.  Of the total enrollment of 370, 150 were boys and 220 were girls.

In 1919 six seniors were graduated out of the 58 students who began as freshmen.  Maxine Garner and Georgia McCall, the top honor students, had excellent attendance records.  Miss McCall had not missed a day in seven years.  Miss Garner had not missed a day until she became a victim of influenza.

Class of 1944 statistics reveal just how few students starting high school actually graduated.  Of the 163 students beginning as freshmen, 104 started as sophomores and 78 started as juniors with 49 students graduating.  Nineteen boys who would have graduated with the class of 1944 were called into service.

There was no man to coach the basketball teams during one period of the World War II era.  Principal W. L. Bobbitt, anxious that the basketball program continue, recruited Mrs. Mary Nell Chalk to take the coaching job.  Her boys won the district tournament.

In 1944 after a recess of three years, the Tigers revived their football team by winning their first game against Camden.

The football team became the Big Red Tigers in 1930-1931 with their new coach, Paul Caywood.

High-spirited Tiger fans have a long tradition of being enthusiastic.  In 1920 just after the Lexington boys had soundly beaten Jackson 41-9 in a basketball game, a Jackson man was heard to say, "Those people yell and holler more than any bunch I ever saw."

The Alumni Banquet, the social event of the year in Lexington and occurring on the last night of Commencement Week, was canceled in in 1943 because of food rationing.  The plan to resume the event "when times again became normal" never materialized.  The Alumni group was organized in 1916.

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