yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee


(excerpts), Lucille Rogers

Published by Xi State, Delta Kappa Gamma. Printed by McQuiddy Printing Company, Nashville, Tennessee 1960.


One of the purposes of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society is to honor women who have given distinctive service in all fields of education. It has long been the ambition of many of the leaders of the Society in Tennessee to record the history of Xi State along with the contributions of some of the State's pioneer women in education. We realize that the pursuit of teaching as a profession seldom brings material wealth, but as true teachers we feel that we are rich in the accomplishments of our students and in their appreciation. We are proud when we see the teaching profession becoming increasingly important in the development and preservation of the moral and material resources of this great Nation.

Light from Many Candles is presented as an initial step in bringing to life the history of Delta Kappa Gamma as a moving force in the lives of many women teachers in Tennessee, in recording the contributions of women to the development of education in the State, and in honoring some of the outstanding teachers who have given so freely of themselves to advance the cause of education. This book is not presumed to be an exhaustive treatise, for many biographies are missing which should have been included. Perhaps some biographies will not meet the standards for inclusion set up by individual readers; but from the material submitted, the Committee has selected those who, in their opinion, have pioneered in some field of education or have rendered worthwhile service to the Society.

The production of this book represents the efforts of many people. The members of the State Committee on Pioneer Women are Miss Mary Hall, Associate Professor of Education, Middle Tennessee State College, Murfreesboro; Miss Ruth McDonald, Supervisor, Davidson County Schools, Nashville; Miss Ruby Mize, teacher of social studies, Kingsport; and Mrs. Nancy Walker, retired teacher, Cleveland. They have given generously of their time in attending committee meetings to set up policies and plan the book.

By accepting the recommendations of the Committee, the State officers and individual members of the Society have expressed confidence in the Committee and approval of the project. They have provided the encouragement and financial support needed for its completion.

The people who prepared biographies have done outstanding work in collecting and recording facts about the lives of their subjects. The author and the committee have wished that it were possible to reproduce each biography in its entirety, but to do that would require several volumes.

The personnel of the following libraries have given valuable assistance to the author in locating information: State Library and Archives, Nashville; Joint University Library, Nashville; Peabody College Library, Nashville; Vanderbilt University Library, Nashville; Union University Library, Jackson; Carson-Newman College Library, Jefferson City; and Cossitt Library, Memphis.

The author, Miss Lucille Rogers, Assistant Professor of English at Hardin-Simmons University, Abilene. Texas, deserves commendation. The Committee has appreciated her ability to glean the choicest character traits and select the most outstanding contributions of the women whose biographies are included in this volume. We have recognized her sympathetic understanding and her appreciation of women and teachers, as well as her keen desire to make the book a worthwhile contribution to the educational literature of the State and Nation. She has not only written or edited all material, but has attended to all the detailed responsibilities of publication.

The hope of the Committee is that the readers of Light from Many Candles will gain a new appreciation for the value of education and the work of teachers, and that teachers will find in it an occasion to take greater pride in their profession and to relive some of the happy experiences of their teaching. It is our further hope that many outstanding young people will be inspired to become creative teachers, thus adding their light to that great unbroken stream which sheds its radiance upon all who seek it.

State Committee on Pioneer Women
and Director of This Publication

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Beulah King Henry

For more than forty-three years, Beulah King Henry taught in the Lexington school system, where it seemed she was destined to serve. She resigned her position there on several occasions, only to return to the system at a later date.

Beulah was born in Dresden, February 29, 1872, the daughter of Angeline Johnson and Robert Burton King. One of eight children, Beulah early learned lessons of cooperation and unselfishness.

After completion of her elementary school education, she entered a private school taught by Mrs. Sue F. Mooney, who was a prominent woman educator of that time. While a student in Mrs. Mooney's school, Beulah rendered a much-needed service by helping fellow students during the noon hours with their Ray's Higher Arithmetic and with algebra. During her later teaching years, she attended summer sessions at Peabody College, Union University, and Memphis State College.

In 1890 there were three members of the board of trustees of Lexington Academy, a Methodist institution, who had daughters whom they wished to have appointed to a teaching vacancy in the school. Since they were unable to reach an agreement, the principal, S. A. Mynders, suggested that he would like to have as his assistant, Miss Beulah King, who had recently helped him with a teaching institute in Dresden. The trustees agreed to his proposal and asked him to notify Miss King. She came by train to Lexington to begin her work. At first she suffered from homesickness but exercised her courage and strength of character by remaining in Lexington until love for her pupils and her work banished the feeling.

In the fall of 1891, Miss King again taught in Lexington. A year later, August 31, 1892, she returned to Lexington not only to teach, but to become the bride of James A. Henry. She continued her teaching for only one year after her marriage because of a decline in education in Henderson County. After a lapse of several years, she accepted a position in the Baptist Academy in Lexington, where she continued teaching for five or six years.

For a time Mr. and Mrs. Henry lived on a farm two miles from Lexington. Though Mrs. Henry was not teaching at the time, she walked into town to attend each meeting of her book club, her missionary society, and her church. While living on the farm, she took into her home her brother's three-year-old daughter Angeline. The little girl remained in the home until after she finished high school and married.

In 1912 Mr. and Mrs. Henry and Angeline moved back to Lexington. Here, Mrs. Henry had planned to relax, giving up all work outside her home, but her plan was not destined to materialize. Within three days she had accepted a position in the postoffice. After working there for a year, she again returned home determined to rest. Two weeks later she became a clerk in a dry goods store.

One day several months after Mrs. Henry became a clerk, the owner of the store, Mr. A. S. Montgomery, said to her, "Mr, Y. A. Johnson has resigned. I don't know what we're going to do for a teacher to take his place."

"How would you like to fire a clerk and hire a teacher?" Mrs. Henry asked.

"Mrs. Henry, you are fired and hired!"

Thus it was that Mrs. Henry went back to the schoolroom in September, 1914, and taught every term until 1933.

During those nineteen years, she missed only seven days of school.

After her retirement, Mrs. Henry continued to live in Lexington in a quiet little home sheltered by giant oaks. Her biographer said of her:

She lives in the hearts and lives of her pupils. . . . She graces her home with the poise and dignity of a queen and enjoys hearing about things that occur in the Lexington schools.

Beulah King Henry died November 16, 1952, honored for her loyalty, her faithfulness to duty, and her true pioneer spirit.

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Fay Houston Nix

"Fifteen years a teacher in Lexington, Tennessee!" wrote Mrs. Fay Houston Nix in May, 1959. "How can I crowd into a short sketch my life at that time? They were years of steady growth, fast-moving events, and outstanding achievements in our schools.

"That period of my life is set off by itself; and, if I had not lived before or after, it would still have constituted a full, rich life for me. Difficulties--yes; but the reward of touching the lives of so many young people and seeing them grow into men and women of character, far exceeds the difficulties. The hundreds of personalities among teachers, students, parents, and friends are indelibly engraved on my mind and heart. Neither time nor distance can take away the memory of those dear friends."

Fay, the daughter of Martha Lassiter Houston and the Reverend W. T. Houston, was born March 21, 1889, in Calloway County, six miles from Murray, Kentucky. She received her elementary and high school education in the Murray public schools, being graduated from Murray High School in May, 1908. She attended summer sessions at the University of the South in 1914, West Tennessee State Normal in 1919, and George Peabody College for Teachers in 1920.

In September, 1908, after her graduation from high school in May, Miss Houston began her career as teacher of English and Latin in Lexington High School. She held this position for eleven years and was then elected superintendent of Lexington High School and City School to succeed Professor J. C. Brown, who had resigned. She had the distinction of being one of only two women superintendents of first class high schools in Tennessee at that time. After a year she resigned her position as superintendent of the two schools, but, at the urgent request of the school board, she agreed to continue as superintendent of Lexington City School.

Under her guidance the school made rapid progress. Students appreciated her keen interest in extracurricular activities such as athletics and play production and strove to please her. Parents were stimulated by her enthusiastic support of projects sponsored by the Parent-Teacher Association. Money was raised for much-needed playground equipment and supervision was provided for playground activities. New subjects were added to the curriculum, and the school advanced to a position of high rank in the State.

Highly pleased with the progress of the school, the board and the townspeople received with dismay the announcement of Miss Houston's resignation in the spring of 1923. They urged her to reconsider but all efforts were in vain.

In December, 1923, in the home of her sister, Mrs. George Upchurch, at Murray, Kentucky, Miss Houston was married to Dr. Riley F. Nix, who had been graduated from Baylor Dental School at Dallas in the spring. After their marriage they lived in Glen Rose, Texas, for six months before moving to Lamesa in West Texas, where Dr. Nix practiced his profession for thirty years. Widely known in dental circles, he was the first person to find a remedy for the brown stain or mottled enamel peculiar to the teeth of children in the West Texas area.

Since her marriage Miss Fay has not taught school, but she has taught "many classes in church and been very active in community work," thereby continuing the pattern which she followed during her teaching years in Lexington. At the time of her resignation, the following paragraph was a part of an article which appeared in the Lexington Progress:

The splendid name made here by Miss Fay Houston was by no means confined to the school room and to the school connection. As "just plain woman," she is lovable; as a feminine citizen, she is progressive and, of course, moral; as a Christian character, she is zealous; and as Miss Fay Houston, she was years ago admitted to a place in the hearts of the people of Lexington, from which she cannot be dislodged.

Perhaps the best insight into Mrs. Nix's character can be gained from incidents and comments which she recorded in an autobiographical sketch written in 1959. Her love for students is exemplified in the following statement: "Discipline was not always easy. Believe it or not, students then were expected to submit to rules and regulations. I cried and prayed over the ones who gave us trouble and loved them all, both good and bad."

Certainly, Miss Fay possessed the true pioneering spirit. "Up to this time f 1921] ," she recalled, "both the county high school and the elementary city school were housed in the same building and had outgrown it long before. The county voted to build a new high school and the city voted to remodel the old building. I was urged to take the city school; and, because . . . I had seen its needs and its possibilities, I accepted it. It was not without a struggle that I reached this decision. I knew it would be a hard year because the school was to be held in the basement of the new high school building while the old building was being remodeled."

Speaking of her teaching years in the Lexington High School, Mrs. Nix wrote: "For eleven years, as a teacher in the high school and a worker in the First Baptist Church and in the community, I gave my best in thought, in assistance, and in prayers to the youth of that part of Tennessee. What a paying investment it has proved to be!"

Throughout her autobiography Mrs. Nix expressed appreciation for the assistance and support given her by Lexington teachers, students, and townspeople. She noted with great pride that many of her former students had attained unusual distinction or served in outstanding ways. In conclusion, she wrote: "We have one son, William Riley Nix. He finished his college work at Hardin-Simmons University in 1951. We are very proud of him, his wife Pat, and their two children.

"We have tried to live and serve worthily, realizing that the dear Lord has been good to us.

"Seven weeks ago, March 31, Dr. Nix passed away with a heart attack, saddening our lives past all words to express."

Fay Houston Nix still resides in Lamesa, living again and again in her memories the difficult and challenging days when she gave to the building of a school system in Lexington, Tennessee, her whole self—her love, her time, and her energy, without stint. She is secure in the knowledge that she received in return the gratitude and devotion of hundreds of people.

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Rosa Dyer Rutledge
Theta Chapter, Delta Kappa Gamma

"‘Life is to know you are needed for work that belongs to you, just because you are you,--a work that nobody else can do.' Every now and then we meet a person that meets Dorothy Canfield Fisher's description of one who has found the right niche in life and then through unique traits of personality has proceeded to make the niche her own. Such a person is Rosa Dyer Rutledge." Thus wrote Mrs. Rutledge's biographer in 1959.

Born February 6, 1888, near Lexington, Tennessee, Miss Rosa is the daughter of James D. and Frances L. Ferguson Dyer. While she was still small, the family moved to Lake County, and she received her early education in the public schools of that county. After graduating from Tiptonville High School, she began her teaching career in 1908 in the elementary schools of her home county, where she continued for thirteen years. From 1921 to 1926, she taught English and German in Ridgely High School.

Miss Rosa, always eager to improve her teaching ability, began to feel an increasing need for more education. She decided to enter summer school at Union University for the purpose of working toward a degree. During her summers of attendance, she became acquainted with Professor Lovick DeWitt Rutledge, then head of the department of social science at Union. A romance developed between them, and on May 27, 1926, they were married. In June they enrolled in the University of Colorado for a term, after which they returned to their home in Jackson.

In the fall of 1926, Mrs. Rutledge again enrolled in Union University, where she completed the requirements for the Bachelor of Science degree in 1927. She was awarded the Master of Arts degree by George Peabody College for Teachers in 1932. During the summers of 1945 and 1947 she was enrolled for graduate study at the University of Wisconsin.

Mrs. Rutledge accepted a position in the fall of 1927 to teach German and history at Union University, where she still continues to do some teaching, at the special request of the college, though she formally retired in 1958.

Through the years Mrs. Rutledge has held membership in numerous professional and civic organizations. In all of these she has rendered valuable service. She was a charter member of the Theta Chapter of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society. She served as chapter historian from 1940 to 1950 and has been a member of numerous committees. She organized the Jackson Branch of the American Association of University Women in 1947 and served as president for the first three years. As a member of the Southern Historical Society, the West Tennessee Historical Society, and the Southern Baptist Historical Society, she has made a contribution toward preserving the antiquities in these areas.

Always interested in community welfare, Mrs. Rutledge has held membership in civic organizations and worked diligently and faithfully in community activities. She has been a member of the First Baptist Church in Jackson for more than thirty years. Throughout her years of teaching at Union University, she has been a capable and popular sponsor of several student organizations. She is an initiated member and has served as sponsor of Upsilon Chapter of Chi Omega, a National social organization, and Phi Alpha Theta, honorary history fraternity.

Mrs. Rutledge is an accomplished speaker and writer. She has traveled extensively in the United States, Southern Canada, the British Isles, and on the European Continent. Her accounts of her travels have made it possible for many groups to share her enthusiasm, her cultural understanding, and her appreciation for people everywhere. She has contributed to historical publications and is currently engaged in writing an historical novel.

Mrs. Rutledge's personal philosophy demands that she perform any and all tasks with enthusiasm and thoroughness. Superficiality is not for her; rather, she prefers to refuse firmly the task for which there is not sufficient time and opportunity to meet her exacting standards. Whether it be teaching, working on a committee, making a scrapbook, or officially leading an organization, the enterprise is predisposed to success by her complete dedication to it."

One of Mrs. Rutledge's former students said of her: "Possessed of an orderly mind for detail, Mrs. Rutledge seeks to impart that quality to her students. The study requirements for her courses frequently bring from her pupils that highest-of-all accolades, ‘I would not dare go to Miss Rosa's class without my lesson fully prepared.' Many students who have since become teachers themselves learned from her the value of adequate teacher-preparation, clear objectives for each lesson, and, above all, a genuine interest in pupils as people."

Though a little below average in height, Miss Rosa bears herself with poise and dignity. Her smile is friendly and warm. ‘She complements her most striking feature--rich auburn hair--with harmonious colors, soft blues, browns, or greens. She enjoys wearing handsome costume jewelry, dainty touches of lace, and furs. There is about her always a hint of fine perfume.

Mrs. Rutledge has a sympathetic and kindly nature which enables her to rejoice in the successes of her friends. She maintains a keen interest in students long after teacher-student ties have been severed.

Because of her great strength of character and her unwillingness to compromise either principles or standards, Rosa Dyer Rutledge has made a direct and lasting contribution to the cause of teacher education and to the development of character in the hundreds of young people whose lives she has touched.

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Mary Louise Oakley
Xi State President, 1950-1951

Louise Oakley, seventh president of Xi State, has made her life an exemplification of the precept of the Master Teacher: "But he that is greatest among you shall be servant of all."

Ever since Louise was born in the little village of Law, Tennessee, March 26, 1909, in a house that stood on the line between Henderson and Madison counties, she has been giving herself away. To her parents, her sisters and brother, her friends, her students, and her colleagues, she has given love, money, time, counsel, energy and strength in seemingly endless measure.

Louise is the oldest of the five children of Nuit Rush and Carlie Page Oakley. At the age of three years, she moved to Lexington with her parents and her sister Faye. Here she played happily with her little sister and later with the other children who were born into the family—Imogene, Corinne (now deceased), and Rush. She received her early education in Lexington City School and Lexington High School. During her sophomore year in high school, her father suffered financial reverses and life became somewhat difficult for the family. To earn her spending money, Louise taught music and baked cakes for a hotel.

Upon completion of high school in 1927, she took the State Teachers' examination, earning a four-year certificate for teaching in the secondary schools of Tennessee. Two months later she began her career in Sardis Junior High School as teacher of the ninth and tenth grades. The next two years she spent in the junior high schools of Henderson County, and from 1931 to 1935 she taught the first four grades in Antioch School.

In 1935 schools in Henderson County closed for lack of funds. Discouraged, Miss Oakley went to work at the office of the Tennessee Emergency Relief Association, determining never to teach again, in spite of the fact that she had managed to complete three years of college work at Union University.

Early in September of 1935, G. Tillman Stewart, superintendent of Henderson County, asked Miss Oakley to finish her college work and accept the position of elementary supervisor in the county. Her determination weakening, she returned to Union for six weeks before becoming supervisor on December 15, 1935. She completed the requirements for the Bachelor of Arts degree during the spring and summer terms of 1936.

For almost seven years Miss Oakley served Henderson County as supervisor, the second to be appointed in West Tennessee and one of the first in the State. During this time she left a mark on the educational system of the county as deep as the tracks left by her Model A Ford on the muddy roads leading to the country schools she visited. Tirelessly, she worked with the teachers, demonstrating improved methods of instruction, better use of facilities and materials, and enrichment of curriculum. She cajoled the listless, encouraged the weak, and praised the timorous. Because of her unselfish devotion to her task, the teachers thought it not too great a hardship to face muddy roads, long hours, and bad weather to work on committees, set up a circulating library, grade standardized tests, assimilate bulletins, and attend teachers' meetings. Such a spirit as was demonstrated by the teachers of the county could only result in greatly improved schools.

Of her experience in Henderson County, Miss Oakley has said, "It would have been impossible to do the work without the help of Hilda Robbs Cawthon, supervisor of Madison County schools. She told me what to do and how to do it.... My enthusiasm and youth, plus the willingness of the teachers to attempt big things for education, enabled us to make progress."

Some of the major accomplishments of Miss Oakley's administration were the organization of the teachers into professional study groups, the organization of the Henderson County Association of Childhood Education, and the organization of Parent-Teacher associations in many of the schools. In addition, the report card form was improved and a cycle plan for teaching history in the elementary school was prepared and put into effect with the result that it was adopted by at least twenty other counties. Miss Oakley served as state president of the Association of Childhood Education in 1938-39 and taught in a reading institute at Union University in 1941.

In September, 1941, Miss Oakley resigned as supervisor of Henderson County schools to become teacher of English in the Training School at Memphis State College. She continued in this position only one year before becoming regional elementary supervisor of West Tennessee. In characteristic fashion, she gave herself whole-heartedly to her new work which entailed extensive travel and the expenditure of great physical strength. Through her efforts instruction was improved and curriculum broadened.

Aside from her regular duties, Miss Oakley assisted with the Survey of Public Education of 1945, taught in four workshops, and served as co-author of the Supervisors Handbook, a publication of the State Department of Education.

In September, 1946, after a major operation, she resigned her position as supervisor to return to Lexington, where she hoped to regain her health.

Beginning in September, 1947, Miss Oakley taught the sixth grade for a year in the Lexington City Schools. Teaching gave her an opportunity to evaluate methods she had advocated and to experiment with new methods which seemed to have possibilities. On August 18, 1947, she accepted a position as supervisor of city schools in Union City. Of her work during this period, Miss Oakley said, "I held a difficult position but it was a wonderful challenge and I think some of the best work I ever secured from teachers was done during these years."

During Miss Oakley's five-year term as supervisor of Union City schools, many good things were accomplished, such as the development of a Social Studies Course of Study, initiation of a program of public school music, institution of Bible teaching by a special teacher in grades one to six, and organization of a band in high school, with an instrumental program started in the sixth grade.

While working in Union City, Miss Oakley taught in Union University every summer from 1947 to 1951.

In June, 1952, she accepted a position with the Birmingham Paper Company as consultant in education. It was her responsibility to design all types of writing paper needed at the various grade levels and to help teachers in in-service and preservice programs. She worked chiefly in the fields of language, reading, and social studies, also helping to develop course-of-study materials. Most of her work was done in Tennessee though she spent two months in Kentucky, one month in Texas, and several weeks in Alabama.

Miss Oakley's two years with the Birmingham Paper Company provided her with many pleasant contacts and rich experiences. When the company decided to curtail this program by dispensing with the services of most of the consultants, Miss Oakley was asked to remain, but she felt it wise to resign.

Beginning in September, 1954, Miss Oakley served for one year as dean of women and instructor in elementary education at Union University. Though she rendered valuable service as dean of women, she was reluctant to continue that part of her work because of the heavy responsibility involved in counseling girls. Therefore, in August, 1955, she accepted the position of supervisor of Madison County schools, a position left vacant by the retirement of Mrs. Hilda Robbs Cawthon, her adviser and friend in the early days of her work in Henderson County. In this position she continues to guide, to teach, and to inspire, giving her teachers that best-of-all gifts--confidence in themselves.

Miss Oakley was initiated into Xi State in 1937 and became a charter member and first vice-president of Theta Chapter in 1939. From 1942 to 1952 she organized six chapters: Omicron in Decatur and Henderson counties, September, 1942; Tau in Gibson County, January, 1945 (co-founder, Miss Flora Rawls); Upsilon in Crockett and Dyer counties in January, 1945 (co-founder, Miss Rawls); Chi in Haywood, Lauderdale, and Tipton counties, March, 1946; Omega in Fayette, Hardeman, Hardin, and McNairy counties, November, 1950; and Alpha Eta in Lake, Obion, and Weakley counties, May, 1952.

In 1941-42 Miss Oakley served as president of Theta Chapter. After the organization of Omicron Chapter, she served as president of that group from 1942 to 1945. She received the State Delta Kappa Gamma scholarship in 1945. This grant enabled her to complete the requirements for the Master of Arts degree, which she received from Peabody in August, 1945.

In addition to her service as president of Xi State, Miss Oakley has held important committee assignments, notably, the State chairmanship of the Committee on Pioneer Women. This position has entailed the responsibility of directing the production of this history of the first twenty-five years of Delta Kappa Gamma in Tennessee.

Miss Oakley has been the recipient of numerous honors. In 1959 she was listed in the first published edition of Who's Who of American Women, and in 1947 she was listed in An Educational Roster of Key Women, compiled by the Delta Kappa Gamma Society. From 1953 to 1958 she served as Language Counselor on the staff of the Instructor, a teachers' professional magazine. In this capacity she wrote articles for the magazine and answered specific questions asked by individual teachers.

Miss Oakley has rendered valuable service to many organizations aside from Delta Kappa Gamma. Among these are the local, State, and National Educational Association; and the regional and National Supervisors groups. She has attended eleven National conventions of the various organizations, including the Council of Teachers of English and the Association of Childhood Education.

Mary Still, a former student, recently wrote the following tribute to Miss Oakley, under the title "The Teacher I Liked Best":

The teacher I liked best enjoys teaching and wouldn't be happy doing anything else.... She is saturated with her subject and becomes that subject when she is In the classroom. She doesn't do all the talking for she is a good listener.

She is servant instead of master.

She has not only knowledge and skill, but a sincere love for, and a deep understanding of, everyone in her class. She accepts her students as they are and leads them as far as they can go. She teaches ideals as well as facts. Her example is the guiding light of her community.

She has initiative and is always looking for and finding better ways of doing things. She is not afraid to be "the first by whom the new is tried."

Her human warmth, quiet dignity, sense of humor and fair play, along with the challenging materials she provides, create an atmosphere conducive to creative thinking.

Like the Master Teacher of Nazareth, she "goes about doing good."

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