PUBLICATION 6 - 1972
I was born at Kellyview, Wise Co., VA, on March 16, 1890. My father and grandfather were native residents of Wise Co. My grandfather's old home was what is now Appalachia. My father established a home and built a six room log house about three miles from Appalachia. When the Louisville and Nashville railway was built through my father's place, a post office was established and named Kellyview. I am the eleventh of a family of twelve, all of whom were born in the log house at Kellyview. For three years I attended the Kellyview one-room school. The term was for three or four months. This school is the only one-room school building which has been in continuous operation since the year 1892. My teachers were the daughters of the then Superintendent of Schools, the Rev. William H. Wampler. During my stay in this school, I was taught from a chart by the ABC method of teaching. The chart was also used in the Family Word method such as rat, cat, bat, hat...
In 1897 my father sold the farm and coal lands to the Virginia Coal and Iron Company. He moved from Kellyview to Tacoma where I again attended school. The school was held in a store building where I was taught by W. D. McNiel. We spent the winter of 1898 in Corbin, KY, moving from there to Wise where I was assigned to the fourth grade at the beginning of the fall term of 1899 at the old Gladeville College. I continued in the same school throughout the grades and into the College Department. Gladeville College continued to be my school until 1906. There was an educational renaissance in 1905 and I was still in school when our old Gladeville College became Wise High School in 1906. I continued in Wise High School and finished a three-year course of study in 1907. I was one of a class of seven who were the first graduates of Wise High School.
It was during these early years that I met and attended school with my wife who was then known as Trula Mae Watkins. Her family moved from Wise to Lynchburg and it was not until I was in school at Washington and Lee that I again met this attractive young lady. This romance culminated in marriage in 1912 when I began my first job as a teacher at $90 a month. (1) I succeeded a man who resigned as principal of the Oak Hill High School, Oak Hill, WV. I remained in the same position during the term of 1912-1913. In the fall of 1913, I returned to Virginia and became principal of the Kenbridge High School, Kenbridge, VA, at $125 per month where I remained until I became Superintendent of Wise County Schools on the first day of January, 1917. I was then twenty-six years of age, with five and a half years of teaching experience...
When I became superintendent of schools for Wise County, I had seven school boards, each board consisting of three members. School funds which came from the State were allocated to various school boards and each board determined its own policies and decided all matters pertaining to the salaries of teachers, length of school terms, etc. We had different salaries in the various districts of the county. The school terms were not the same, some having as little as five months for rural schools. The school terms for Big Stone Gap, Norton, Wise, and Roberson District was for nine months or 180 days. In the Gladeville and Lipps Districts, it was seven and one-half months and in the Richmond District it was eight and one-fourth. All colored schools operated for a period not greater than six months, except for Big Stone Gap which had a nine-month term. The total enrollment numbered 10,120 pupils, with an average daily attendance of 5,828.
The county paid out $83,258.84 for the salaries of 194 teachers which gave an average annual salary of $429.17. The total value of all school property was at that time $310,000.
The only transportation of school pupils in 1937 was by wagon and horses. The roads were not good enough for transportation of pupils by automobile, so no school busses were in existence. Later, as roads were being provided, transportation was improved in the Richmond District...No doubt, Wise County and the Richmond District have a unique distinction in transportation, as I am sure that these two political subdivisions are the only ones which in the past operated a special train for the transportation of pupils. This train ran from Appalachia to the nearby towns and collieries. The cost of this transportation was $5400 for the school session of nine months. With this large amount of transportation no effort was made to consolidate schools. Several small schools even offered high school work.
In these early years, we had 87 school buildings, two of log, 79 frame buildings, and six of brick and stone.
Salaries of all school personnel in the early days were very low. The trustees, except for the clerk, got $10 per year. The clerk of the District Board got $3 for each teacher in his district. The Division Superintendent got $2,160 per year. The highest salary paid to any high school principal was $1,350 per year. The men teaching in high school received the minimum of $630 per session and a maximum of $900...There seemed to be no fixed policy as to the equalization of salaries. The men received more than the ladies. The white received more than the colored, high school teachers received more than the elementary...
During my long term of service...I have witnessed a wonderful advancement in public education...It has always been my policy to let people know what they need, but at no time try to force the issuance of bonds. If the people are with you and they want better school accommodations, they will et them. Educational advancement is very much like the ocean with its undulating movements. The first came in 1905 with the birth of the high schools...In 1923 we witnessed the passing of the old district schools with the incoming of the countywide unit school system, with one school board instead of seven...
Then another tidal wave of educational effort came at the close of World War II when our schools again became overrun with pupils. The result of this condition caused our people to take stock of their properties and by bond issues and taxation they have planned the greatest of all improvements in Wise County., When the program is completed, we will have more than ten million dollars of school property...
From the conditions existing in 1917 we have gradually improved the salaries of all school personnel. All improvements had to be made on a local level as the state did not promulgate a salary scale for teachers until 1952. From the 197 teachers in 1917, we have during my tenure of office increased the number to 441. Our enrollment has shown a growth during that period but the real growth has been in keeping the pupils in school. Our average daily attendance in 1917 was 5,828 and in 1948-49 it was 11,374. New courses have been offered in the field of vocational education...All the required courses are completed in the respective high schools with the electives available not only in the high school but in vocational courses at the Vocational and Technical School.
Just let me say, please, that the Vocational and Technical School operated under the Trade and Industrial Department of the State Board of Education represents one of the finest in the State of Virginia...This school had its beginnings in the training of NYA pupils, then war training workers...Additions are being constructed by trainees so that the permanency of the school is assured. In the establishment of this school the county has not spent much money. Surplus property has been secured from the government and added to our equipment. The State Board of Education has been helpful with appropriations...
Our transportation system is one of the most extensive...The forty-five busses operating in the county will carry more than six thousand children to and from school...The operating of the busses costs approximately $90,000 per year...
Wise County was the first to establish summer high schools and the first to employ high school principals on a twelve-month basis. It was also the first to introduce home economics and business education in all its high schools and the first to operate a five-year high school. It was the first to equalize salaries and school terms and the first to establish and maintain a county-wide vocational school. (2)
My philosophy of education is to teach pupils the fundamental subjects and how to think. The schools should be dedicated to the improvement of the mind and life of the pupils...I have no place for the so-called progressive education school systems where the pupils run the schools and sometimes the teacher also runs. We want discipline in our schools and unless you get discipline you cannot hope to be successful in your teaching...I have been associated with people of both political parties...I am a Democrat but I have never asked a teacher about political or religious affiliation. I do not know the politics of many of my teachers. I think a great amount of my happy public relations has been due to the fact that politics has no place in public education. The nearest I ever came to leaving public education was when some people wanted to dictate political favors. I told them if that was what they wanted they could get someone else to do the job. I would not be a party to it...
I believe in certain extra-curricular activities but it is my feeling that the schools are omitting some of our finest fields as we are acceding to public wish and demand for athletic programs. We are neglecting public speaking, dramatics, debating, and many other worthwhile things. The demand by the public for winning athletic teams has left a very unfavorable condition in our schools. I certainly hope that the coming years will show an improvement in this regard...
Among those who have served in Wise County, many have gone on to more responsible positions in the state. Dr. Sidney B. Hall, who was a teacher at East Stone Gap and Big Stone Gap, became Superintendent of Public Instruction in Virginia. Among those who have served, or are now serving, as superintendent, we find the following: J. J. Brubaker, Norfolk; Hugh K. Cassell, Augusta County; E. E. Givens, Martinsville; C. J. M. Kyle, Orange County; L. F. Shelbourne, Staunton; Hugh L. Sulfridge, Charlottesville; Roy E. Kyle, Bedford County; J. H. T. Sutherland, Dickenson County; Alonzo Monday, Grayson County; and L. W. Hillman, Galax...
If I could be given the opportunity to live over my days and years as superintendent. I do not know of many things I could do differently. Of course, I would try to avoid many of the mistakes I have made...I have had a lot of fun along the way /with/...many amusing experiences. I might recall here two or three of them, directly related to the schools.
One experience occurred a day or two before I became superintendent. I was traveling on the chair car of the Clinch Valley Division of the N&W Railroad when a conversation began on the other side of the aisle among three Wise County teachers discussing the new superintendent...I remained incognito until I faced them in the classroom. They had forgotten what was said, so I made up a good wild story as to what happened. The second story I bring to mind had to do with a man teaching in a small one-room school. I visited the school unscheduled as I nearly always did and when I got in the classroom he seemed to be sound asleep at his desk. I sat down in the rear of the room and the titter from the young occupants of the school room got him awake. After he rubbed his eyes to get a little better vision he saw me sitting in the rear of the room. He did not address me but called to George, the largest boy in the room, and very vigorously applied the wooden medicine. After he had finished, he said, "Now I want you to behave. I pretended to be asleep just to find out who was responsible for misbehavior." He then came back and greeted me.
The next and last story you may have heard. It has been told over the State of Virginia, but I will repeat the story for the benefit of those who have not heard it. The teacher told the story at a party so you can be the judge of the happenings. She came to this school, Stony Lonesome, one or two days late. I had not seen her and, as far as I know, she had not seen me until this visit. The story says that I came to her school early in the afternoon and stayed and stayed until she thought it might be time for me to leave. Since she was an exceptionally good-looking young girl, I had no reason to leave. Of course, not knowing I was superintendent and after many restless minutes, she finally said. "I am expecting my Superintendent this afternoon and I would dislike very much to have him come and find you here."
At this time, Virginia may be at the crossroads in education. The decisions which are to be made within the next few weeks will no doubt have a definite bearing on our future. If we choose the right road our public schools will be preserved. If, as some want to do, we relieve the state of its responsibility to operate the public schools, we may be in chaos. My prediction is that the people of Virginia will not abandon the public school system and that we will go forward to a bigger and brighter day in public education. (3)
Dr. Kelly served as Superintendent of Schools of Wise County from 1917 until his retirement in June of 1963. These observations on education are extracted from an interview (on March 24, 1959) with Dr. Kelly by W. D. Richmond, then Director of Instruction and later Kelly's successor. Because of space limitations, it was necessary to omit several delightful anecdotes as well as personal references to family and friends. The editor has taken the liberty of transposing several parts of the interview and making some minor changes in wording without the intrusion of the customary scholarly paraphernalia. The complete transcript of the interview has been mimeographed and may be seen in the archives of the Historical Society among other places. Dr. Kelly died o November 22, 1967. (1) Dr. Kelly speaks of their two sons and two daughters in the interview. Both daughters were teachers and graduates of Farmville State Teachers College, now Longwood College. The eldest son was a medical doctor, was on the staff of Maguire Veterans Hospital. The younger son, William Watkins Kelly, was then on leave from his teaching duties at V. M. I. to serve in the Air Force. He has since been appointed president of Mary Baldwin College. (2) This paragraph is paraphrased for reasons of organization, but it contains Dr. Kelly's essential points. ( 3) This paragraph originally came before the anecdotes, but it seemed appropriate in conclude Dr. Kelly's thoughts on education with this testimonial. One has only to remember the atmosphere of 1959 to realize the significance of Dr. Kelly's words.
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