Ashley Adams is a long time educator who has served Henderson County as classroom teacher, principal and County Superintendent. Though he is now retired from active educational pursuits, he maintains and interest in schools and children.
Born Feb. 16, 1898 near Wildersville on the day after the Battleship Maine was blown up, he says that his father had intended "going to the war," had not Ashley's arrival prevented it. He is the son of the late E.B. Adams and Elizabeth Smith, the youngest of the first set of Adams children. His birthplace was on the farm where Ashley and his wife now live.
He recalls hearing his mother tell about her father, Major T.A> Smith of Civil War fame, being captured twice during the war, but he was able to escape unharmed. He died in 1891 while in the register's office of the Henderson County Court House.
Ashley started to school at a small country place called Sheep Shelter. It was exactly that, and had only one teacher and a few pupils. The next year he attended Long Sought School which had been organized only that year (1905). He was 19 before he left home to go to high school. Because of poor financial conditions at home, his father could not help him. There was a big family in the second set of children and Ashley had to make his own way, later helping the younger ones as well. His father was trying to look after the rest of the family.
For his high school training, Ashley went to Johnson City where he attended East Tennessee State Normal School his freshman and sophomore years. He played on the football and baseball teams. His last two years of high school were spent at Lexington High School. He won the J.O. Brown medal in oratory during the Periclean Literary Society contest in 1922. He and the late Bob O. Pope took the affirmative side in the debate "Should the soldiers be paid a bonus?" H.J. Bolen and Terry Wright took the negative stand. The affirmative won. It was a subject Ashley had studied and written his discussion about since he felt rather strongly toward a bonus. He himself had registered for the draft.
He graduated from Lexington High School in 1923 with a class of 18. Two of his classmates who had a great influence on his life were H. J. Bolen, now of Savannah, GA and the late Willie Bradfield of Henderson. To supplement a meager income while he was in school, Ashley sold Bibles during the summer months for 7 years. A 19 pound satchel of books was carried proudly as he made his way on foot, spending two summers in Georgia, two in Mississippi, one in Maryland, one in Kentucky and one in Oklahoma. He remembers walking in Texas on shorter tours when the temperature was 110 in the shade, and also having been in a sandstorm there. He feels fortunate that he was never compelled to sleep outside or stay in undesirable places.
After finishing high school he began to teach. In those days of short school terms as well as poor pay, he continued to sell Bibles during the summers. His first school was at
Timberlake in 1923 where he taught all 8 grades. He remembers a lovely little girl, Elizabeth Pearson, now Mrs. Charles Ferguson, who sat in his lap while she recited her 1st grade reading lesson. Other students he remembers from those by-gone days at Timberlake were Opal Fesmire, her brother, Abe and sister, Ruby.
Other schools in which Ashley taught were Long Sought, Mt. Gilead, Union Cross, Beech River and Wildersville. He worked as Assistant cashier at the Bank of Wildersville before it closed in 1931.
Ashley became principal at Sardis High School serving there in 1945, 46 and 47. He left there to come back to his old neighborhood and became principal at Beaver, the first consolidated school in the county. He had helped to get it built and was instrumental in selecting the name for the school since it was "located between 2 Beaver Creeks." The school started with 5 grades, but went up to grades 7 and 8 before the year came to a close.
About this time, the consolidation of school began and Beaver became the educational center for Timberlake, Cross Roads, Wildersville, Howard and Roberts schools. It is now one of our most up-to-date schools with a large attendance. Ashley was a member of the faculty at Lexington High School for 3 years, teaching History, English and Math. History has always been his favorite subject, both in and out of school. He was elected County Superintendent of Schools in 1958 and served 4 years. During his term of office 5 consolidated schools were built, a program encompassing the entire county. When the new Courthouse was built about this time, he planned and laid out the education office. One benefit of his study was to learn how to obtain funds for county water supplies. He was chairman of the County Planning Commission.
He was married in 1934 to Miss Minnie Page, daughter of the late Rev. and Mrs. John Page. They have a son, Johnny, and granddaughter, Page, both of Memphis. Mrs. Adams is also a retired teacher and they are both active in Henderson County Retired Teachers Association. They attend the Senior Citizens meetings at the Civic Center where Ashley has been a member of the board on the Commission on Aging. He is a member of the Bargerton Church of Christ. He was baptized over 60 years ago by a schoolmate R.L. Colley. He has been a Mason for more than 50 years and is a member of Lions Club, the Historical Society and the Senior Citizens.
He and Mrs. Adams like to travel. They have been to Hawaii, Nassau and Canada. His half brothers and sisters are Alton and B.A> Adams of Wildersville, Mrs. Alice Meeks and Carl Adams of Atwood, Mrs. Annie Wood of Adamsville, Priestly Adams of California and Mrs. Rena Fesmire of Cedar Grove. Ashley likes to fish and hunt but his main activity is farming which he has done most of his life. His health is good but he says his hearing, seeing and memory are not as keen as they once were. He has always tried to be honest and is proud he never bought a vote for himself while running for an office. He owes his present success to being honest and trusting in God.
Lexington Progress "Interesting People" by Doris Jarrett 23 July 1980
Ashley Adams died 31 July 1992. He and his wife are buried at Lexington Cemetery. Obituary