By Doris Jarrett October 22, 1980 "Interesting People"
Lexington Prgress

Those of us who have made Lexington our home for some time may recall that a few years ago we honored a very special person, W. L. Bobbitt, the subject for this week's Interesting Person. It was on Aug. 31, 1974 that we observed W. L. Bobbitt Appreciation Day and paid tribute to him in a much belated gesture of love and respect.

On that occasion, Tiger Stadium was filled with his former students, their families and friends. Mr. Bobbitt's lifelong dedication to education has touched the lives of hundreds of Henderson County citizens in some way. Following an appreciation dinner in the school cafeteria at which time gifts were presented and testimonials heard, a new car for him was driven out on the football field as a token of appreciation to the man who has served his community so long, so faithfully and so well. Mr. Bobbitt - "Luke" to his many friends - was a classroom teacher and later "principal at Lexington High School from 1920 to 1964, an enviable record of service. It was learned at the time of his retirement that his 44 years at Lexington High School are the most ever taught at any one school by a Tennessee teacher.

Upon the retirement of J. O. Brown as principal in 1929, Mr. Bobbitt was named principal although he did not apply for the position. He served until the end of the school year in 1962. Although retired after" serving 32 years as principal he continued as a classroom teacher until 1964. He holds a Bachelor's degree form Union University and Master's degree from Memphis State University.

Although he was not born in Lexington, he has lived here since 1909 when he moved with his parents, the late William Luther Bobbitt and the late Martha Loretta Bobbitt from their home near Bargerton. Luke was born in a 3 room log house there March 3, 1895. He attended one room schools in the Bargerton area, and after coming to Lexington, he enrolled in the 6th grade at Lexington Grammar School. He graduated from Lexington High School in 1916 as valedictorian of his class which numbered 10 boys and 3 girls. During his years in high school, he helped organize Lexington's first basketball team and played for two years. While still in the llth and 12th grades, he taught summer schools at Sand Ridge and Sheppard Schools at salaries of $32.50 and $40 per month, respectively. Having no car or means of transportation, he walked the distance of 8 to 18 miles each Monday morning and Friday afternoon.

After graduating from high school, he attended West Tennessee Normal School, now Memphis State, for a year. World War I was on and he was drafted. Receiving training at Camp Pike, Ark., he was soon sent overseas with the ,11th Infantry. In France, he received the Purple Heart. While in the Army of Occupation in Germany and Luxemburg for 2 months, he assisted in teaching English and Math to a class of soldiers.

Home in 1919, he taught the 8th and 9th grades in the combined grammar and high school before becoming a classroom teacher in the high school. Since there was no special coach, he was given the title "coach" and assigned the task of coaching both boys' and girls' basketball teams. He recalls that the girls wore bloomer uniforms and the boys wore pants to the knees, the latter a mode of dress thought indecent by shocked parents.

During his active teaching years he served 3 years as a member of the Legislative Council of the TSSAA; 3 years as a member of the Administrative . Council of the Tennessee Education Association; attended 'i National Conventions of the National Education Association of which ho is a life member; ho is a life member of Congress of Parents and Teachers. He helped organize the Volunteer Conference for football. During World War II ho helped to organize a company of 200 local men into the Tennessee State Guard and was named captain of the Unit. He also served on the draft board for two yours.

He is a charter member of Lexington Rotary Club where he seldom misses a meeting and Inn held every local office m (ho club, recently giving up me position as secretary which he held many years. In 1970, he was named Rotarian of the Year and in 1975 was made a Paul Harris Fellow by the Club. Ho in it member of the American Legion mid VFW. He helped organize the Henderson County retired Teachers and belongs to tho Senior Citizens Group. He is a member of Group at the Civic Center. He is a member of Lexington's First United Methodist Church serving as treasurer, and is a teacher of the men's Sunday School class.

His wife, the former Ione Thompson, died in 1973 and he lives alone in the family home on Huntingdon Street next door to the home of his late brother, J.A. Bobbitt.

His two sons, Bill Bobbitt and John Bobbitt, both have homes on Pine Lake. Bill in an Insurance Adjuster for Ohio Casualty Co., and John in Personnel Director at Swim Hose. There are three grandsons. Mr. Bobbitt still makes a garden every year though he calls it a shared garden. His sons, with their families, and Mr. and Mrs. Virgil Stewart, a brother-in-law and sister-in-law, enjoy the fruits of his labors. He has made several trips with the Pope-Wadley tours to Canada. New York, Washington and California.

At the time of the Bobbitt Appreciation Day, he reminisced a bit over the years and estimated that he had signed diplomas for more than 2,000 students and recalled that he had been associated with 150 different teachers, worked with more than a dozen coaches, and Attended more than 800 PTA meetings. For a period of five years, he served as an interviewer for the C. M. Gooch Foundation of Memphis and assisted many students in getting scholar­ships from this foundation. He has a scrapbook bulging with clippings from newspapers regarding honors and activities of former students. He kept a file on all students. He regarded high school la/? a training place for future citizens, a place where students could be guided into activities which might make them better citizens.

He says he is taking things easy as he looks after his yard and garden, working crossword puzzles, or going fishing in the local lakes. He gets invited often to school class reunions and enjoys seeing former students of Lexington High School.

He has truly touched the lives of many people in this area with his personal interest in students, and interest that did not disappear at post graduation. He has made a permanent impression on the hearts and lives of many grateful students and their families.

Written by Mrs. Ben Jarrett 22 April 1969 Lexington Progress

Mrs. W. L. Bobbitt, long-time first grade teacher at Lexington City Schools, will retire at the end of this school year after teaching here since the 1940s. She has taught 33 years — all in the first grade. Before coming to Lexington in 1933 as the bride of W. L. Bobbitt, Lexington High School principal, she had taught in the Robert E. Lee Elementary School at Paris, Tenn., for eight years. Her husband retired in 1964 after having served as principal of LHS since 1929 and had been a member of the faculty for a number of years previous to that time. Not really retired, he still substitutes at LHS whenever needed and recently tutored a group needing extra instruction in mathematics —his favorite subject.

Mrs. Bobbitt, the former lone Thompson, was born at Buchanan, Henry County. She attended Henry County schools and graduated from E. W. Grove High School in Paris. She attended Memphis State University, Ashville Normal College, Murray State College and graduated with a B.S. degree from Union University.

During World War II when teachers were scarce, she accepted the position of first grade teacher at Lexington City Schools. Since January 1968 she has been teaching in the new Paul G. Caywood School, which includes grades 1 through 4. She has shared her husband's love for teaching. Her work with first graders shows skillful training, especially in reading patience, and understanding. Attractive posters done with her artistic fingers are supplemented by samples of work done by the pupils who have been taught the three R's by "Miss Bobbitt" as she is so often called. She has carried on the educational tradition begun by the Bobbitt brothers — the late J. A. Bobbitt who served as principal of Lexington City School for many years, and her husband, "Luke" Bobbitt in his many years as teacher and principal at LHS has seen the local high school develop from a small school located at the edge of town into a sprawling structure crowded with nearly a thousand pupils.

The late Mrs. J. A. Bobbitt also contributed to the education and culture of young people in Lexington, being a beloved fourth grade teacher at Lexington City School until her retirement at the age of 65. Mrs. Bobbitt is an active worker in First Baptist Church where she has been a teacher and superintendent of the junior and primary departments. She also served as an officer in the Woman's Missionary Union of the Beech River Association for several years. She is a member of Omicron Chapter, Delta Kappa, a women's teacher organization in which she served as president for the years 1958-60.

She is also a member of the Tennessee Education Association and the National Education Association. She has always been interested in parent-teacher work locally having served as president of the local association for two years. She is a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, having served as District Committeewoman, and was president of the local organization two different times. She is the mother of two sons, Billy Bobbitt of Memphis, and John Bobbitt of Lexington. She has two grandchildren. Her mother Mrs. J. W. Thompson, formerly of Paris, lives in Lexington now. A sister of Mrs. Bobbitt Mrs. Virgil Stewart, now of Athens, Tenn., formerly lived in Jackson. After retirement she hopes to catch up on odds and ends at home, she says, and perhaps do some traveling.

William and Ione Bobbitt are buried at Lexington Cemetery

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