When our Interesting Person for this week, Deward Grissom, gave me all the information for this article, I was amazed. I already knew that he was Avel Grissom's brother, that had been active in Little Theater productions a few years ago, and that he collected and sold antiques in a lovely home on Hwy. 22S but I did not know of his numerous literary achievements. He is now retired and with his sister has moved to town, having bought the beautiful home on Broad Street formerly occupied by the late Donald and Robbie Flynn.
Deward, or De, as he is called, was born Decembe 31, 1916 at Reagon in the Center Hill community, a son of the late Robert and Bessie Kizer Grissom. He had two older brothers, Paul and Aubrey Grissom. He also had two half brothers, Willard and Clifton and a half-sister, Avel. He says they were a closely knit family and have remained so in their adult years. His mother died when he was 3, and he spent most of his early childhood with his grandparents, Leander and Levice Hodgen Grissom. He finished his early schooling in 1932 at a 1-teacher school in Center Hill. When he and a fellow student, Rachel Stanfield were in the 6th grade they passed a state wide 8th grade required examination, but entry into high school at that time required a student to be 14 years old.
So that fall, he registered for junior high at Reagan, finishing in 1934, then entered Sardis High School. After graduation in 1936 he and a friend, Glen Chalk, hitch hiked to Knoxville where they hoped to find work and enter teh University of Tennessee. But he found that to qualify for assistance from any state, federal, orwork assistance programs for students, required one to have at least 1/2 of the money needed for registration. He says he had none, so he had to find work. State programs paid 25 cents per hour, local work programs generally were 13 cents per hour. De found suitable work at a drug store on Market Street. He worked there 7 h ours a day, 5 days a week; 11 hours a day on Saturday and Sunday for 4 years.
He graduated with a BS degree in Science Education with a major in Chemistry and a minor in Math. Along the way, he took courses to qualify for both elementary and secondary school teaching. He registered in secondary schools in Tennessee, Virginia and Florida, but received no offer from any of them. His own Henderson County required a $10.00 registration fee to be listed on a private eligibility list. He refused to pay it and thinks that may be the reason he was not employed in Henderson County. He began to work as a chemist in Alcoa TN. The pay was good but the work not very satisfying. He also worked in Oak Ridge with Monsanto Chemical Co., as a Health Physist; it was interesting work but exposure to radiation was a constant worry. While at Oak Ridge, he was offered a job in research with Frigidaire Corp. In Pennsylvania, but he declined because he preferred working with people rather than laboratories.
He was awarded a scholarship for a Master's Degree in Education from the American Association for Progressive Education. This required spending one year in one of some 32 school in the U.S. which the association was sponsoring. He was assigned with five other graduate students to a school in Scott County, just outside Knoxville. His field was exploring ways for science teaching on all levels from kindergarten to senior high school. He had finished work and all his work at U.T. Except his thesis when U.S. entered WW II. Having majored in chemistry, he along with thousands of other chemists were almost immediately inducted into the U.S. Army because officials feared we might face chemical warfare.
The inductees weer sent to Edgewood Arsenal in MD. The commanding officer sent word to Washington that he needed "more brawn and less brains." Many men, including De, were reclassified. He was named a Medical Lab Technician in the army medical corps and was sent to Wm Beaumont Hospital in Ft. Bliss, TX for briefing, then to Kilmer NJ to join the main 67th American Hospital for shipment overseas. He was the only southerner in the outfit. After landing in Scotland, they went to Tauson, England. His first job was to do Standardized Lab tests, using American and British dyes.
Three times, De was offered a spot commission as 1st Lt., but declined, because he had no interest in a military career after the war. When Germany surrendered, they were told that the 67th General Hsp. personnel would be the last to be sent back to the US in order of troop shipment back from the European Theater.
When the hospital did return to the US and De was discharged, he went directly to Knoxville to reunite with his girlfriend and to go on campus to see Dr. Harold Walker, his former advisor, Head of the Health Sciences Dept. Dr. Walker asked De if he would like to teach in the university in the Dept. of Health. De asked when he would want him to start. He was told "Monday". This was Friday. He asked for a week to come home, but returned in three days to begin a teaching career.
Many changed had occurred during his absence. He wanted to pursue a doctors' degree in public health education; she wanted to get married, settle down, start a family and teach in the Knoxville schools - they remained and neither of them ever married. In 1948, De took leave from his teaching position and went to New York City to enter Columbia U. He began working on a PdD degree in Public Health Education. During the 1948-49 school year, he finished the course required for the degree and returned to Tennessee, but not to teaching.
While in England, De had taken some courses at Oxford U., the same college Rhodes scholars attend. After the Japenese surrender, he attended some classes at U. of Paris, in Paris France, wanting to learn the French language.
His first job after leaving Columbia U., was with the US Public Health Service, serving on the Gulf Coast as a sea foods inspector, buthe had applied to the Tennessee Dept. ofPublic Health after his return from the Army. He became Senior Public Health Educator with the Gibson County Health Dept. in Trenton, TN Later when the Tennessee Dept. of Mental Health was formed under Gov. Clements administrator, he was put on loan from his former position to serve as Advisor in Mental Health program, planning and education. He was sent to Canada as a US reprenentative to the World Health Organization in Toronto Canada. Twenty-seven nations were represented, besides the US including England, Frances and Russia.
He finished his dissertation in NY and received his doctor's degree in the summer of 1952. He accepted a position at Southern Illinois U. in Carbondale Ill. to be teaching in the Dept. of Health Education. He became an Associate Professor of Health Education. After a few years he was nominated for a full time professorship. In a report from the University, which De discovered recently in his files, it was shown what his fellow professors felt about his qualifications an success in teaching. His ratings as a teacher were called superior and even mentioned his sense of humor. The report also contains a list of the research he had done since 1960 including many surveys in public health and dentists use of fluoride. The list ofpublications he has contributed is impressive. He has membership and fellow in a number of associations and served as president of the Illinois Society of Public Health Education. He is known forhisspeaking to university groupson 50-75 different occasions for each year of service. Over 10 years, he worked with students seeking masters of Ph. D degrees.
He retired from Southern Ill. U. in 1978 after teaching there 23years. He had traveled extensively for both professional and leisure time reasons and tells me that he has been in all but two states of the uS - Vermont and Alaska.
He lived in Oxford MS, for a time, remodeling his home there but sold it and returned to Lexington where he had built a home for an aunt, Paralee Grissom, and her sister, Mollie Sego, both deceased.
After selling the big house on Hwy 22S he and his half sister, Miss Avel Grissom moved here. She is retired from the Caywood School.