Abilene High Class of 1961

Biographies F - I

FINFER, Ray HANKINS, Rita Jane JOWERS THOMPSON HICKS, Theresa
Jerry FITZHUGH HANN, Harold HILL, Jean
FREY, Wade HANN, Marian Genevieve HITT
GLOVER, David HAYES, Judy 
Ken GOLDBLATT
Mike WAYMAN GRANT HEDGES, Victor HOOD, Tom
GREEN, Dana HENDERSON, Larry HOPKINS, Jana
Jerry GRIDER Caleb HERNDON HOWELL, Beverly
GUNN, Catherine HERNDON, MaryAnn Joe HUMPHREY
HALE, Teri
HAMPTON, Jane HERSHEY, Marvin

Rita Jane HANKINS JOWERS THOMPSON 

Jerry FITZHUGH


I remember riding my bike to Alta Vista when I became a 6th grader and thinking what a long, hard trip it was. In reality it was only about 10 blocks. But, to an 11 year old, it was miles!! I remember that Bob Cluck and I were patrol boys on the corner of Sayles and 11th St (crossing guards would be the term used today I believe). Cluck was a Captain and I was just a lowly patrolman, so he bossed me around a lot.

I think back about how I spent my summers during this time. Little League baseball was at the top of the list. I played in the Key City Little League for the McIlwain Ford Thunderbirds from age 8 to 12. Summer mornings found me headed to the Fair Park recreation center for games of pool, ping pong, darts, dodge ball, etc. I would normally be accompanied by Jackie Harrison who lived on South 11th and Barrow Streets (actually one house off Barrow, I believe). Weekends were consumed by baseball games, trips to Abilene State Park and the freezing waters of its swimming pool and the special trips to the swimming hole in Cisco below the big dam.
- Jerry Fitzhugh, Alta Vista [Special thanks to the "The Sovereign Neighborhoods" class project - Editor, Michael Grant (Mike Wayman)]

Ken GOLDBLATT


The following paragraphs are from a family history that was written (Copyrighted) for Barry Goldblatt's daughter (and niece of AHS Class '61 member, Ken Goldblatt) as a wedding present. They are a description of their father's Army Surplus Store on the west side of Chestnut Street between South First and South Second in Abilene.

The Chestnut Street store

The store on Chestnut Street was much bigger than my (Barry and Ken) father’s first store. It was two stories and provided a lot more space for some of the bulkier surplus items. There was a freight elevator so we could move things between floors as necessary. My father spent a lot of time building new shelves and display counters before we made the move. The store was about 25 feet wide and 75 feet deep. The front of the store had two display windows on each side of the store. The doors were made of ornate brass and very heavy. Fortunately, the building faced east and the display windows created something of a shelter for the front door so it wasn’t quite as cold as the original store on South Second.

I went exploring one evening while my father was busy building shelves and displays. We hadn’t moved any stock in yet so the walls were bare. The wall on the north side of building had some loose boards so I peered in between two of them. What I saw were hundreds of pint-sized glass bottles with no labels. Later I told my father what I had found and he had no idea why so many bottles would be in the wall. I knew exactly who to ask about these things if my father didn’t have an answer.

The next day was Saturday but, before I went into the store, I went across Chestnut Street to see Ernie Wilson, one of Abilene’s oldest attorneys. He had time to talk with me so I told him what I had found. Ernie explained to me that during the 1930’s the building that we were in was a drug store. There were doctor’s offices in the building across the street in the same building where Ernie’s office was located. During prohibition, patients would go to the doctor, get a “prescription” and then have it filled across the street at the drug store. Patients were required to “take their medicine” in the drug store and the druggist disposed of the bottles in the walls. It was just one more creative way for local bootleggers to get around the law and the churches. There were several times that we had the need to open the walls for electrical repairs and found that all of the walls were completely filled with bottles.

(Editor's Note: Ernie Wilson was not only an early Abilene attorney but he also a Methodist preacher at a small Church on Locust Street, just across the street from Locust Elementary School and he was quite a local historian.  Brother Wilson, as he was called by so many people, also purchased about half of old Buffalo Gap and started the "Buffalo Gap Historic Village.")
 

Mike WAYMAN GRANT


I remember Zee Oswalt’s drugstore best, because our family doctor’s offices were upstairs in the Clinic Building. In fact we called the drugstore the Clinic Drugstore. My favorite drugstore was downtown on Cypress, just north of the Farmers & Merchants Bank, where my mother worked. She worked on Saturday mornings, and I would go with her and go to the drugstore – I forget its name – and have a chocolate sundae, and then a strawberry soda, and read comic books, sitting there at the counter. Uncle Scrooge was the best. When I was older, I would ride my bike down there, across the tracks and all the way over to the north side. It seemed like the other side of the world from 417 Poplar St.

The best thing about being a Central Wildcat was the slide. It was actually a steep-sided, steel fire escape, from a second-floor classroom window down to the ground, but it was steeper and slicker than any other slide at any playground in town. When school was closed, we would get a handful of dirt and scoot ourselves up the slide from the ground, throw the dirt down ahead of us, and slide like the wind, screaming all the way. In the summer, we had to wait until evening, until the slide cooled off a little.
The second-best thing I remember about Central was Mrs. Dunwody, my teacher in the second grade. She was brunette and beautiful.

At 417 Poplar St., you could hear things coming. Trains, thunderstorms, the Popsicle cart, the DDT truck. I could make out the distinctive whiny sound of the pump motor on the DDT truck, in plenty of time to get into the back yard and see the white cloud rising out of the trees a block away. It was as if they ran this thing just for us kids.

When I was on Safety Patrol, Abilene High was still in the old building, directly behind Central. I always got stationed at the street crossing at S. 2nd and Peach, right by the old Eagle Gym, and all the high school boys crossing the street there would thump me on top of my white helmet and comment on my bravado. Worse than that, the high school girls would laugh.

How I wound up in the bushes at Cobb Park with Genevieve Hitt escapes my memory. We were in fifth grade, and going to Cobb Park had something to do with school, a field trip, a picnic. We snuck off into a big clump of bushes where nobody could see us, and we kissed. Genevieve was blonde and fair, and the first girl I ever kissed, there in the Cobb Park bushes. I will never forget that.

Sometimes in the summer it got so hot you couldn’t play outside because the sidewalks were too hot to walk on barefoot. I loved it when a thunderstorm would come up on a hot day like that. Everything totally still and hot on the glider on the front porch, and the cicadas singing in the trees, making the only noise in the world. Then in the northwest I could see a little rim of cloud, and it grew higher and darker as it got closer, and then the thunder started, faint at first but enough to shut up the cidacas, or “locusts,” as we called them. Then the rain would hit. Down at the corner there was a dip in the street, to channel runoff. As soon as the dip was full of rain, I’d run down there and wade. At the bottom, the rainwater was warm from the hot pavement, but up at my shins, it was cold.

I was 12 years old (1955). That summer, I worked for Abilene Reproduction Co. They printed blueprints, and other schematic documents, in a room filled with big machines that reeked of ink and ammonia.

It was my job to deliver the tightly-rolled-up documents to offices around town, mostly downtown, either on foot or on my bicycle. The secretaries gave me a lot of attention, which I enjoyed but was too young to fully appreciate. I liked the routine of being outside in the heat, then inside the cool office buildings, then outside again. It was a good job.

Since I was a delivery boy, I lobbied my mother for a motorbike. No, in 1955, that was not an unusual thing for a 12-year-old to do. Several of my friends had motorbikes or scooters. Gerald Williamson, my icon, had one. He let me ride it, or tried to. I couldn't get a grip on the clutch. I sat there on the sidewalk, engine screaming, Gerald screaming, "Let out the clutch!" I did, finally, and got under way, sort of.

Frank and Bruce Teagarden had Cushman Eagles. Many graynation men remember the Cushman Eagle as their last most desirable thing in the 12-year-old male world before the puberty tsunami swept through and replaced all male thought with the image of a leg protruding from a skirt. Frank, who was my age, had a black Eagle. Bruce, a year younger, had a pink one. They were the epitome of cool.

Johnny Richardson, who lived in the very next block from me, had a Vespa. This is the machine I lobbied for. There was no way, I knew, that my mother was going to put me, a mild-mannered church-going boy, on a Cushman Eagle. The Vespa was very cool, too – hell, anything with a motor on it was cool – but compared to the Eagle, it looked downright conservative.

Eventually, my mother caved, and she put me on a kind of motorbike – motorbikes had spoked wheels – called a Simplex. It was belt-driven, for Pete's sake. It had some kind of automatic transmission, or maybe because it was so slow it only needed one gear. I just turned the throttle, and down below a drivetrain slowly meshed, in a stately sort of way, and motion was achieved. YouTube being what it is, you can see an actual 1955 Simplex in action. As soon as I saw it, I remembered the centrifugal clutch, whirring away inches from my right thigh.

I rode it for about two months, without incident. Then seventh grade started, and I parked the Simplex in the school lot, and that afternoon it wouldn't start. Somebody had put sugar in my gas tank.

I haven't owned a motorbike since.  I think that is the summer (1956) I went to camp. Then, 1957 shows a (SS) contribution of $92. That would be from Lucile Gerber, owner of Lucile's Flowers. In two years, I went from a bicycle-riding, secretary-delighting 12-year-old, to a hormone-besotted delivery boy for Lucile's Flowers, careening around Abilene in a green 1957 Chevrolet panel truck in which I could get rubber in all three gears.  

- Mike Wayman, Central [Special thanks to the "The Sovereign Neighborhoods" class project - Editor, Michael Grant (Mike Wayman)]

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Michael has lived in San Diego East County since he arrived from Texas in 1972. He worked at The San Diego Union for 20 years—as a reporter, editor and columnist. In 1990, he became journalism and media instructor at Grossmont College, where he taught and wrote stories for Grossmont's newsletter, Campus Scene. He has authored several books, including Warbirds—How They Played the Game and Michael Grant's Cookbook. 

He operated an online writing service, The Write Outsource, at writeoutsource.com, and he is at work on two books, one about media literacy, the other a novel. He and his wife, Karen—herself a writer and also a lawyer—live in southeast unincorporated La Mesa. 

On 22 Jul 2019, Grant graduated from the 70th grade and was elevated to a better place. He is a member of the 1961 graduating class at Abilene High School, Abilene, Texas and of the class of 1965 at Stanford University. Also important to his education were three years in the U.S. Army, 1966-69. He was an artillery officer and did not have to go to Vietnam. 

Three quotes important to his work: 
1.  Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process, and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind. – E. B. White. 
2.  Brevity is the soul of wit, but if wit is not forthcoming, then brevity will do. – Michael Grant. 
3.  We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T.S. Eliot 

Grant has won several awards for his work, but none to match the achievement of his son, Tyler Grant, who is the 2008 National Flatpicking Guitar champion.

Source: (www.patch.com/users/michael-grant-2)

Jerry GRIDER


Our house was at 1118 Green St. Four blocks to the west of Green St. was Mockingbird Lane, and west of there was the Planet of the Unknown: BB-gun territory.

What we considered a good workout was chasing a DDT truck dispersing a cloud of toxic smoke for 16 blocks, while devouring an Eskimo Pie we had retrieved from the neighborhood ice cream wagon. DDT also went good with a Dreamcicle. After hosing down for 30 minutes in the back yard sprinkler, we made our way into the house for the best home-cooked meal in town. You were always welcome to stay.

Then it was out the doors for the neighborhood sunset. We played marbles, tops, yo-yos, kite flying, Red Rover, kick the can, while it was still light. As the sun set, it was hide and go seek, and the gathering of lightning bugs. On our backs, we could make a wish on a falling star, how far is far, how is there no end, I wish I may, I wish I might . . . “You kids get inside and clean up, it’s past your bedtime!!”

Kirby and I could mow two lawns on Saturday morning with his dad’s new gasoline-powered lawnmower (the only one within miles). Kirby and I had a pretty girlfriend by the name of Sue Proffitt. Sue lived up the road from us near a good crawdad hole on Catclaw Creek. Our first date with Sue was to the Paramount Theater. Her mom drove us there and we split the cost 60-40 (the mower belonged to Kirby’s dad).

After three or seven months, Sue fell in love with some other guys. We were heartbroken for 13 or six minutes. Kirby took up with someone close to his house. He hated to walk. I went five crawdad holes up Catclaw Creek to Ambler Ave. to the home of “the triplets:” Janice, Joyce and Carl Berry. Joyce and Janice were hard to tell apart. Janice was my girlfriend and she was the first girl I ever kissed. I think it was Janice, it was so dark down there in that cellar.
- Jerry Grider, Fannin [Special thanks to the "The Sovereign Neighborhoods" class project - Editor, Michael Grant (Mike Wayman)]

Jane attended Abilene High her sophomore and junior years but graduated from Abilene Christian High School in 1961.  However, she has been a true AHS '61 booster since she first entered those hallowed halls in 1958.

Rita Jane HANKINS JOWERS THOMPSON 

Rita was born August 17, 1943 in Memphis, Texas. She spent her childhood with her brother, Jack, and a host of aunts, uncles, and cousins as they shared their time together with family between Memphis, Quanah, and Abilene. Her family moved to Abilene and Rita attended school, graduating from Abilene High School in 1961. She then attended Abilene Christian College, where she obtained her Bachelors of Science in Education in 2 ½ years. She married Terry Joe Jowers and they moved to Midland, where she taught elementary school and Terry was a member of the Midland Police Department. They were blessed with two sons, Mark and Tony. In 1972, Terry was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Rita and the boys moved back to Abilene, where she ultimately met and married John Glenn Thompson in 1973. John later adopted the two boys, and the family eventually made their home in Abilene after living in Dallas and Lake Jackson, Texas. The family grew when John and Rita welcomed their third son, Glenn in 1976 and later, their baby girl, Ginger, in 1978.

Rita enjoyed being a homemaker and an educator during her children’s childhood. She also volunteered her time as a member of the Auxiliary at Hendricks Medical Center, she was on the Board of Directors of the Ben Richey Boys Ranch, and was the President of the Dixie Little League for many years. She participated in the Abilene Garden Club, and was a member of the women’s sorority Beta Sigma Phi. 

In 1995, Rita obtained her Master’s Degree in Education from Tarleton State University. By this time, the family had relocated to Austin, and she began serving children as an elementary school Counselor. She enjoyed this season of her life until she retired from the Austin Independent School District in 2005.

John and Rita then moved back to Abilene, built a home together, where they could enjoy their retirement with family and friends. 
 

Harold Buckley Hann, Sr.

Harold Buckley Hann, Sr. was born on April 15, 1942, in Phoenix, Ariz. He graduated from Abilene High School in Texas. He was enlisted in the U.S. Navy for four years where he served two tours in Vietnam. On Dec. 5, 1964, he married the former Ruth Helwig in Arlington Heights, IL. After his honorable discharge from the Navy, Harold served as District Director of the Boy Scouts of America. He then owned and operated Hann's Construction in Waterloo since 1982 for the rest of his working career.  He was a very active member of Four Lakes Church of Christ in Madison where he served in numerous capacities. Harold was a member of the American Legion 233 in Waterloo. He was a member of the Boy Scouts where he earned the highest rank of Eagle Scout. As an adult he served as the District Chairmen of Four Lakes. In 2001, he was a elected town of Waterloo, Iowa Supervisor and served for 14 years. Harold enjoyed fishing, golfing and street rodding with his '31 Chevy.

Dr. Caleb William HERNDON, MD, Ph.D. ( 5 Feb 1943 - 4 Apr 2012)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Obituary ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Herndon Caleb M.D. Ph.D.

Brookhaven

Caleb William Herndon, MD, PhD, age 69, died April 4th 2012, at Kings Daughter's Medical Center in Brookhaven, MS, following a hard-fought struggle with pancreatic cancer. On February, 5 1943, Caleb William Herndon was born in Lubbock, TX , and raised in Abilene, TX. He graduated from Abilene High School in 1961, fifteenth out of 551. He was president of the Sophomore, Junior, and Senior Classes, a National Honor Society member, and a Finalist in the International Science Fair of 1961. He graduated Abilene Christian College with a B.S. degree, major in biology, minor in chemistry, minor in bible, in 1965, and was on the Dean's Honor Roll. Caleb graduated from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, MS, in 1969, with a Ph.D. in physiology and biophysics. He then graduated from Tulane Medical School, in New Orleans, LA, with his M.D. in 1972.

Caleb was a much-respected, valued, and loved husband, father and ophthalmologist. He served over 30,000 families over his career of 35 years. His talents were exceptional, providing diagnosis and treatment of complicated cases and making himself available to his patients at anytime of the day or night. He was a talented surgeon, voracious reader, and lover of knowledge, continually studying the latest research, reading textbooks, and honing his medical skills. In addition to his expert knowledge of ophthalmology, he also diagnosed neurological disorders, cardiac disease, and cancer. His colleagues knew him as a great humorist, many times keeping them, "in stitches" in more ways than one, in the operating room.

Caleb enjoyed a wonderful relationship with this community, and was awarded "Lion of The Year" by the Brookhaven Evening Lions Club in 2011 for his extraordinary service. Not only has Caleb had a love of people, but also of a love of animals. He raised Horses, Australian Shepherds, Hogs, Donkeys, Cows, Cats, and at the time of his death, he even had a pet squirrel that he rescued. He was extremely soft hearted and couldn't say "no" to a stray animal, or human being. He was a very generous man and the world was a better place because of his presence.

Caleb is survived by his wife, Natalie Brown Herndon, Ph.D., MS, formerly of Jackson, MS, his two children, Natalie Cox Herndon, Ph.D. of Salt Lake City, UT, and Caleb William "Billy" Herndon, of Jackson, MS, his stepmother, Betty Warner Herndon of San Diego, CA, his stepsister Dianna Warner Lewis and her husband Darryl Lewis of San Diego, CA, and stepbrother Ronnie Warner of Tucson, AZ. Preceding him in death were his father, Sam Cyril Herndon of Tucson, AZ, his mother, Dorothy Ernestine "Teeny" Cox Herndon, and his brother, Ted Herndon of Tucson, AZ.

May God richly bless the entire staff of the University of Mississippi Medical Center (Oncology, Fifth Floor staff and nurses, and Drs. Puneky, Herrin, and Helling), Kings Daughter's Medical Center (especially the angelic third floor medical staff), Haven Hall Nursing Home, and Hospice Compassus.

Local visitation will be held at the Brookhaven Funeral Home, located on Natchez road, Tuesday, April 10th, from 5:00-8:00 pm. Funeral services will be held at the Meadowbrook Church of Christ, in Jackson, MS, on Wednesday, April 11th, with visitation at 4:30 pm and the funeral service to follow at 5:30 pm.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the following organizations: Kings Daughter's Medical Center, care of hospital administrator, Mr. Alvin Hoover, to whom we owe so much; Meadowbrook Church of Christ, care of Jerry Neil, senior minister, 4261 I-55 North, Jackson, MS 39206: or to Reverend Jerry Sullivan, minister, 322 Quitman Lane, Brookhaven, MS 39601.

Published in Clarion Ledger on April 8, 2012
 

Genevieve HITT


With the 50's in Abilene, I was the "neighborhood grocery man's" daughter. There were no supermarkets and Dad's store known as H&H Grocery and Market located at 126 Graham Street or across from the Coca Cola Bottling Company. I found myself with chores of a 10 year old that required more personal attention than expected today from the supermarkets. Of course Mrs. Joyner brought the eggs into town every Saturday and I crated eggs into the foldout card-board cartons. Fresh brown eggs or fresh white eggs straight from the farm- no government inspections while the milk man brought the fresh milk from the J.H. Rucker dairy in SE Abilene with the cream still floating on the top.
My chores also included filling the "drink" box each evening with the glass bottles of Coke, Pepsi, 7-Up, Dr. Pepper, Sunkist, NuGrape and Barque's Root Beer.

I attended Valley View until the 4th grade and at that time my home address was 2126 Washington. It was later renamed Parramore because of confusion with Washington Blvd. on ACC Hill. A short street with 3 houses. It intersected Kirkwood on the West and ended at Cat Claw Creek where we (primarily my brothers and their friends) dug the caves, and on the east end it ended at Dr. Jim Alexander's mesquite pasture with his horses. I could write a book myself on that area of Abilene, from Victoria to Kirkwood, and N. 1st to N. 9th. Then in the 4th grade we moved to 626 E.N.10th on the ACU Hill, and I went to Central Elem. Across from Dad's store was an "elite" apartment complex for that time. Mrs. Hilgenburg owned it and she later married R.A. Bible-Bible Hardware on Walnut St.. This apartment building was a dorm for ACU when the college was located in the Coca Cola Building. Her tenants were really "top notch" people - i.e., CPA's and retirees. East of this on N. 2nd, was Lankford's Manufacturing, Pat Lankford class of '59? They manufactured government uniforms if I remember correctly.

My Dad had a generous heart. He charged family's groceries until pay day and at times even beyond pay day. Families had needs and Dad would make sure the children had food regardless of the paycheck and how it was being spent - perhaps on booze which had to be "bootlegged." I have a vivid memory of a new "extended" family that had moved into our neighborhood. Looking back now I believe she had 5 children and he had 4, both by previous marriages. The couple had met Dad and he agreed to charge the groceries. However, when a 5 year old with golden curls and probably a hand-me-down dress came into the store and picked up 2 rolls of toilet tissue, walked up to the counter without any sign of money, Dad asked, "who is the for?" The reply, as only an innocent child could respond, "all of us." This brought a moment of laughter and years later a smile to my face as I can hear my Dad chuckling at the expression.

First love, first kiss, oh, what a moment of bliss. It was the 6th grade football picnic where we took our trip into the bushes, and, oh, how my stomach did a flip with that kiss! We were going steady in the 6th grade which included his silver ring with turqoise setting worn every day around my neck. It was really great when rainy days or cold weather found us square dancing on the wooden floors of Central Elementary. I remember his beautiful mother, I've never forgotten her name, June, picking me up in a dream car by today standards, a '54 Olds hardtop. There we were riding in the backseat as boyfriend/girlfriend..... Oh, my goodness, such innocent memories of the '50's.

The VFW Clubhouse was a stately white home with a white iron fence, which we walked the iron pipes when the sidewalk was too hot-before flip-flops.. Pat Clayton class of '61 was a playmate that would swim with me. The pool was on west of the clubhouse. It had a "tadpole" pool out front and then the larger pool was really "huge" in the mind of a child. I would think it was 50 feet across and maybe 100 ft. long? with a high diving board and also lower one. Dr. Lindley's Animal Clinic, a rock building, joined the west side and sat on Cat Claw Creek Bank, with that being the end of N. 1st -a gravel road. There was a large grey house where Stuart Lindley (class '58?) lived with his parents and they made Lindley Sandwiches and delivered to various stores, Dad's included.
- Genevieve Hitt, Valley View and Central [Special thanks to the "The Sovereign Neighborhoods" class project - Editor, Michael Grant (Mike Wayman)]  

Joe Humphrey

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AISD's 'institutional memory' says goodbye

Humphrey retires after 38-year career in school administration

By Sidney Levesque / Abilene Reporter-News Staff Writer
June 15, 2004

Joe Humphrey unloaded a six- to eight-inch-thick pile of e-mailed complaints last week. Years of gripes about school buses, cafeteria food and school closings were tossed in the trash. It was a load off the shoulders of Humphrey, who retired Monday after 38 years with the Abilene Independent School District.

The 61-year-old deputy superintendent for administration said goodbye to the only school district he has ever worked for, and one that employed his parents and wife as well. He's known as ''Captain Trivia'' for his vast AISD knowledge.

''I'm the holder of institutional memory around here,'' he joked.

He was born May 1, 1943, in Abilene to Joe C. Humphrey, a principal and politician, and Juanita Humphrey, an elementary school teacher. His father was representing Abilene in the Legislature at the time, and a picture of the infant was quickly sent to Austin.

It still hangs in the Capitol's basement, Humphrey said, noting that he was a ''House Mascot'' that year and again in 1945, when his father was elected to a third term. Mascots were the children of House members.

Back then, legislators also could be state employees.

His father was principal of Abilene High School when it was on South 1st Street, in what is now Lincoln Middle School. Lincoln Principal Charles Perkins, who is taking over for Humphrey in the Administration Building, said Humphrey told him he has fond memories of sliding down the school's banister as a kid.

''His history is not just with Abilene schools, but with the Abilene community,'' Perkins said.

After a few years away from Abilene, the Humphrey family returned in time for Joe Humphrey to begin school at South Junior High - which later became Jefferson Middle School. He was principal of the school years later, when several of his report cards were discovered by school employees.

Thankfully, they didn't embarrass him.

''I did real good, except I got marked down in conduct, and I talked too much in class,'' he said.

He attended the ''new'' Abilene High on North 6th Street. Humphrey built his first race car engine in auto mechanics, which worried his father, who was a dean at McMurry University by then.

He was afraid his son was going to ditch college to repair cars for a living. Humphrey did attend McMurry, but his lifelong passion is racing and working on automobiles.

At McMurry, he met his wife, Susan. They married in 1966 and had three children, Clark, Suzanne and Holly.

Indian cures and puppy dog tales

Humphrey's first job with the AISD was teaching government and sociology at Cooper High School. After a brief stint at the Ad Building, he became principal of Travis Elementary and the Houston Student Achievement Center, which serves emotionally disturbed students.

He recalled a Travis mother whose children had terrible attendance. She constantly griped at school employees. He finally told her she needed to provide a doctor's note for the absences.

''I'm an Indian princess and I use Indian cures,'' he recalled her saying.

''I said, 'I don't think the TEA (Texas Education Agency) will recognize Indian cures.'''

Another day she asked for money because her welfare check hadn't arrived. Humphrey gave her a loan and never saw her again.

''My secretary said, 'That's probably the best $5 you ever spent,''' he said.

Humphrey had served as principal of College Heights Elementary a couple of years when he got a call to lead Bonham Elementary. He arrived at the school to find the teachers' rooms grouped strangely. So he told half of them to move.

''What a way to get off to a great start,'' he joked.

His fifth day on the job, he learned he was being reassigned to Jefferson because someone had unexpectedly left. That left a certain David Polnick - now superintendent - to take over Bonham and oversee some angry teachers. One teacher has never let Humphrey forget it.

''She'll say, 'Let me hug my five-day principal who made me move after 20 years,''' he said.

After four years at Jefferson, Humphrey was again assigned to the Ad Building. Since then, he figures he's moved into almost every office there and held every position except superintendent and business manager.

Perkins was even his boss for a short time.

Humphrey has overseen food service, transportation, maintenance and other departments for the last three years. He chuckles over some of the complaints from parents, especially one who was upset a teacher was keeping a dog in class because her child was allergic to the animal.

''I said, 'Surely you're kidding,''' he said. ''It was no joke.''

The teacher was quickly told she couldn't have a dog in class as it posed a danger to children and a liability to the district.

The last few years have been the hardest for the district and Humphrey. The AISD has weathered controversial boundary changes to racially balance the high school and declining enrollment, which caused cutbacks that included school closings. Jefferson was one of them.

Humphrey sat through numerous public forums with angry parents.

''I had to just sit there and take it a lot,'' he said. ''I had some people almost personally threaten me.''

Today, he said he gets positive vibes about the school district. He hopes to continue helping the district after his retirement in some way, perhaps with building projects funded by the May 15 bond election.

The rest of his time will be devoted to car racing.

He's been racing and announcing at drag strips since the 1960s. The 1951 black Ford with a V-8 engine he started with has been replaced by a 1968 silver Chevrolet Camaro named ''Major Expense II.'' His son, Clark, is the driver.

The first ''Major Expense'' met an untimely end when the brakes failed while it was going 130 mph. It crashed into a barn off the racetrack. Clark Humphrey walked away with only a bruise on his leg, his father said.

Most weekends, Joe Humphrey said you can find him at the Abilene Dragstrip or Texas Raceway in Kennedale. He'll be there collecting tidbits of information on cars, drivers and engine sizes, his institutional memory ever expanding.

Contact Sidney Levesque at levesques@reporternews.com or 676-6721.

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