Monday, October 7, 2013
The Miller County Autogram-Sentinel recently published an autobiography written by Tuscumbia physician, Dr. Paul Howard (September 19, 2013) which I found to be very interesting; so much so that I am presenting his narrative on this edition of Progress Notes. Here is a recent photo of Dr. Paul and his wife, Marjorie (photo 01):
01 Dr. Paul and Marjorie Howard
Marjorie is the daughter of Dr. Marshall Humphreys, a long time Miller County physician (photo 02).
02 Dr. Marshall Humphreys
I wrote a Progress Notes article about both Dr. Humphreys and Dr. Howard previously which you can read at this website.
I found Dr. Paul’s own autobiography to be very interesting adding more detail about his life and career to what I had written on the previous Progress Notes of 2011 cited above, so I am presenting this most recent narrative written by Dr. Paul for this edition of Progress Notes.
Note: We have always called him Dr. Paul. I think this occurred because his father in law, Dr. Marshall Humphreys, practiced with his brother Dr. Stanley Humphreys; therefore, in conversation about these two brother doctors it became less confusing to use their first names, Dr. Marshall and Dr. Stanley, rather than the Dr. Humphreys name.
High School Teacher’s Influence Lives on for 50 + Years
Miller County Autogram
September 19, 2013
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
By Dr. Paul Howard
Earlier this summer a note was placed inside the front door of our house. It started with the usual salutation: “Dear Dr. Paul and Marge.”
After a few short sentences it finished with, “Thank you for being my teacher,” The note was signed…”Ted.”
Many may not know it, but before I was a physician, for a brief period of time, I was a teacher in a one room school here in Miller County. The tiny school was Vernon School. My pupils can be seen in the picture (photo 03).
03 Vernon School Miller County Autogram
Click image for larger view
Note: “Ted” Skiles is pictured in the front left of the bottom row of the photo.
This small note was one of the nicest thank you notes that I have ever received. It brightened my day and caused me to remember my education.
Education is one of the most important gifts a society can give to its citizens, and teachers have the ability to impact the future far beyond their years in the classroom. One teacher in particular had a great influence on my life. He transformed my life in one year’s time period.
Although both of my parents grew up in Miller County and both graduated from Tuscumbia High School, I grew up in Kansas City. I was born in Old Bagnell; however, when jobs became impossible to find, my parents, along with many from Miller County, moved to the city where work could be found. I attended a large urban school in Kansas City. My class alone was over 500 students. I felt like I was just a number, and because I was from Armordale, the poorer side of town, it was even worse. I had dreams though, and those dreams included becoming a veterinarian. The summer of my junior year, my dad contacted Mr. T.C. Wright, his former agriculture teacher at Tuscumbia High School (photo 04).
04 Tennyson Clay Wright
It just so happened that Mr. T.C. was still teaching at Tuscumbia. Upon hearing about my problems, Mr. T.C. suggested, that since the school I was attending didn’t offer agriculture, a really important class for a future veterinarian….why not send me to Tuscumbia for my senior year? My parents agreed.
Every student in agriculture had to have a project, so Mr. T.C. decided that since he had 36 ewes and some rams, caring for them could be my project. All winter it was my responsibility to tend to the small flock. In the spring, I sold 36 lambs for a total of $36 for every 100 pounds. With Mr. T.C.’s help, I had learned sheep management and entrepreneurship first hand. The learning did not stop there. Mr. T.C. was a very strong believer in hands on education, so our agriculture class took many field trips. On these trips, we learned how to castrate pigs, pull calves when the cows had difficulty and dock lambs’ tails. Once, we went to the University of Missouri School of Veterinary Medicine to discuss problems with pigs that were dying in our area. My most memorable field trip was one that started out as a spring farm visit to Grant Edwards’ place (photo 05).
05 Grant Edwards
Mr. T.C. got the panel bus stuck. Some of the boys jumped out to assist but, instead of pushing the bus forward, they pulled the bus back. It was then really stuck. Mr. T.C. went to ask Grant about using his tractor to pull the small bus out. Grant had another idea, why not just get all the boys to help and carry the bus out of the mud. That is what we did. Instead of being upset, Mr. T.C. suggested that since we were already too late for English class, we should just go down to Dog Creek and clean up….i.e.: swim!
Our class learned more in that one hour about self control and the importance of a positive attitude than most kids learn in a lifetime.
Many other things besides agriculture I learned from Mr. T.C. I learned about respect for myself and others because disagreements were settled with boxing gloves (not guns!) followed by a handshake. I also learned about love of God and country…both the flag and the Bible were mainstays at our Friday assemblies. Finally, Mr. T.C. instilled in me the importance of “making the world a better place than I found it.”
Upon graduation from high school at Tuscumbia, I went to college and at 19 years of age came back and taught at Vernon School. But not for long; The Korean War was going on, and a year and a half later I was drafted into the Marine Corps. After military duty, I did not come home and teach or go to the School of Veterinary Medicine. Instead, I studied to become a physician. I married and eventually settled down in Miller County. I wanted my children to experience the benefits of a rural school education with teachers like Mr. T.C. All of my children and grandchildren graduated from Tuscumbia High School. This year, I have two great grandchildren in school at Tuscumbia. One is in agricultural science. Five generations later, Mr. T.C.’s influence is still present.
It came as no surprise to me that all four of my daughters became educators. Rebecca taught elementary school for over 25 years. After 37 years, Connie is still in the classroom teaching science. Stephanie retired after over 20 years in the classroom as a junior high and high school science teacher. Molly, although a registered nurse by profession, is a childbirth educator for expectant moms. How much influence does a good educator have on the future? Judging by the impact that Mr. T.C. Wright had on my life and the life of my family, the answer is more influence than can be measured.
P.S. Ted, my former student who wrote the thank you note, was a second grader when I taught him. He was great at ‘ciphering’ matches. I was sure that someday he would become an engineer. To my surprise, he became a missionary to Taiwan taking care of orphans…definitely “making our world a better place than he found it.” I think Mr. T.C. would be pleased!
Dr. Paul Howard
Dr. Paul Howard and Marjorie are supporters of our county and his home town of Tuscumbia; they attend most every event that occurs around town and have contributed to many worthy causes including our own Miller County Museum. The last time I talked to him he was still practicing medicine at various locations in the area on a part time basis. By the way, he has an interest in classic cars, one of which is pictured here (photo 06):
06 Dr. Paul Howard
If you haven’t read it already, be sure and read the previous Progress Notes about him which I cited above.
Also, you can read more about Ted Skiles and his father Jimmy Skiles, a well known fiddle player, at this previous Progress Notes.
That's all for now.
Previous article links are in a dropdown menu at the top of all of the pages.