Posted in Early History, Faculty

Biographies of Central’s First Faculty

George Davis was born on Nov 19, 1870 in Blount County, TN to James A. and Mary F. Davis. He attended Terrill College in Decherd, TN when it opened in 1890 and received a BS degree from Nashville College (later Peabody Teachers College) during the 1890s. He was teaching in Chattanooga in 1900, became principal of the Hill City High School  around 1905, and married Mary W Frater in Chattanooga Aug 15, 1906. He taught science at Central from 1907-1916 during which time he received a BS in Science from UC (1914). George and Mary had two children while he taught at Central –Mary in 1908, George F. in 1910. He later taught biology at Middle Tennessee Normal School/State Teachers College (now MTSU) until 1937 (receiving an MS from Peabody in 1928). He died in Murfreesboro on March 5, 1948.

Alfred Thaddeus Roark was born in Birchwood, TN Sept 1, 1872, the fifth of six children, to John B. and Nancy Cameron Roark. By 1890 he had earned a teaching certificate and was teaching school on Jolly’s Island (now Hiwassee Island) in 1891, and later taught at East Chattanooga school.  In 1895 he entered Ohio Normal College in Lebanon, OH,  graduating with a bachelor of science degree on July 29, 1897. Roark then returned to teaching in the Hamilton County school system and left his job as Principal of the 20th District School (St Elmo) in 1907 to start up the Commercial Dept at Central High in September, 1907. He also became business manager of the athletic department, and from 1908-10 arranged all of Central’s ambitious athletic endeavors under Coach James Rike.  His influence on Central’s early athletic success was honored when in the January 31, 1910 Times Roark, not Rike, was pictured with Central’s undefeated basketball team.  When Roark received his LLB degree from the University of Chattanooga on May 31, 1910, he resigned as teacher and opened a law practice in Chattanooga. [The chaotic year of 1910-11 for Central’s athletic teams, whence there was great difficulty in scheduling opponents, likely arose from Roark’s absence.]

In 1913 Roark moved his practice to San Diego, CA, where, as a successful lawyer,  he married Virginia East on Sept, 15, 1923 and summarily adopted her daughter, Marion LaVerle.  A. T. and Virginia Roark then had two sons – A. T. Jr. in 1924 and Robert in 1931. A.T. Sr. suffered a stroke in early December, 1941 from which he never recovered, dying on May 22, 1942 at age 69. He and Virginia’s ashes reside in Greenwood Memorial Park, San Diego.

Nannie Goodwin Carmack was born in 1861 in Chattanooga, the daughter of Samuel Williams Carmack and Mary Goodner Carmack, the second of seven children. Her older sister died in 1863 and her father in 1875. Nannie graduated with an AB degree from Mary Sharp College in Winchester, TN in 1879, was teaching in Chattanooga in 1880, and married J S Carter in Franklin, TN Nov 16, 1885. Their children included Nettie M. (1887), Richard S. (1889), Lois (1892), Edgar C. (1895) and Herbert C. (1898). By 1900, Nannie was widowed and teaching in Obion County, TN. She was teaching at Hill City under George Davis before becoming  Central’s first English teacher. The December 20, 1912 Digest contained an article of the marriage of Nannie’s son, Richard Strother Carter to Ethel N. Stokes, Class of 1910 and schoolteacher at East Lake, on Dec 2, 1912. It indicated that Richard, Lois, and Edgar were all former students at Central, while Herbert was currently enrolled. There is no indication any graduated. Nannie was still on the faculty at her death on Dec 4, 1917. She was buried in Winchester.

Christian Edley Rogers was born October 1877 to John B and Sarah Rogers near North Chickamauga Creek (now Hixson). He received AB degree from Grant University, an LI from Peabody, and a law degree (LLB) from U of Chattanooga, taught at East Chattanooga School until 1907, and was a math teacher on Central’s faculty from its inception until he accepted a position at the newly formed East Tennessee Normal School (now ETSU) in December,1911. Rogers was very popular with Central students; the December, 1911 Digest ran a full page story on his departure, and the January, 1912 issue contained a letter to the student body from Prof. Rogers thanking them for the gold watch presented to him at the new Terminal Station on December 4, 1911 as he departed with his wife for Johnson City.  There he directed the Lyceum Dept and was the school’s first Registrar until he left in 1926 to become superintendent of Johnson City schools. He retired in Johnson City in the early 40s where he continued to reside until his death on Nov 14, 1966. He and his wife, Ada, had three children – Sarah (1913), Christian E Jr (1916) and John H (1925). Rogers authored one math book and placed second in a national math competition for teachers in 1913.

Walter K Greene, Central’s first athletic coach and Latin teacher, was only at Central for the 1907-8 school year. Born in Greenwood, SC on Feb 22, 1884, Greene was a star baseball player at Wofford, graduating with a BA in 1903. He then attended Vanderbilt, earning an MA in 1905. His first job was on the faculty of Battle Ground Academy (BGA) 1905-07, where he was one of three instructors and athletic coach. I have no proof, but feel strongly that he was recruited to Central to coach football by A E Darrah who had witnessed the dawn of high school football in Tennessee at the two private Nashville institutions –BGA and Montgomery Bell Academy (MBA) in the 1890s, and saw its profound impact upon school spirit. His 0-2 record in football and 4-5 record in baseball at Central were hardly noteworthy, and his biography indicated that he was destined to be an educator, not an athletic coach. He left Central to become Chair of the Latin Dept at the prestigious Baker-Himel University School in Knoxville in May 1908.  After Baker-Himel closed in 1916, Greene taught at prep schools in Alabama until 1920, when he entered Harvard, receiving an MA in English in 1921 and PhD in 1923. After 5 years at Wesleyan College in Macon GA, Greene went to Duke University where he served as professor of English and Director of Undergraduate Instruction until 1942. He then became the president of his original Alma mater, Wofford, in 1942, retiring in 1951. He and his wife, Leah, had one daughter Jennie. He died at his daughter’s residence in Ashland VA on Jan 9, 1961.

Charles D McGuffey was born in June, 1841 to Alexander and Elizabeth McGuffey. His father and uncle were authors of the McGuffey readers. He received degrees from Kenyon College and a law degree (LLB) from U of Cincinnati, then practiced law in Cincinnati until the end of the Civil War. He moved his law practice to Knoxville and became the first superintendent of schools for Anderson County in 1870. He was married three times – to Julia Augusta Clark in Knox Co, TN Oct 30, 1871; to Mary M Ricks Sep 7, 1876 in Carrol Co, Ohio (son Charles N. born 1878; stepdaughter Theodora Ricks b 1870); and finally to Mary Byrd Perrin in St Paul, MN Jun 17, 1896.
McGuffey opened a law office in Chattanooga in 1877, keeping his old firm operating in Knoxville, and appears to have lived in Chattanooga afterwards (perhaps to avoid his ex-wife). He was one of a handful of local officials that stayed in Chattanooga and survived the Yellow Fever epidemic and panic of 1878 (that claimed 366 lives, including  Mayor Carlisle and the Principal of City High School, W D Underhill). He co-founded the Bonny Oaks Orphanage, was a faculty member of the Chattanooga Law School of U S Grant University, and directed or served on many civic committees in the 1890s and 1900s. He corresponded with many military and literary figures of his era, including several Civil war Generals and author Jack London ; many of his letters are in college library collections throughout the US. He was a historian and authored The Standard History of Chattanooga (1911) and edited a widely circulated Chattanooga Historical Photobook in 1912 that including a picture and glowing description of Central.
McGuffey became interested in Spanish during the Spanish American War and later corresponded with Admiral Cervantes and his prisoner, Cpt Hobson in Spain, becoming a close friend of Capt Hobson, later Senator Hobson, from Alabama. McGuffey saw an opportunity at Central to offer the first Spanish classes at any high school in Tennessee and sold the idea. He and A E Darrah were shameless promoters of Central and the Spanish Society (Sociedad de Estudiantos del Castellano); with McGuffey’s connections Central hosted the visits of many noteworthy people between 1908 and 1912. Principal Darrah was the first member of his society. After Darrah was sacked, McGuffey and the new principal, John S.  Ziegler, were at odds. McGuffey’s accounts of his maltreatment after 1912 are documented in his Central High collection donated to the Chattanooga Public Library upon his death. He was publicly dismissed as a teacher at the end of the 1915 school year, ending the Spanish Club that had been the largest society at Central (at one time having 271 members). He died Sept 28, 1916 and was buried in Knoxville. His death certificate listed his occupation as lawyer and scholar.

Otis Clifford Kirkman was born April 28, 1878 near Snow Camp, NC, to William O and Julia Dixon Kirkman, moved to Knoxville before 1900, and received his BS in Electrical Engineering from UT in 1905. He became Central’s first Manual Arts instructor in 1907 and married a fellow teacher at Central, Mary Bibb, on August 4, 1908. He oversaw installation of the first high school vocational training facility in the Chattanooga area in 1910 and the first high school printing press in 1912. He remained on the faculty at Central until 1916 when he moved to Cookeville, TN as an inaugural faculty member of Tennessee Tech. [He was replaced at Central in 1916-17 by James F Crawley and John H Burns.] When City High moved into their new building on Third Street in 1921, a vocational education facility was also built and Kirkman assumed command there in 1922. In October, 1928, Chattanooga opened the first all-vocational high school, Chattanooga Vocational School, with Kirkman as principal.  Kirkman received an MS degree from UT in 1936, based largely on his accomplishments in vocational education. He and Mary had three children – Lila, born 10/5/09, Julia (8/17/12) and O C Jr. (12/11/16). Following the tragic death of O C Jr. in a car accident on May 21, 1943, O C Sr. passed away less than a month later, on June 13. Chattanooga Vocational School was renamed Kirkman Vocational School in his honor (later Kirkman Technical School) before school opened that September.

Mary Isabella Bibb was born in June 8, 1884 in Williamsport, Maury County, TN, the younger sister of faculty member Amanda Bibb and sixth of seven children of Lockhart and Kate Bradley Bibb. Mary Bibb received her teaching certificate from Alabama Normal Teacher’s College (Florence, AL) around 1905 and joined her older sister at the 20th District Schoool (St Elmo).  She was on Central’s faculty as history teacher for its first two years, (as Ms O C Kirkman in 1908-9), then left to give birth to Lila Kirkman [Replaced by Harriet Greve for 1909-10]. After the Kirkmans returned to Chattanooga in 1922, Mary resumed teaching at Tyner High School, retiring in 1942.  Somehow she found time to earn both BA and MA degrees from UT during thet period. Mary died on Sept 2, 1972 and was buried beside O C Kirkman in Silverdale.

Amanda Watkins Bibb was born Sept 13, 1876 in Madison County, AL and received an AB degree from New York Normal College, BP (Bachelor of Pedagogy) from Chicago U, and an MP from Columbia. She married Laurence Medley Russell and was teaching in St Elmo when she joined Central’s faculty in 1907, initiating the first high school pedagogy program in the Chattanooga area. Ms. Russell was also an accomplished pianist and frequently played at school social events. She was the longest tenured of Central’s original faculty, leaving Central in 1920. She was still active as a Hamilton County school administrator in 1930. Her husband, a local accountant, passed away in December, 1931 and she died on Jan 19, 1937. The Russells had no children; both were buried in Decatur, Alabama .

Note: Amanda and Mary Bibb were great-granddaughters of Thomas Bibb, second governor of Alabama and one of the two richest men in America in the early 1800s. Their father, Lockhart Bibb, was a CSA  Cavalry Officer under Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Central Connection

Lila Kirkman, oldest daughter of O C and Mary Kirkman, received a BA from UC in 1930 and joined the Central faculty in the fall of 1930 as a civics teacher. She married in 1932 and remained at Central (as Ms. S W Johnson) until 1940, earning an MA from Columbia during her tenure.

Central’s First Principal (1907-1912)

Alexander Emmett Darrah, Central’s first principal, was the son of Irish Immigrants Patrick & Catherine (Naughton) Darrah. Born Feb 22, 1862 in Washington County, PA, Darrah graduated from Washington & Jefferson with an AB in 1881 and began teaching at Beech Grove College outside Nashville after graduation. He married Minnie Bennett (born 1870 Coffee County, TN) around 1887 and taught in Nashville afterwards having 4 children – John Walker born 12/6/88, Katiebel  born 7/2/1890, A Emmett Jr born 1893 and George Bernard (8/5/1895).  Darrah resigned his post as Superintendent of Union City, TN schools in 1907 to accept the challenge at Central. During his first year at Central, he and Katiebel lived at 303 Kirby Avenue and Katiebel was one of the first 19 graduates in May 1908. By 1909 Darrah had moved to larger quarters at 505 N Dodds and sons Walker, Emmett and Bernard had moved in. Only Bernard attended Central from 1909-12; Walker and Emmett were employed locally.  Darrah was very popular with the students, frequently sitting in on classes and leading pep rallies. He and Charles McGuffey were tireless promoters of Central, inviting many notable public figures to speak and never missing an opportunity to pitch for more funding and better facilities. However, Darrah’s penchant for promoting Central drew the ire of his peers, especially with Central’s instant success in athletics and the recruiting of athletes from McCallie and Baylor.  From 1909-1911 City and McCallie blocked Central’s membership in the local prep leagues, and Darrah publicly chided them for avoiding competition.  After an unsuccessful try to oust Darrah after the 1911 school year, Supt. J B Brown finally convinced the school board in 1912 and Darrah was relieved of duty. Ironically, he was replaced by City’s principal, John S. Ziegler. Darrah and family returned to Nashville where he served as principal of several local schools until retirement around 1930; he passed away Oct 21, 1936. Katiebel was the oldest living member of Central’s first graduating class until her passing Oct 18, 1989 at age 99 in Nashville.


Chemical engineer; retired EPA in 2002 after 31 years. Still consulting when I have to. Grow lots of fascinating stuff on my 12 acres. So much left to little time. History is a passion. Sorry I didn't have more discourse with those who have left us. History lost forever.

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