THE HISTORY OF COCKE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL
by E.R. Walker III
Cocke County Historian
and
Retired Teacher of History and Social Sciences, Cocke County High School

Cocke County High School is an offshoot of two previous secondary institutions.  The Newport Academy was established under the auspices of the Masonic Lodge #234, and its classes were held in the then-new Masonic Hall on the hill overlooking the town.  This was Newport's principal educational facility until the city established a school in 1898.

This new school, known as Newport High School, was situated on the top of the hill above the Masonic Hall on five acres purchased from Miss Cynthia McSween.  The total cost of this project was $16,000.  (The original building comprises the east wing of the present Newport Grammar School, and today is the oldest continuously used public elementary school building in the state of Tennessee.)

The school offered both an elementary and a secondary curriculum.  The former was modeled after the graded system used by the Knoxville schools.  The secondary curriculum was classically grounded offering such courses as Latin, Virgil, Cicero, physics, algebra, plane and solid geometry, rhetoric botany, geology, and geography.  At first the high school offered three years of study; then it was lowered to two.  By 1906 it had returned to a three-year program, and in 1913 a fourth year of study was added.

By 1916 the need for a more comprehensive secondary program in Cocke County was recognized.  Besides Newport High School, there were two-year programs offered both at Parrottsville and Edwina.  The Cocke County Quarterly Court voted to issue $30,000 in high school bonds in April 1916.  This action was ratified in July, and the bonds were sold September 30, 1916.  The construction contracts were let on December 21, 1916.

The campus was a sixteen-acre tract of the former McSween farm on a bluff overlooking the eastern end of town.  The site was donated by the McSween family.  Construction of the building began in the spring of 1917, and it was ready for the beginning of the 1917 fall school term.  The building was a three-story brick facade containing eight classrooms, a study hall, two offices, library, auditorium, gymnasium, and rest rooms.

There is a question as the the original name of the school.  The plaque over the main front entrance of the building read "Cocke County High School," yet the first yearbook Scarlet and Black 1918, referred to it as "Central High School."  Classes as late as the mid-thirties referred to the school as "Central."  In 1995, no one seems to remember why the school was ever called Central or why that name was abandoned for the present (or original?) appellation of Cocke County High School.

M.T. Carlyle, a graduate of the University of South Carolina, was the first principal, serving until 1920.  (Succeeding principals are listed in Table I.)  There were five other faculty members : Stella Bailey (English), Roy T. Campbell (science), Katherine Owens (history), Maurice C. Wilson (manual training), and Annie Lou Calmes (home economics).  Principal Carlyle taught mathematics.  The enrollment for the year was listed as ninety-eight.  There were seven in the first graduating class : Bessie Fisher, W.B. Stokely,Jr., Bonnie Kate Talley, Estella Gillespie, Jennie Jones, Leonard Gardner, and Ruby Coggins.  (Four of these went on to college.)  To ease overcrowding at Newport Grammar School, provisions were made for the eighth grade classes to be taught in the high school building, a practice which continued for several years.  Dormitory facilities were available at the old Cherokee Hotel on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Second Street.

The first courses of study are delineated in Table II and Table III.

There were also athletic programs for football, baseball, and basketball (male and female).  As the name of the yearbook would indicated, the school colors were red and black, as they still are.  Oliver Gray is credited with running sixty-five yards to score the first touchdown in 1917 for the "Big Red" team. 

The campus was improved by the planting of red maples, which made an impressive sight each fall.  In 1919 a ring of twenty-seven maples was planted on the south side of the building.  Each of the trees was in memory of one of Cocke County's casualties in World War I, and at the base of each tree was a marker bearing the names and dates for each serviceman.  Over the years, the trees and the markers were removed.  In 1965 as a project of the Key Club, the existing markers were placed around the flagpole at the new Cocke County High School.  Only one of the original maples remains.

The first building was used as it was originally built until 1940 when additions were constructed on either end of the building.  On the west end, a gymnasium and dressing rooms were added, and on the east end, a study hall, library, and six classrooms were added.  Originally, the home economics classrooms were in the basement, but in 1937 they were removed to a stone cottage which had been built as a National Youth Administration Project.  This building was enlarged in 1954 and, [at one time], housed the central offices of the Cocke County School System.  Another building was erected in 1946 to handle the shop and agriculture classes.  This building was later used to house the Special Education, Maintenance, and Transportation departments [before they were moved to their current location].  A custodian's residence was located on the upper corner of the campus.  When the gymnasium wing was added, the original gymnasium was converted into a cafeteria with Mrs. Marcus Fisher as the manager. 

(The original Cocke County High School building was used during the 1963-64 school year by the students of Tanner School while that school was undergoing renovations.  After that the building stood empty and deteriorating until it was finally razed about 1969.  The site is now occupied by the Baptist Convalescent Center.)

As times and trends changed, so did the school's curriculum.  Business courses were added about 1938 with Mrs. Mattie Lou Dowling as teacher, followed in 1939 by Royce McNabb.  Foreign languages have included Latin, French, Spanish, and German.  Driver training was first offered in 1954.  With the exception of 1920 and 1922, the school published a yearbook from 1918 to 1930, under such titles as Scarlet and Black, Old Hickory, The Dawn, The Cocke's Crow, and CoCoHi.  Due to the Depression and World War II, there were no yearbooks from 1931 until Chanticleer appeared in 1950.  It continues to be published. 

Although its emphasis has changed from time to time, the arts have always been a part of the curriculum.  There was no official music program during the first year, but by 1920 Miss Eleanor Susong was on the faculty teaching music and drama.  Mrs. P.T. Bauman conducted the orchestra and glee club for many years.  In 1947 V.C. Adcock organized the first band, a part of the school ever since.  Drama, no doubt, was always a part of the school, both through the English curriculum and the fact that the school auditorium was used often for community theatricals.  In 1939 a separate Speech Arts class, taught by Marjorie McMahan, was added.  Even though this class was discontinued eventually, the interest of students in drama was evidenced by the production annually of a Senior Play.  In 1994 there was a revival of the drama class.

The guidance program was instituted in 1960 by Lagretta C. Parrott.  Subsequent counselors have been Charlotte J. Mims, Janet Porter, Mary Catron, Louie Turner, Karen Smith, and April Cody.

By the mid-1950's, a steadily increasing enrollment rendered the school short on space.  This was due to an overall growth in population, the influx of "war babies," and an increased realization in the importance of education.  By 1958 a building which had been built to accommodate 350 students had an enrollment of 750.

By September 1958, the Cocke County Superintendent of Schools, Lagretta C. Parrott, was notified by the State Board of Education that if the overcrowded conditions were not corrected, the rating of Cocke County High School would be dropped from A to C.  In light of this, the school board developed a plan of improvements which included both new constructions and improvements to Parrottsville School, a consolidated school in the Bridgeport areas, a consolidated school in the Hartford area, additions to Tanner, a new Cocke County High School and renovation of existing Cocke County High School building to house the upper grades from Northport and West End Schools.  Financing this plan would require the issuance of $1,530,000 in school bonds.

A plan of this magnitude was naturally controversial.  In order to assist with its passage, a "Citizen's Committee for Better School" was formed with R.D. Kilpatrick and E.R. Walker, Jr. as Co-Chairmen.  The first meeting occurred Friday, September 12, 1958.

On October 13, 1958, the Cocke County Quarterly Court approved the addition of a referendum concerning the issuance of school bonds to the ballot of the General Election of November 4th.  For the next three weeks the local newspaper had many articles, both pro and con, concerning the referendum, which only passed by a twenty-one vote margin on November 4th.  The victory of the referendum did not, however, end the controversy over this matter. 

On February 2, 1959, the County Court voted not to issue the school bonds even though County Attorney Edward F. Hurd warned them that issuance was mandatory.  In response to this vote, Attorney Fred L. Myers filed a writ of mandamus in Chancery Court on February 13, 1959, to force the County Court to issue the bonds.  Litigants in this suit were R.M. Kisabeth, Robert L. Wiley, James P. Masters, Charles Seehorn, Jim Maloy, Rowe Suggs, Fred Lesley, Johnnie Carson, Thomas Cramb, Joe Sweeten, Jack Rowland, W.W. McMinn, Jr., Fred Dover, Jim Robinson, and Esmond McMahan.  The County Court, represented by Attorney William E. Badgett, filed a countersuit.

The case was heard in Sevierville on February 26, 1959, by Judge Buford Townsend, who gave the County Court, the School Board, and the State Board of Education two weeks to get the matter settled.  Negotiations lagged, for on March 31st, Judge Townsend gave the parties until April 10th to make a settlement.  However, when the County Court met on April 10th, no action was taken.  On April 30th, Judge Townsend ordered $550,000 in school bonds to be issued by June 1st, but on May 25th the County Court voted not to issue the school bonds.  The case was in limbo until October 1959 when Judge Townsend issued a preemptory writ of mandamus ordering the bonds sold before November 16, 1959.  This opinion was appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Before this case could be heard, the State Board of Education, on May 6, 1960, lowered the rating of Cocke County High School from A to B, due to overcrowded conditions.  Those favoring the bond issue could only point out to its opponents - - "we were warned."

The Tennessee Supreme Court heard this case on June 2, 1960, but it was not until September 10th that its decision, affirming the Chancery Court ruling, which ordered the County Court to issue the school bonds, was announced. 

On October 8, 1960, the County Court met with the school board to ask for recommendations for a new high school.  On October 31st, the school board awarded the contract for preparing plans for a high school building to Joe Cox, an architect from Johnson City.

A new twist in this sequence of events surfaced on November 11, 1960, when the Newport Board of Education announced that it was asked for its 15.8% of the proceeds of the school bonds.  This, of course, aroused much controversy.  While it was perfectly legal, many felt it was unfair since all of the city students were provided high school instruction in the county system, and Northport and West End, both county schools, served many city students.  There was even a suggestion during this time that Newport might build its own high school.

On April 28, 1961, the County Court approved the issuance of $1,481,889.85 in school bonds.  $1,022,000 was earmarked for a new high school with the balance to go for two new elementary schools and improvements on existing schools.  In July of that year, the County Court scheduled for the bonds to be sold September 7, 1961, but shortly before that date, the attorneys representing the bonding company refused to approve the bonds due to a question over the sufficiency of the notice of the 1958 referendum.

On September 12, 1961, a test suit was filed in Cocke County Circuit Court, and on September 26th, Judge George R. Shepherd upheld the validity of the bond sale.  The case was sent on to the Tennessee Supreme Court for review, and on November 8, 1961, the bonds were ruled valid. 

On December 7, 1961, school bonds were sold in the amount of $900,000, but this still did not end the controversy.  Now it centered around a suitable site for the new school.  Among the sites approved by the state were the Jack Farm (located on the site of the present Eastern Plaza Shopping Center), the Hedrick Farm, and the Sisk Farm (located approximately where the Blue Ridge Apartments are now).

The Jack Farm was deemed most suitable, and as the owners, heirs of W.B. Stokely and Lyle S. Moore, were unwilling to sell the property, condemnation proceedings were begun on December 28, 1961.  A board of appraisers was appointed to evaluate the property.  An amount of $161,500 was determined. 

On January 26, 1962, the school board voted to build the new school on the Jack Farm even though the board was not satisfied with the amount determined by the appraisers.  With only $900,000 allotted for a new school, $161,500 for property alone would necessitate building a less suitable building.

During this time, the City of Newport was still asking for its share of the bond issue.

On February 15, 1962, Roy T. Campbell, Jr., attorney for Miss Swanee Hedrick and Mr. and Mrs. O.C. Bailey of El Dorado, Arkansas, announced that the Hedrick family would donate twenty-one acres of their farm if the city would relinquish its share of the bond issue.  The Newport City Council did this on March 9, 1962.  The next day the school board rescinded its action toward the Jack Farm and officially accepted the Hedrick family's offer.

On March 15, 1962, the contract for the construction of the new Cocke County High School was awarded to Parkview Construction Company, Maryville, Tennessee, at a price of $842,000.  The new building was to have 91,000 square feet and would include thirty-three teaching stations, a 2,500 seat gymnasium, and an auditorium seating 1,008.  Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on March 27, 1962, and the building was ready for occupancy when the 1963-64 school year began on August 20, 1963.  (It was a shock, however, that the new auditorium would not seat the entire student body when it first assembled.)

H.G. Bray, principal, and Everett (Sarge) Lakins, custodian, worked very hard to see that both students and teachers alike did their best to keep the appearance of the school superb.

In the fall of 1965 the student body of Tanner High School was integrated into Cocke County High School.  It was an orderly transition, and in comparison with other areas of the country, any racial difficulties have been minimal.

When the campus was graded for construction of the new building, a football field was prepared.  For the first four seasons, it was used only for practice, and games continued to be played at the Newport City Park.  Early in 1966, John Abe Teague and R.D. Kilpatrick headed a drive to complete this area on campus.  This would cost $100,000.  Stokely-Van Camp announced that it would contribute an additional $25,000 if the community would raise the $100,000 in thirty days.  W.B. Stokely, Jr., himself a graduate of the first class of Cocke County High School, promised another $15,000.  The County Court appropriated $50,000 toward the project, and others in the community raised the remaining amount.  In the spring of 1967, the contract for construction of the stadium was awarded to Drew Rice Construction Company.  The facility was dedicated and the first game played on September 15, 1967.  At that time, it was announced that the facility would be known as "Cocke County Stadium - - Hedrick Field."  A weight room, dedicated to deceased former coach Eugene Phillips, was erected in 1974.  Additional dressing rooms and rest rooms were added in 1984.  Removable bleachers were added to the south side of the field in 1988.

Cocke County High School was marginally a part of another controversy in 1974.  The county embarked on another building program.  In this plan, the school was enlarged with the addition of thirteen new classrooms, a new office complex, and a new band room in order to handle the additional students from the consolidation of Parrottsville High School with with school.  Two new elementary schools, Parrottsville and Northwest, would be built, and Cosby School would be enlarged.

There was no trouble over the construction plan, but the idea of consolidation created much animosity in the Parrottsville community.  The new wing of Cocke County High School was ready for occupancy during the spring of 1975, but when school began in the fall, some of the citizens of Parrottsville organized a boycott, and some of the Parrottsville students stayed away.  Within a few days, the boycott ended, and the consolidation was completed.  In the ensuing years, some of the school's most outstanding students have come from Parrottsville, including, ironically, the children of one of the organizers of the boycott.

1976 was a notable year in the school's history.  On February 18th about 1:30 p.m., a small tornado (termed a "line squall" by weather authorities) struck the campus.  Luckily there were no injuries, but several cars were damaged, the flagpole and the scoreboard at the stadium were demolished, and the north wall of the new wing was separated from the rest of the building.

In the fall of that year, the vocational building was completed, and that program got underway.  This facility was named the Ben W. Hooper Vocational School, honoring a Cocke Countian who achieved Tennessee's highest elective office.  This vocational program served students from both Cocke County High School and Cosby High School.

Other than minor curriculum changes, the program at Cocke County High School has remained stable.

In order to comply with health regulations, an asbestos removal program was embarked upon in 1990 for the downstairs and in 1991 for the upstairs.  At this time new lighting and dropped ceilings were added.

Beginning 1991, Cocke County High School became a part of Whittle Communication's "Channel 1" network, which placed video receivers in each classroom.

Although some of the rooms, particularly in the new wing, were already air-conditioned, window units were installed in all un-air-conditioned rooms in 1993.  Several landscaping projects have been undertaken through the help of the Student Council, organized in 1965, and under the supervision of Sandy Webb.

Over the years, there has been much talk concerning the adequacy of the program at Cocke County High School.  In the past [ninety-two] years, approximately [13,000] students have graduated from this institution, and many have gone on to some of the more prestigious colleges and universities in the nation and have made notable careers in the business and professional world.  Does this not speak well for the program of Cocke County High School?

Table I
Principals of Cocke County High School

M.T. Carlyle 1917 - 1920 3 years
Adam E. Sherrod 1920 - 1924 4 years
James B. Davidson 1924 - 1925 1 year
W.S. Woodward 1925 - 1927 2 years
Thaddeus S. Ellison 1927 - 1935 8 years
Roy T. Campbell 1935 - 1940 5 years
Wayne Waters 1940 - 1943 3 years
Roy T. Campbell 1943 - 1953 10 years
Horace G. Bray 1953 - 1970 17 years
Henry L. Gregory 1970 - 1974 4 years
Spencer E. Douglas 1974 - 1975 1 year
Joseph L. Zavona 1975 - 1987 13 years
Jack W. Reynolds 1987 - 1994 7 years
R. Gary Williams 1994 - Present  

Table II
Four Curriculums of Central High

Grade Classical Scientific Agriculture Domestic Science
Ninth English
Grammar
Arithmetic
Botany
Latin
English
Grammar
Arithmetic
Biology
History
English
Grammar
Arithmetic
Biology
Agriculture I
English
Grammar
Arithmetic
Biology
Domestic Art I
Tenth Rhetoric
Ancient History
Algebra
Latin
Rhetoric
Ancient History
Algebra
Physiography
French I
Rhetoric
Ancient History
Algebra
Agriculture II
Rhetoric
Ancient History
Algebra
Home Economics I
French I
Eleventh Rhetoric
Plane Geometry
Physics
Latin
Rhetoric
Plane Geometry
Physics
Medieval History
Modern History
French II
Rhetoric
Plane Geometry
Physics
Manual Training I
Medieval History
Modern History
Rhetoric
Plane Geometry
Physics
Domestic Arts II
French II
Twelfth Composition
Solid Geometry
American History
Civics
Trigonometry
Latin
Composition
Solid Geometry
American History
Civics
Trigonometry
Chemistry
Composition
Solid Geometry
American History
Civics
Manual Training II
Chemistry
Composition
Solid Geometry
American History
Civics
Home Economics II
Chemistry

Table III
Courses of Study for Central High

Grade Latin Course Science Course
Ninth Arithmetic (Wells)
Algebra (Milne)
English Grammar
Latin (Pearsons)
History (Hunter)
Biology (Hunter)
Writing & Current Events
Spelling
Arithmetic (Wells)
Algebra (Milne)
English Grammar
Agriculture (Nolan)
Domestic Art
Biology (Hunter)
Writing & Current Events
Spelling
Manual Training
Tenth Algebra (Milne)
Rhetoric (Lewis & Hosic)
Classics
Caesar
American History & Civics
Writing & Current Events
Spelling
Algebra (Milne)
Rhetoric (Lewis & Hosic)
Classics
Agriculture (Harper)
American History & Civics
Writing & Current Events
Spelling
Manual Training
Eleventh Geometry (Wentworth)
American Literature
Cicero (Bennett)
French (Fraser)
Writing & Current Events
Spelling (Chew)
Plane Geometry (Smith)
American Literature
Physiology [sic.]
Physical Geography
Writing & Current Events
Spelling
Domestic Art
Manual Training
Twelfth Solid Geometry (Smith)
English Literature
Classics
Virgil (Knoop)
French
Physics (Chute)
Writing & Current Events
Spelling
Solid Geometry (Smith
Trigonometry (Wells)
English Literature
Physics
History, Ancient, Medieval
Commercial Law
Writing & Current Events
Spelling
Economics (Bullock)
 

Table IV
Approximate Graduates of Cocke County High School

1918 : 1 1931 : 51 1944 : 42 1957 : 113 1970 : 202 1983 : 240
1919 : 11 1932 : 62 1945 : 56 1958 : 116 1971 : 156 1984 : 220
1920 : 6 1933 : 65 1946 : 59 1959 : 104 1972 : 204 1985 : 248
1921 : 19 1934 : 69 1947 : 59 1960 : 70 1973 : 231 1986 : 190
1922 : 16 1935 : 52 1948 : 79 1961 : 152 1974 : 203 1987 : 224
1923 : 29 1936 : 51 1949 : 61 1962 : 138 1975 : 210 1988 : 242
1924 : 21 1937 : 64 1950 : 91 1963 : 152 1976 : 225 1989 : 226
1925 : 23 1938 : 69 1951 : 79 1964 : 166 1977 : 218 1990 : 261
1926 : 33 1939 : 53 1952 : 73 1965 : 195 1978 : 189 1991 : 228
1927 : 40 1940 : 76 1953 : 82 1966 : 204 1979 : 224 1992 : 233
1928 : 40 1941 : 67 1954 : 102 1967 : 222 1980 : 233 1993 : 219
1929 : 33 1942 : 60 1955 : 110 1968 : 230 1981 : 256 1994 : 213
1930 : 39 1943 : 66 1956 : 94 1969 : 225 1982 : 255 1995 : 242

Table IV Addendum

1996 : 185 1998 : 190 2000 : 200 2002 : 225 2004 : 225 2006 : 220 2008 : 250
1997 : 215 1999 : 215 2001 : 205 2003 : 230 2005 : 235 2007 : 200  

Bibliography

1.  "A History of Secondary Schools of Cocke County" by Maize Knight, M.A. Thesis, 1952, University of     
     Tennessee

2.  Catalogue of Newport High School, Newport, Tennessee, 1905 - 1906

3.  Scarlet and Black 1918 and other yearbooks

4.  Undated, untitled article in scrapbook of Elan Talley Mile (1897 - 1992)

5.  "Pisgah Presbyterian Church Served as School in Mid-19th Century" by Mary Rowe Ruble, undated
     article, Newport Plain Talk

6.  Cocke County High School Handbook 1976

7.  Newport Plain Talk, various issues, microfilm, Stokely Memorial Library

8.  Personal recollections :
            Mrs. Trent Sexton
            Mrs. Quentin Lampson
            Mrs. H. G. Hartsell
            Mr. & Mrs. Royce McNabb
            Mr. & Mrs. Charles S. Runnion
            Mrs. Darius Miller

9.  "C.C.H.S. Facility Nearly Named 'Challenge Stadium,' " by Jerry Clevenger, Cocke County Banner,
     September 13, 1976

10.  Official Records, Cocke County High School