Dr. Paul L. Kelley
Dec 16, 2012
Dr. Paul L. Kelley
Dec. 16, 2012
Dr. Paul L. Kelley, a longtime resident of Knoxville, died in the company of his family on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, after an extended stay at NHC-Knoxville.
He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Norma Sawyer; his son, John, of San Francisco; his son Michael, and daughter-in-law, Melinda, and grandson, Lucas, of Blount County; his brother and sister-in-law, Jimmy and Peggy Kelley, of McMinn County. He was preceded in death by his parents, Lewis Kelley and Pearl Kelley; and two younger brothers, Bill and Johnny.
Dr. Kelley grew up in the Mars Hill community of McMinn County and graduated from Englewood High School in 1945. The first of his family to attend college, he earned an associate\'s degree from Tennessee Wesleyan College, then finished his undergraduate education at Tennessee Tech University. In 1955, Dr. Kelley received a master\'s degree from Northwestern University, which he attended on the GI Bill. Years later, in the midst of a career as a high school principal, Dr. Kelley took a year off to complete his doctorate in education at the University of Tennessee.
Dr. Kelley served in the United States Army during the Korean War, then moved to Knoxville in 1949 to begin a career in education. Although he continued to return to the family home in McMinn County to visit his parents and younger brother, he lived the rest of his life in the Oakwood/Lincoln Park neighborhood of North Knoxville. In the days before apartments were common, Dr. Kelley was a boarder at the home of Mrs. Clara Dyer, who became a second mother to him. The night that he arrived in Knoxville, by bus from Englewood, he went to Wednesday night prayer meeting at Emerald Avenue Methodist Church. For the next 63 years, he never left. Dr. Kelley taught Sunday school, sang in the choir, held leadership positions in the church and, along with Norma, was a founding supporter of the Emerald Youth Foundation. Norma, a lifelong Baptist, was persuaded to give the Methodists a chance, and the couple raised both boys at Emerald Avenue. The family wishes to thank all the ministers who loved Paul and served our family through the years, especially Ed Carter, Bob Bean and Jim Bailes.
Along with his family and his church, Dr. Kelley cared about children. On moving to Knoxville, he took a teaching position at the former Christenberry Junior High, which Michael and John both attended. In 1959, he transferred to Fulton High School, where he taught English until becoming a principal at South Junior-Senior High School. A staunch supporter of teachers and public education throughout his career, Dr. Kelley was active in KEA, TEA and NEA, serving as a delegate to multiple state and national educational conventions. As a young teacher, he represented KEA in the school consolidation debate in the mid-1960s. In 1971, Dr. Kelley became the principal at West High School, where he remained until joining the central office staff in the old Knoxville City Schools.
After taking early retirement, Dr. Kelley went back to work in 1983 as a professor of education at Knoxville College. In addition, he was appointed to the Knox County School Board in 1991 and served three terms on the Board. Never a politician, Dr. Kelley said being on the Board was one of the most fulfilling experiences of his life. He successfully fought the closure of Fulton in the early \'90s, and he remained a strong supporter of the second school board district which he served. Dr. Kelley always put the needs of children first and opposed rigid rules which excluded children in special circumstances from receiving a public education. Because of declining health, Dr. Kelley did not seek re-election in 2004 but supported the present Board member from the second district, Indya Kincannon. In 2010, Dr. Kelley was honored by having the education resource school at Knoxville Center named in his honor. The Dr. Paul L. Kelley Volunteer Academy offers a varied schedule and non-traditional school environment to help students graduate from high school in Knox County.
Dr. Kelley\'s interests were wide and varied, but he was especially interested in literature and history. Working at the Fort Loudoun state park in the late \'50s, he began work on a short book on the history of the Fort, which was published in 1958. In addition, he wrote the chapter on public education in \"Heart of the Valley,\" a history of the City of Knoxville edited by Lucile Deadrick.
Dr. Kelley believed in environmental responsibility and, in retirement, became an avid recycler. He founded the \"Zero and One Club,\" a volunteer organization whose members commit to pick up one piece of trash each day (\"one\") and not throw down any trash (\"zero\"). He also was active in various civic organizations, including United Way, Helen Ross McNabb, and the Boy Scouts of America. Before marrying, he helped found Troop 49 at Emerald Avenue, and he gave countless hours to the troops through the years. During his middle years, when Michael and John were in the troop, Dr. Kelley served in a support role. However, when longtime Scoutmaster Harold Huffaker retired, he became the Scoutmaster and served in that position for several years. Through teaching, Scouting, and the Emerald Youth Foundation, he helped thousands of children become responsible adults. Through life with his family, neighbors and friends, he demonstrated Christ\'s love in a broken world. We will all miss him.
The family extends special thanks to his physicians, Douglas Leahy and Heather Sandberg, who provided not only excellent medical care but also kindness and wisdom. Also, we are so thankful for the loving and compassionate caregivers at NHC-Knoxville, where Dad spent the last several months of his life.
A graveside service was 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Mars Hill Methodist Church Cemetery in McMinn County, with the Rev. David Sincerbox officiating. A worship service to celebrate Dad\'s life will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday at Emerald Avenue Methodist Church, 1620 N. Central, Knoxville, with the Rev. Dr. James Bailes officiating.
The family will receive friends in the sanctuary immediately following Thursday\'s service.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the Emerald Youth Foundation, 1718 N. Central; and the Kelley Fund for Music and Youth, c/o Emerald Avenue United Methodist Church, 1620 N. Central.
Dr. Kelley\'s guestbook is available at www.stevensmortuaryinc.com
Stevens Mortuary, Oglewood Avenue at North Broadway, is serving the family.