|Birth: ||Sep. 14, 1886|
|Death: ||May 12, 1980|
Paducah loses pioneer educator
By BILL BARTLEMAN
Sun Staff Writer
Walter C. Jetton felt students on the threshold of adolescence needed extra understanding to prepare for life, and he dedicated 34 years as principal of Augusta Tilghman High School to meeting that challenge.
Jetton's educational philosophy as a strict disciplinarian and his demand for excellence touched the lives of an estimated 20,000 students in Paducah. He also felt strict parental guidance was important to the success of a child.
Jetton died at 2:30 p.m. Monday after a three-month confinement at Western Baptist Hospital. He was 93 years old and served as principal of Augusta Tilghman High School from 1922 until 1956. His tenure gained him the nickname "Mr. Tilghman."
Besides his years of service to education, Jetton had a keen interest in local politics and local government, especially after he retired.
He served as an advisor to many candidates for county and city offices, assisted some in writing campaign ads for the print and broadcast media. One close friend said he never worked with a loser.
Jetton was quiet and unassuming in most of his political activity. He very rarely became involved publicly in a campaign.
A native of Sedalia in Graves County, Jetton was born Sept. 14, 1886, to Columbus and Nancy Yarbrough Jetton. He was one of seven children.
Services are scheduled at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Broadway United Methodist Church with the Rev. Nowell Bingham officiating. Burial will be in Oak Grove Cemetery.
Visitation will be at Roth Funeral Home until 10 a.m. Wednesday when the body will be taken to the church.
He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Lougenia Billings Jetton of Paducah; five nieces and nephews, Mrs. F. G. Horton and John Walter Dulaney, both of Paducah, William Jetton Finney of Accokeek, Md., Mrs. James C. Hart of Murray, and Randell Dulaney of Clinton, N. C.; two great-nieces and a great-nephew.
Jetton was an active member of the Broadway United Methodist Church, where he served on the Official Board. He was a resident of 1722 Jefferson St.
Jetton had a reputation as an outstanding disciplinarian, but always was understanding of his students problems.
"This is not an easy task to understand that tender, that rude, the mischievious, that bold, that exasperating, that emotionally complex, that strange creature—an adolescent boy or girl…but you must," he told an interviewer in 1953.
"We must learn that the boy or girl on the threshold of adolescence has a faulty understanding of many important features of life," he said. "He needs experience in self-control and self-direction, and he also needs wise guidance so he will come to recognize, accept and use the best rules of the game of life."
Jetton often criticized parents for a student's problem. "Evidence shows a serious breakdown in parental guidance places a youth under great and needless difficulties," he said. "It is often true that busy men are strangers to their own children. That is a tragedy.
"Perhaps no problem of control is more difficult for parents that keeping it steady, even, fair and sympathetic," he continued. "Control and guidance (by parents) is needed. Only through them will youth avoid needless pitfalls."
Jetton's career in education began in 1907 when, at the age of 18, he passed the state teacher's examination. His first teaching assignment was at the Wilford School, which was less that a mile from his birth place on a farm near Sedalia.
In 1908, Jetton's family moved to Mayfield so he could attend the old West Kentucky College.
After attending the school for only a few months, he transferred to a preparatory school at the University of Kentucky to get ready to attend the university.
Jetton paid his expenses at UK by selling books,, pressing pants of other students, managing a laundry agency, soliciting potential customers for a rooming house where he lived, and taught freshman German for $10 a month. He also played first base on the university baseball team.
In 1913, he graduated from UK with a degree in English and accepted a job as principal and football coach at Mt. Sterling High School.
When World War I broke out, Jetton volunteered for the Army, hoping to get a "good assignment" because of his three years experience as captain of the UK military unit. He was not accepted for active service, however, because of a heart murmur found during an examination.
After teaching in Henderson for a short period of time, Jetton went to the University of Chicago to continue his education. While at the university, he "crashed" the school's military program by talking officials into letting him take the place of a registered student who failed to show up. He became an ordnance sergeant.
Jetton later bypassed a rigid physical and was sworn into the active Army, but immediately was put into the reserve to allow him to earn money to pay a debt owed for his schooling in Chicago.
In the summer of 1917, he was called to active duty and stationed in San Antonio, Texas. After being trained for combat, he was stationed on the East Coast, awaiting an assignment overseas.
"Someone sitting in an office in Washington pulled out my file, saw I had selling experience and had me plucked out of the overseas company to try to sell recruits on the ordnance department of the Army." Jetton once said of his military career.
Jetton returned to Mayfield in 1919 at the age of 29 and went into the real estate business. After a short but successful career, he and several associates formed an oil-land leasing company and went to Shreveport, La., with a "Get-rich-quick scheme." Which didn't work out.
"It was strictly wildcatting, but we thought we had something," he once said. "But it was a sad day when the boom finally went up in smoke and I was left with only the shirt I happened to have on my back."
Jetton was in Portland, Ore., at the time and found a job selling accounts for the Ladd-Tilton Bank. In 1921, he left the bank to resume his career in education as principal of McLaughlin High School in Portland.
In 1922, he decided to return to Western Kentucky
"Mother was getting old, so I decided to go after a job as principal of Tilghman High School," Jetton said, "I could not come home to see the Board of Education and Supt. (Ralph) Yakel wouldn't hire me sight unseen. But Brick Chambers, my friend, was here in Paducah as a practicing physician.
"He asked Henry Rhoades of UK, who was going to school that summer with Yakel at Columbia, to work on Yakel and he did, really putting on the pressure.
"As a result, the board hired me without ever knowing what I looked like. I guess they figured they could get rid of me the next year if they wanted to."
Jetton, on several occasions, was offered the job as superintendent of the city schools, but each time declined the position because of his desire to remain close to the students.
In 1955, the old Augusta Tilghman High School at 10th and Clark streets was renamed Walter C. Jetton Junior High School in his honor. It was the same year the new Tilghman High School opened at 2400 Washington Street.
When Jetton retired in 1956, he was presented with a new car which was paid for by donations from the community.
It is estimated that 20,000 students went through Tilghman during Jetton's career. Many of those students kept in contact with him throughout the years by writing and visiting him at his home.
Active pallbearers will be Bill Black, Boyce McElya, Harold Van Morgan, Al Vahlcamp, Stanley Bloodworth, Judge J. Brandon Price, Henry Whitlow and Dr. Charles Billington.
Honorary pallbearers will be Francis Goheen, Mrs. Ruth Gunter, Floyd Burt, Craig Hook, Clyde Boyles, John R. Travis, Dr. Mark Scully, Mrs. Dolly McNutt, John Russell, Otis Dinning, Earl Logan, Jim Major, Ed Paxton, members of the Middleton Men's Bible Class of Broadway Methodist Church, and present and former Paducah Board of Education members.
The Paducah Sun, Tuesday, May 13, 1980, p. 1
Columbus Houston Jetton (1840 - 1897)
Nancy Elizabeth Yarbrough Jetton (1846 - 1935)
Lougenia B. Billings Jetton (1899 - 1990)*
Margaret Elizabeth Jetton (1867 - 1873)*
Theresa Jane Jetton Dulaney (1874 - 1954)*
Idola May Jetton (1877 - 1880)*
Walter Cole Jetton (1886 - 1980)
Principal of Augusta Tilghman High School 1922-1956
Future times will hardly know how great a life this stone commemorates. As a scholar, counselor, educator and disciplinarian, he expected nothing less than their best in his teachers, his students and all others with whom he worked.
Oak Grove Cemetery
Plot: Turn Left onto Terrell Ave. from Myrtle Ave.; walk abt. 25 paces from Myrtle; Monument on Right on Billings-Davis Plot
Created by: .A
Record added: Nov 21, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 61968501
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Walter Cole JettonPaducah McCracken County Kentucky, USA|
Added: Nov. 23, 2011