HOPE – The inaugural honorees of the Hope Public School District to the Hempstead County Educator Hall of Fame have been announced by the district.
HPSD Superintendent Bobby Hart made the initial announcement to the Hope Public Schools Board at its Feb. 26 meeting.
“We are so proud of the first group of inductees into our Educator Hall of Fame,” Hart said. “All five have played major roles in the lives of countless children. Each of them has impacted not only the generations of students they taught but also the world. All are tremendous role models for educators today, but more importantly, they are role models for all as human beings.”
The five honorees were selected through the Education Committee of the Hempstead County Bicentennial Committee, based upon nominations from the public. The honorees will be inducted into the Educator Hall of Fame along with honorees from other public, private and post-secondary schools in Hempstead County. All honorees will be recognized through a permanent exhibit to be dedicated at a venue yet to be determined during the course of the bicentennial year ending in December.
“We appreciate the interest in the process and the committee members that helped to put together the Educator Hall of Fame,” Hart said. “If anyone is interested in assisting us with future inductees, please contact me for details.”
The five HPSD honorees include:
Troy Wayne Buck
Buck’s tenure in the Hope Public Schools began in 1961, at the age of 21, in the agriculture department at Hope High School, according to his nomination. He concluded his career in Hope in 1982, after a 20-year tenure in the Hope Public Schools, to begin a subsequent career of some 35 years in Amity, Ark.
Buck was widely noted for taking the agriculture department into the community, encouraging students to volunteer with him to assist natural disaster victims, or to collect trash along city and county roadways. Through his oversight of the Hope Future Farmers and America chapter, which became the largest and most active in the state, summer jobs for students hauling hay throughout the county were created.
Buck’s tenure was also marked by the rise to prominence of the Hope FFA Rodeo, the largest student-run rodeo in Arkansas. Lessons learned in the student management and operation of the rodeo were intended to carry over into adult life under Buck’s tutelage.
Honored as an inductee to the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame, Buck was also three times named the Agriculture Teacher of the Year in Arkansas, and awarded the Pioneer Award, the highest honor of the Arkansas Department of Vocational Education.
Earl Davis Downs
Born in Bodcaw, Arkansas, in 1927, Earl Davis Downs was a graduate of Bodcaw High School and of Magnolia A&M, where he received a Bachelors degree in education. He taught school in Emmet and Macedonia, Ark., prior to taking his Masters degree in education at the University of Arkansas in 1959.
Downs created the guidance counseling program in the Hope Public Schools at Hope High School, and was guidance counselor at HHS for 32 years prior to retiring from public education in 1987. He was named Educator of the Year in Hope and Hempstead County in 1987.
He was a founding leader of the Hope Future Farmers of America Rodeo, held each spring and run entirely by HHS members of the FFA; and, he was noted as the lead rider of the grand entry to the event for over 40 years.
Downs served as a member of the Arkansas Department of Education Secondary Advisory Board for 20 years; he was a member of the Arkansas School Counselors Association for 32 years, and served as president of the organization for two years.
The Earl Downs Counseling Center at Hope High School was named in his honor after he passed away in December, 2014.
William V. Rutherford
William V. Rutherford was born in Wilmar, Ark., where he attended the public schools before receiving a Bachelors degree from Arkansas Baptist College in 1931. Rutherford later attended Arkansas AM&N College (now University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) prior to earning a Master of Science degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He served as principal of the historic H. C. Yerger School from 1949 to 1969.
It was during Rutherford’s tenure that the H. C. Yerger School saw its most rapid expansion with the addition of a high school annex, lunchroom, adult and veteran’s programs, vocational building and construction of Shover Street Elementary School. The school was accepted into full accreditation by the North Central Association of High Schools and Colleges, and became a member of the organization in March, 1958, as a result of Rutherford’s leadership. He continued in public education through the Hope Public School District after schools in Hope were integrated, and served as the first principal of the Yerger Middle School thereafter, eventually retiring from the HPSD in 1972.
The Henry C. Yerger – Will V. Rutherford Scholarship, given annually to a Hope High School graduating senor, was established in 1981 by the H.C. Yerger Alumni Committee to commemorate the contribution of the two men to public education in Hope.
Mary Nell Turner
Mary Nell Turner was born in Hope in August, 1919, was a graduate of Hope High School and received a Bachelors degree in business and English from Henderson State Teacher’s College, now Henderson State University, in Arkadelphia.
Turner began her teaching career in Guernsey, but later accepted a position teaching journalism and yearbook publication at Hope High School, where she remained for 28 years. She sponsored numerous award-winning student publications throughout her career, after taking her journalism education in the summer months at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.
Turner received the honor of being a public school journalism teacher who was inducted into the Arkansas Press Women organization and the Sigma Delta Chi (Society of Professional Journalists) as a frequent contributor of featured stories to the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock and the Hope Star in Hope. She was also the longtime editor of the Journal of the Hempstead County Historical Society, and was named Hempstead County “Citizen of the Year” in 1996.
After her retirement from public education, Mrs. Turner relocated to the Springdale, Ark., area in 2010, and she passed away in March, 2016.
Henry Clay Yerger
Professor Henry Clay Yerger was born in December, 1860, near Spring Hill in Hempstead County, Ark. After Yerger’s graduation from Philander Smith College and study at Boston University and the Hampton Institute, in Virginia, Yerger and his family moved to Hope in 1886. His family was the first Black family in Hope.
Yerger established the Shover Street School for Black children, and he was one of the earliest proponents of complete education for Black children in Arkansas. He began classes at the Shover Street campus in 1886 in a one-room building with himself as teacher and principal. The original building fronted South Hazel Street between Fourth and Fifth streets before the main campus was moved to the then-Shover Road side, where a two-room building housed two classes and two teachers.
Yerger’s persistence attracted students, doubling the size of the campus to four rooms and teachers, so that by 1915, a second story was added and three more teachers employed. Ultimately, through the contribution of the Rosenwald Fund and with support from the General Education Board, a domestic science annex was added to the seven-room elementary school building. An agricultural department followed through assistance from the Smith-Hughes Fund.
Expanding into secondary education to the eleventh grade, the school became the first Black vocational training school west of the Mississippi River, teaching English, algebra, geometry, Latin, agriculture, social science, art, choral music, and teacher training.
The teacher training component proved critical to the growth of the school since it was the only high school for Blacks in the region. A dormitory was constructed in 1918 to house Black teachers and students from other states, and a 12th grade was added in 1928.
Finally, in 1931, five acres of property was purchased by the school’s board, and the building later that year dedicated as Henry C. Yerger High School was built near the site of what is now the Henry C. Yerger School Museum.
At its completion in 1931, the school had an enrollment of 900-plus students; a faculty of 17 teachers; and an “A” academic rating from the State Department of Education. With additions of a new high school annex, lunchroom, adult education and veteran’s programs, and a vocational building, the school expanded to become admitted to accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1958, under Principal William V. Rutherford.
During its operations the Yerger High School graduated some 3,000 students. The school became Yerger Middle School in the Hope Public School District after the integration of public schools in Hope.
During his tenure in public education, Professor Yerger was named the Outstanding Citizen in Hope, and he served as president, treasurer and member of the board of the Arkansas Teachers Association.