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Hassie Gresham, beloved teacher and principal at Central High School for almost forty years, was born in January, 1877, at Jonesboro, Tennessee. She was educated at the old Holbrook College and Tennessee Normal College. Over a period of fifty-one years, she taught all grades.

Miss Gresham went to Central High School when it was in a small out-moded building. When she retired thirty-nine years later, she left a beautiful building, which crowns a hill effectively landscaped with shrubs and trees. But far more meaningful than the building with its commanding location is the imprint of the high standards, the idealism, and the courage of an outstanding personality on the young people who were privileged to be her students. During Miss Gresham's tenure at Central High, the enrollment grew from 192 to 1500.

A fellow-teacher said of her: "Hassie Gresham never hesitated to face opposition for any measure she felt would be beneficial. Hassie Gresham never lost sight of the individual in the midst of the system nor failed to work toward a goal of useful citizenship in the future for each of her boys and girls."

Since her retirement, Miss Gresham has lived in Jonesboro with other members of her family. She cared for two older sisters -- Miss Ida, who died in 1955; and Miss Belle, who died May 17, 1959 -- and a brother, James, who died in April, 1959. Soon after her return to Jonesboro, she joined the Daughters of the American Revolution and a book club. She has spoken before every civic group in her own town and all neighboring towns. Her mail is heavier than that of any citizen of Jonesboro. Several years ago when she was confined to the hospital with a broken hip, she received more than a thousand cards and telegrams, besides a truckload of flowers.

Miss Nannie Lee Hicks, a former associate and friend, wrote of her, last year: "She is still an energetic, interested and interesting person. Her hobby is gardening and she always has beautiful flowers."

Occasionally, on a clear night the sky will appear to be dominated by one star of dazzling brilliance that seems to give splendor and added meaning to all the other stars. Sometimes, an individual may play a similar role in some chosen field of work. Hassie Gresham, well-known educator and retired principal of Central High School in Knox County, is such a person. Her work stands out in such clear focus that the entire educational system bears the mark of her efforts and the general public has a deepened confidence in the public school system of Tennessee. Truly, Hassie K. Gresham is "A great teacher; a great builder of character."

Source: Light from Many Candles: A History of Pioneer Women in Education in Tennessee, by Lucille Rogers. Published by Xi State, Delta Kappa Gamma.McQuiddy Printing Company, Nashville, 1960. Transcribed for this site by Char.

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