Johnson City Schools is accepting nominations for the third Johnson City Schools’ Hall of Fame class. Nominations will be accepted from Jan. 15 to May 1, 2021, and 10 inductees will join the Class of 2020 in a ceremony slated for Saturday, Aug. 22, 2021. The groups will also be honored during Science Hill High School’s home football opener on Friday, Aug. 21. Applications and information can be found at jcschools.org/halloffame or e-mail Collin Brooks at BrooksB@jcschools.org for more information.
The goal of the Johnson City Schools’ Hall of Fame is to recognize and honor those educators, alumni, and contributors who have made significant impacts in advancing and promoting Johnson City Schools. The Johnson City Schools Hall of Fame was established in 2019 and welcomed 20 inaugural members last August. There were 10 more inductees selected for the class of 2020.
The 10 members of the 2020 class include J. Neil Armstrong (Legacy), Preston Campbell (Tradition), Steve Darden (Tradition), Col. Mike Johnson (Modern), Dr. Richard Manahan (Modern), Terrell Ponder (Tradition), William Warren “Doc” Simmons (Legacy), Dr. Ellen Stites Wyatt (Modern), Lorenzo Wyatt (Tradition) and Mike Young (Legacy). Their bios can be found below:
J. Neil Armstrong served as principal at Langston High School for 17 years, starting in 1937. During Armstrong’s time, Langston became the highest-rated African American school academically between Roanoke, Va., and Knoxville. Langston earned an “A” rating from the Tennessee Department of Education and was approved by the Southern Association of Secondary Schools as an “A”-rated high school. After leaving Langston, Armstrong, who had earned his Masters at the University of Michigan, finished his Doctorate in Chicago. He ended up serving as a faculty member at North Carolina A&T, a historically black university where he earned his Bachelors.
Preston W. Campbell, M.D., son of Malcolm and Ellen Campbell grew up in Johnson City and graduated from Science Hill in 1971 as senior class president, having played basketball under coach Elvin Little. He went to Georgia Tech on a basketball scholarship and was co-captain his senior year. He earned his medical degree from the University of Virginia Medical School and did his pediatric residency and pediatric pulmonology fellowship at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He also holds a diploma from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Early in his career, Dr. Campbell established a pediatric program at the Centre Medical Beraca, La Pointe, Haiti. He then joined the Vanderbilt faculty for 12 years and was director of its Cystic Fibrosis (CF) care center. He moved to Bethesda, Maryland and joined the CF Foundation in 1998 as Executive VP of Medical Affairs. During this time, he was part-time faculty at Johns Hopkins and saw patients weekly. He became president and CEO of the CF Foundation in 2015 and stepped down at the end of 2019 to become a strategic advisor for the CF Foundation and focus on global CF issues. In his time as CEO and as executive vice president for medical affairs, Dr. Campbell oversaw the Foundation’s research initiatives and its collaborative drug discovery and development programs. These resulted in the approval of 12 CF therapies including four treatments that address the basic defect in CF, most recently Trikafta, which will benefit 90 percent of people with the disease. During this time the median survival rate of people with CF increased almost a year, every year. He recently was recognized by the American Thoracic Society, receiving the 2020 Research Innovation and Translation Achievement Award. Preston is happily married to Elaine and they have three children and two grandchildren.
Steve Darden is a 1978 graduate of Science Hill High School and was chosen as Most Outstanding senior by his classmates. During his time at Science Hill, Darden participated in basketball and football. Darden also attended South Side Elementary, South Junior High and Independence Hall Junior High. Darden went on to the University of Tennessee on the Andrew D. Holt Scholarship and was named a Torchbearer, one of the university’s highest honors. Darden has practiced law for nearly four decades at the Hunter, Smith & Davis Attorneys at Law firm, serving as a partner and managing partner during his time. Darden served on the Johnson City Commission for a decade, including a stint as the Mayor of Johnson City from 2005-2007. During his time on the commission, Darden was instrumental in the comprehensive renovations at Liberty Bell and Science Hill. He also led the effort to establish the Kermit Tipton Football Stadium.
Col. Mike Johnson is a 1976 graduate of Science Hill and retired as the Science Hill JROTC instructor in 2019. Johnson received his first military experience as an Army Junior ROTC cadet at Science Hill and went on to a decorated military career earning such distinctions as the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star. During his time in the military, Johnson was selected to serve as the military representative on multiple government negotiating teams focused on U.S. policy toward North Korea, including negotiations related to nuclear nonproliferation, cease-fire agreements and the return of fallen soldiers. For a time during his active-duty career, Johnson even directed the Army’s 1,400 Junior ROTC programs, consisting of roughly 280,000 cadets and 4,000 instructors.
Dr. Richard Manahan will be our first contributor recognized in the JCS Hall of Fame. Dr. Manahan served on the Johnson City Board of Education from 1999-2007 and again from 2009-2017 and helped oversee over $80 million worth of construction projects for the district. During his tenure, Manahan served as chairman of the board from 2002-2004 and served as vice-chair from 2011-2015. During that time, he earned Tennessee School Board Association Boardmanship Levels I, II, III, IV, V and the scholars circle in 2017. Manahan held multiple roles at East Tennessee State University where he was named Vice President for Finance and Administration in 1981. Most recently, Manahan has served as a Professor of Accountancy, Professor of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis, and President Emeritus of the ETSU Foundation. The Johnson City Press said this about Manahan after he did not seek reelection in 2017, “Public education needs relentless champions, and it’s hard to describe Dick Manahan as anything less.”
Terrell Ponder held multiple roles during his 38 years in Johnson City Schools. He started as a drafting teacher at Johnson City Junior High School in 1949. In between, he made stops as a teacher and coach at Science Hill, principal of Columbus Powell in 1953 and later the Supervisor of Elementary Education in 1958. Ponder was the Superintendent of Johnson City Schools from 1974-1978 and served as Director of Special Education, a program he started and was passionate about, from 1978 until he retired in 1987. Former colleague Dave Chupa noted in a letter of support that “it could arguably be said that there was no greater influence of education in Johnson City for four decades than Terrell Ponder.” More importantly, Ponder was a husband to Elizabeth and a father to his seven children, Jan, Mark, Brian, Cheryl, Keith, Chris and Terry.
William Warren “Doc” Simmons played a significant role in creating Johnson City’s Vocational Training program. In 1941, Martha Wilder School at Myrtle Ave. and New Street became Johnson City’s Vocation Training Center with “Doc” as its director. The school offered such crafts as welding, refrigeration, wood-working, masonry and auto mechanics. He remained at the school until he died in 1957.
Dr. Ellen Stites Wyatt served in numerous roles in Johnson City Schools from August 1975 until she retired in June 2005, but no matter her title, her care for students remained paramount. She created a nurturing environment where both students and teachers could and would succeed. Stites is one of the only known principals to open two brand new schools for Johnson City, as she was the principal at Woodland when it opened in 1992 and at Indian Trail Middle School when it opened in 1998. She also served as principal at Henry Johnson. Before her time as an administrator, Stites taught first, second and fifth grade at North Side Elementary. She also served as a reading diagnostician at North Side, King Springs and Keystone. No matter her accomplishments as an educator Stites said, “the greatest joy I had was teaching children to read.”
Lorenzo Wyatt served as principal at North Side Elementary from 1975 until he retired in 1989. Before his time in Johnson City Schools, Wyatt was the principal at Slater, a school for Bristol’s African-American students. The building was later turned into the Slater Community Center, where the auditorium bears Wyatt’s name. Wyatt was a decorated World War II veteran, serving in the Philippine Islands and New Guinea as a First Sargent, where he supervised and directed the efforts of 221 men. Upon his honorable discharge, he returned to Alabama A&M where he majored in secondary education and was elected student body president. There is also a scholarship at Science Hill High School for North Side students named in his honor.
Mike Young was the last graduate of Langston High School in 1965 as the school closed for integration in Johnson City Schools. Young may have been Langston’s proudest alumni and was integral in turning the former school into a community center as chairperson of the Langston Education and Arts Development, Inc. (LEAD). Young often reminisced that Langston was a place where you were welcomed and embraced. Where the teachers prepared you for the future with equal amounts of discipline and love and the embodiment of the school’s motto Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve was exemplified. Young was quoted as saying that Langston’s history was “a history we can’t afford to lose.” After graduation from Langston, Young enlisted in the United States Air Force and served in Vietnam. After returning from service, he earned a bachelor’s degree from ETSU in History with a minor in speech communication, all while raising a family, of which he was very proud.