Biographical Mini Sketches
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Navarro County Texas


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Morris Johnson

May 18, 2002 - The Huntsville Item

Longtime educator retires

By Amy Westerman/Staff Writer

When Morris Johnson began his first year of teaching, he planned to spend a year working in Huntsville ISD before moving on to a larger school district.

Instead, he'll retire in June from his position as Samuel W. Houston Elementary principal, after spending 39 years in HISD.

"(Then) superintendent and assistant superintendent Mance Park and Oscar Thorn, they were so kind to me and warm and the community so receptive to me, I just couldn't leave," Johnson said.

During his career, Johnson has held positions in schools and the central office, including working as a high school teacher, coach, math and science coordinator and, for the past 15 years, principal at Samuel W. Houston Elementary.

Johnson said he never actively sought any of the positions he held during his career, but was always ready to assume any job title the administration and school board offered him.

"I'm a team player, so wherever I'm needed, that's where I'll go," Johnson said.

Teachers said Johnson worked to create a family-like atmosphere at his school, in part by maintaining a visible presence on campus and by holding events like an annual fish fry for faculty and staff.

"He tries to make school our home away from home," Renee Spencer, a resource and special education teacher, said.

Johnson helps each faculty and staff member feel welcome when they join the school, she said.

"It's been wonderful because Mr. Johnson is truly a people person, helping the children, and when he takes on a new staff member, he takes that person under his wing to nurture and care for them," Spencer said.

Johnson responds to teachers' problems and always deals with issues in a positive manner, even when they are negative, she said.

Sandra Welch, a fourth-grade teacher, said Johnson is probably the reason she has been teaching at the school for 11 years.

"Had he not hired me for the fourth-grade position, I really think I would have quit the teaching profession, because he has guided me and mentored me for the last 10 years," Welch said.

Johnson makes a point of stopping by each classroom and greeting the teachers in the morning, she said.

"We're going to miss his warm, smiling face because every morning, he comes to every teacher and says, 'Good morning, have a good day,'" she said.

In January 2001, Samuel Houston Elementary moved into its current building, and the cafetorium was named for Johnson, Welch said.

Johnson said faculty members were worried about how the mid-year move into the new facility would affect test scores.

"I feel most proud that we moved in the middle of the year and everyone was afraid the TAAS scores would drop," Johnson said. "Instead, we were 'recognized' and one student away from being 'exemplary.'"

The Texas Education Agency rates schools according to the percentage of students passing the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, or TAAS. The ratings range from "low-performing" to "exemplary."

Johnson was born in Corsicana and had seven brothers and sisters. A high school chemistry teacher inspired him to pursue a career in education.

After receiving an academic scholarship, he attended Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, where he majored in chemistry and minored in physics.

Johnson said he credits Percy Howard, a former principal of Samuel Houston High School and, after desegregation, vice principal of Huntsville High School, for his success in the district.

"If not for him, I could have been somewhere else," Johnson said. "My life has been emulated after him."

While Johnson was in Austin, where he had just graduated from college, Howard scheduled an interview with him for a Friday evening.

The interview lasted from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Johnson missed a date he had planned for that night. The story has a happy ending, however, since Johnson got the job and, in the end, the girl.

"The date I missed out on is the wife I'm married to right now," he said.

His wife, Blossie, is already retired and Johnson said the chance to spend more time with his family is a reason for his retirement.

He plans to travel during his retirement and wants to visit Anchorage, Alaska

Corsicana couple deliver `love' packages

Staff Writer - Pecos Enterprise
PECOS, AUG. 20, 1987 - With every stormy night that's passed since May
22, a couple in Corsicana has thought about Saragosa.

Many storms have passed since that night when homes, stores, a church a
community center filled with people in tiny Saragosa where raised from
the earth.

Aid of every kind was rushed to the devastated scene, and the survivors
given comfort as they buried their loved ones.

All this time a Christian couple;" Corsicana, stunned by the news of the
tornado, have pondered, prayed and asked God to reveal to them what they
could do to help.

That couple, Miriam and Odis Kindle, have firsthand knowledge the
devastation and destruction a tornado leaves in its path, and all the
stages and steps families have to endure in coping and recovering when
such a crisis strikes.

As teachers, they also understand the financial strain sometimes
involved in getting children ready for another school year.

Just by the looks of the modest but adequate load of school supplies and
tennis shoes neatly packaged and bound for Saragosa, one might not have
realized the deep love, concern and the purpose behind a mission that
has gone into the purchasing, gathering and delivering of these items
into the hands of children who survived the tornado.

In the early 1980s Mrs. Kindles' sister and brother-in-law were victims
of a tornado that destroyed a residential section in Paris, Texas.

Commuting from Corsicana, the Kindles', were on hand to aid elderly
members of their family in literally picking up the pieces of their

"I remember as a small child growing up in that very neighborhood in
Paris," said Odis Kindle, a retired school teacher. "I know when, way
back, many families bought a lot and built their home there in Paris.
Many of my own childhood memories were swept away with the homes and
landmark trees that lined the streets of that destroyed section of town."

"There are so many things that have to be done, in the aftermath of such
a storm. So many people rush to aid victims and supply their basic
needs, they're almost as desperate to help as the victims are
desperately helpless." said Mrs. Kindle. "We felt drawn to the Saragosa
victims' plight, but were unable to do anything to help them

"Since I still teach, I felt even more led to lend a helping hand. But
what could we do," she said. "I had to begin another year of teaching in
a few weeks, my time was running out and the people of Saragosa had
already received food, clothing and been provided with temporary

"Then it dawned on me an inspiration. School supplies! Those children
will need things to get going in school in September," she said. "It
came back to me how much my sister and brother-in-law needed us or some
caring person to help them with all the 'little things'."

"We wanted to just do this thing, supply a need for those children, not
just throw money at a need, but give of ourselves and get the need met!"
said Odis.

"We started going out to shop for school supplies. We would meet friends
we had known for years while we were in the school supply sections of
stores counting out supplies, making up price comparisons. They'd look
at us funny or make some little joke, then we would tell them what we
were up to. That's when the checkbooks came out, people wanted to help
us help those children. "

"We believe God gave us the inspiration, what those Saragosa children
needed now," he said. "Then he provided the means, the money. Not more
than was needed, but just the right amount to do the job, just as he
always does for his trusting children."

"We're not doing this to glorify ourselves, or for attention but to show
that God knows people's needs and brings his own people into the
situation to supply those needs, " he said. "That is why we Christians
are sometimes put into crisis, led and taught about sorrows, ours and
others, so we'll know how to be servants of God to help others."

"We hope by this publicity that others will be inspired to fill in the
gaps, meet the needs, help with the little things that arise fOr these
people in Saragosa until they can stand on their own," he said.

Friday the couple met in Balmorhea with Elizabeth Cook, Balmorhea school
principal and delivered the "love packages" they prepared for the
Saragosa children.

Science makes extensive use of death row inmate's body

Joseph Paul Jernigan was a killer who requested that after his execution in 1993 that his body be donated to science.

Jernigan didn't amount to much. He was an inept and brutal criminal who landed on Texas' death row at the age of 27, after he beat, stabbed and fatally shot an old man for a microwave oven and radio.

Now his body _ computerized images made from CT scans and photographs of prosciutto-thin slices of it _ is on view throughout the world. It's on the Internet, in anatomy classes, on medical students' Palm Pilots and even in stained-glass windows.

Either hoping for a measure of redemption, or fearing the ignominy of a pauper's grave, Jernigan willed his body to science, not knowing his corpse would be selected for the National Library of Medicine's now-famous Visible Human Project. Images from the project are on exhibit through Sept. 8 at Houston's Museum of Health and Medical Science.

Over the past several years, Jernigan's remains have been used in ways he could never imagined. On the National Library of Medicine's Web site, viewers can zoom through Jernigan's body, scalp to toe. Researchers use the data to build virtual crash-test dummies to ride in virtual cars. Lawyers use Jernigan to explain internal injuries to juries.

A small publishing company turned Jernigan's head and torso into an animated flipbook sold in museum and airport gift shops. Cross-sections reproduced in stained glass now adorn the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in St. Paul.

The University of Colorado created a surgical simulator, much like a flight simulator. Researchers there have plans to take the project further, photographing male and female cadavers of different ages, races and body types.

Jernigan got the idea from a priest who counseled him. The priest told men on death row they might contribute something worthwhile to society through this final gesture.

Jernigan's mother, Annabelle McHenry of Corsicana, said she feels some satisfaction today knowing his wish to "help someone else" was granted.

Pat Batchelor, who as Navarro County district attorney prosecuted Jernigan in 1981, said the idea of Jernigan having a philanthropic side is "baloney."

"If he'd known what was going to happen to his body, he'd never have done it. He wasn't the type of person to do anything for anybody." Jernigan would have been horrified by the prospect of getting "cut up in little pieces and put on the Internet,' Batchelor said.

"But fortunately, we've been able to use his body to maybe save some lives and train some medical students," Batchelor was quoted as saying in the Houston Chronicle's Monday editions.

Dallas attorney Mark Ticer, who befriended Jernigan while representing him on various appeals and encouraged him to start an Alcoholics Anonymous chapter on death row, described Jernigan as "shy" and thinks he would be "embarrassed" by his fame.

"He had his demons," Ticer said, "but he was not looking for publicity."

Some of the images look disconcertingly like cuts of meat. Others, obtained by manipulating digital data, emphasize different components of the body. In one, the skeleton stands upright, revealing everything from the kneecap to the delicate hyoid bone in the neck. In another, the man's brain and spinal cord seemingly float inside a thin outline of his skull, teeth bared in a creepy grin.

Another image emphasizes the body's musculature. Certain details remind the viewer this is no anatomical drawing, but a real person. Five-11 Five feet 11 inches tall and 199 pounds when he died, Jernigan had beefy arms, powerful thighs and a thick, bulldog's neck from lifting weights in prison.

George Ganze

Ganze retiring

George Ganze, son of Hub and Lessie Bolen Ganze of Powell is retiring at the end of the current school year, after 43 years of service as a public school educator. Ganze grew up in the Pursley community and graduated from Dawson High School. He graduated from Navarro College and received his bachelor's of science degree in chemistry and mathematics from East Texas State University, now known as Texas A&M University-Commerce. He received his master's of science degree in biology from ETSU in the summer of 1962. During the following four summers he attended and received credit from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., the University of California at Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif. and Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif.

Ganze began his teaching career at East Bernard High School in the 1959-1960 school year by teaching biology, chemistry and physics. George spent 29 years in East Bernard teaching science and later becoming the high school principal in East Bernard. In the summer of 1988 he moved to Rosebud-Lott High School and became the principal of that school. He has been at Rosebud-Lott for 14 years.

He will continue to work with students by being on the substitute teacher list at Rosebud-Lott and surrounding schools.

Leslie Rena McClanahan

Inducted into honor society

Leslie Rena McClanahan was recently inducted into the Cardinal Key National Honor Society at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. She will serve as an officer for the organization. Only 1/2 of 1 percent of junior and senior college students are invited into the Cardinal Key National Honor Society.

McClanahan is also an active member of the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority serving as vice president of membership. She is also a member of the Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society, the National Collegiate Scholars of America, Tech Friends, and Alpha Epsilon Delta serving as service chairman for the organization.

She finished the spring semester with a 4.0 GPA, and will enter her senior year at Texas Tech as a pre-med major, with a major in zoology, and a minor in chemistry.

McClanahan is the daughter of Chuck and Susan McClanahan, and the granddaughter of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Lang, and the late Mr. And Mrs. C. S. McClanahan, all of Corsicana.

Adelaide Castillo

Castillo selected as junior statesman

Adelaide Castillo, a 17-year-old-student at Corsicana High School, has been selected to attend the 61st annual session of the Junior Statesman Summer School at the University of Texas in Austin June 10-14. Anyone wishing to make an individual donation to help Castillo may call her at (903) 874-2012.

The Junior Statesman Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization founded in 1938.

While the students take college-level courses in American government and speech, they will also participate in nightly debates of controversial public policy issues in congressional workshop. Highlighting the numerous sessions will be frequent meetings with a high-level group of leaders from government, business, and the media. This nonpartisan speakers program gives future leaders a chance to share ideas with today's power brokers.

Castillo was selected into this prestigious program because of her outstanding academic record and potential for leadership.

She is also active in multiple extra-curricular and community activities. During the past three years she has been a high school cheerleader, competes on a competition cheerleading squad currently, high school volleyball player, track competitor, debater, advancing extemporaneous speaker, dedicated Future Farmers of America member in raising animals and FFA events, UIL academics competitor, member of Future Business Leaders of America, Students Against Destructive Decisions, Leo Club, Navarro Regional Hospital candy striper and Vacation Bible School leader. She has been Spanish Club treasurer (2000-2001) and vice president (2001-2002), Volunteen's secretary (2000-2001) and vice president (2001-2002), Class Act treasurer (2001-2002), Student Council treasurer and secretary (2001-2002), currently National Honor Society president (2002-2003), FFA secretary (2002-2003) and Student Council president (2002-2003).

She has been involved in Christmas in October for the past four years. Every summer she participates in World Changers, a camp where she roofs houses and does construction work all day for five days, while ministering to the community. She traveled to Romania last summer and worked in an orphanage as well as ministered all over the country of Romania.

Castillo hopes to attend the Junior Statesman Summer Forum to enrich her knowledge and experience. This opportunity will benefit her greatly in her plans for college and career.

Ryan Adam Walters

Walters awarded scholarship

Ryan Adam Walters, a 2002 graduate of Dawson High School, has been awarded a one-year $1,000 Youth Livestock Show Scholarship sponsored by the State Fair of Texas.

Since 1992, the State Fair of Texas Scholarship Program has awarded scholarships to academically talented students who graduate from high schools in the Dallas State Fair Park area. In 1993, the scholarship program expanded its youth support by awarding scholarships to academically talented students who participated in the State Fair of Texas Youth Livestock Shows.

Walters participated in the State Fair of Texas Youth Livestock Show from 1995 to 2001. He showed in the youth beef heifer shows and won numerous places including grand champion twice. In high school, he was an active member of FFA, 4-H Club, National Honor Society, one-act play and class offices. He held numerous offices in those clubs and received many awards and honors during his high school career.

Walters plans to attend Tarleton State University and major in international agribusiness. He is the son of Richard and Becky Walters of Dawson.

Kristen Elizabeth Whitehead 

Whitehead graduates

Kristen Elizabeth Whitehead of Corsicana graduated magna cum laude from Texas Tech University in Lubbock May 11. She graduated from the school of arts and sciences with a major in political science and a minor in history.

She is a member of Zeta Tau Alpha social sorority. She is also a member of Gamma Beta Phi Honor Fraternity, National Collegiate Honor Society of Texas Tech and the Golden Key Honor Society.

Whitehead is a 1999 recipient of the James L. Collins Scholarship, the McFadden Leadership Scholarship from Texas Teach, Eastern Star Scholarship, and the Aley United Methodist Church Scholarship.

She is the daughter of Gerald and Cheryl Whitehead of Corsicana and the granddaughter of J.C. and Colleen Patterson of Kemp and Ronald and Gladys Whitehead of Corsicana.

Joanna Ellis 

Ellis graduates

Joanna Ellis graduated magna cum laude from Tarleton State University in Stephenville May 11. Ellis was awarded a bachelor of science degree from the college of education in exercise and sports study. She also received a letter from the president of the college congratulating her on a 4.0 grade point average her last two semesters. While at Tarleton, she was inducted into Phi Epsilon Kappa, a national honor society, and was named to the dean's list several semesters.

Ellis graduated from Blooming Grove High School in 1997 and Lon Morris College in 1999 where she was a member of the volleyball and softball teams. She will begin her teaching and coaching career in the fall at Lamar Consolidated Independent School District in Rosenberg. She will be teaching science and coaching volleyball, basketball and track. Ellis is the daughter of Hugh and Jo Beth Ellis.

K. C. Whorton

Whorton receives award

K.C. Whorton of Kerens and the Kerens FFA Chapter was recently presented the chapter's highest honor, the DeKalb Agricultural Accomplishment Award, sponsored by Monsanto Company.

Whorton, daughter of Kip and Janet Whorton, received the award for her excellence in academics, leadership and Supervised Agricultural Experience program. An SAE is a work-based learning program where a student applies the concepts learned in the agricultural classroom. Whorton's program consisted of market steers and poultry. David Atkeisson and Ed Strange were Whorton's agriculture education instructor and FFA advisor at Kerens High School.

Wigley reunion

The descendants of Arkie Allie Nutt Wigley and Madison Dekalb Wigley held a reunion Saturday, May 26 in Richland at the home of one of their grandsons, Sonny and Geneva Wigley.

The 2002 cousins reunion was held in memory of Arkie and Madison Wigley and in honor of their only living child, 87-year-old Lavonia Williams of San Antonio.

Also present were 12 out of their 18 grandchildren as well as their children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Also, Mrs. Williams had two first cousins in attendance, Raymond Grace and Addie Lee Arnold, both of Corsicana.

In attendance also were Dolores Baldwin, mayor of Richland, and William Baldwin, Navarro County Precinct Three commissioner. Leslie Cotten, Navarro County sheriff, was invited but unable to attend because of duty.

There was well over 100 family members plus about 10 or 12 neighbors in attendance. The families came from all over the state of Texas, from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande, and as far away as Huntsville, Ala.

The Wigleys plan on making this an annual event with the next reunion scheduled for the second weekend in June 2003.

6/23/2002 Peake quadruplets make visit to see grandparents in Corsicana

By RUTH THOMPSON/Daily Sun Staff

Upon entering the room, Lila was surrounded by three little boys squirming all over the couch trying to see the pictures as she read to them. They all looked identical, except Anderson's blonde hair.

Then two little girls wearing identical dresses ran into the room laughing about the TV show they had just watched. It became confusing after that.

It's story about quadruplets; four children born at the same time. Yet here is a room filled with five children who look alike. Lila, the mother, explained that the littlest girl was Lauren, who was born 26 months after the quadruplets.

Lila (Gober) Peake gave birth to the quadruplets, Mark, John, Anderson, and the youngest and only girl, Lilian, April 25, 1997. Since that day Mark and Lila Peake's lives have been filled with excitement created by these children.

Four 5 year olds plus a 3 year old equals a lot of energy and never a dull moment for the Peake family. Recently the Peake family flew in from their home in Lynchburg, Va. to visit Lila's parents, Ralston and Linda Gober.

"We've really enjoyed Corsicana," Lila said. "It's been fun for the kids especially. We've visited the Cook Center, Pioneer Village, the neighbors' pool and the local fire station gave us a tour. It's been like resort Corsicana for 5 year olds."

The kids wake up around 6:30 in the morning, play all day and go to bed at around seven o'clock. They usually read a lot of story books during the day and swim. While Lauren keeps up with her energetic siblings and does whatever they do, she has recently discovered that she is somewhat shorter and can't swim as well.

"That leads to some frustration to Lauren, but fortunately she knows not to try to swim in the deep in," Lila said. "We were so glad that we had Lauren. Lilian now has another girl around the house to play with. Though we try to encourage them to make friends outside of their siblings."

Their local preschool in Lynchburg offers four separate classes. So the Peakes' decided it would be best that the quadruplets should be separated, and making friends put aside their unique play group.

"They took it pretty well, but it was a different experience for them," Lila said. "They weren't used to asking friends over or going to birthday parties with out their other siblings. Mark and John had some trouble at the beginning. When ever their classes passed each other on the playground they started crying. By the end of the year they stopped crying and just waved.

"Mark and John are the closest in the group, and they look like twins. Anderson is more independent; he did really well in preschool. Lilian's shy, but she and Lauren get along pretty well."

The children do seem to pair off and Anderson floated from one group to another in the pool.

In the house, Mark and John were the most active of the group, playing with a dart gun and using a cardboard Santa Claus for target practice. Though Santa didn't seem to mind at all as he just kept smiling, hand up in greeting.

Anderson watched his brothers and called out warnings ever so often. Anderson was definitely concerned for his brothers' presents. While their father, Mark, supervised and made complements from the sidelines. Lila, Lilian and Lauren had retreated to the other room, not wanting to be part of anything that might get them on Santa's bad side. Or perhaps they just did not want to get hit by a sticky dart.

Taking photos of the children proved to be mildly difficult in the fact not every one looks at the camera at the same time, but pictures turn out to be adorable.

The children, though very active, are really well behaved for their age.

While many people may run screaming into the night after five minutes with five children, the Peakes enjoy their children..

Ruth Thompson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected]

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