Some sadness, some great memories

The Locker Room

By Dan Callahan

The Patriot

It was only fitting that the 2017 Pulaski County High School graduation took place on the eve before his passing. Dewey Wilson has left behind a loving family and thousands of memories for thousands of Pulaski County people. My sincere condolences.

Dewey Wilson was chosen by then Superintendent of Schools Kenneth J. Dobson to be the first principal of newly consolidated PCHS when it opened its doors in 1974. He could not have make a better pick. Wilson had been the principal at old Pulaski and he had the daunting task of putting together two students bodies from two former rival schools, and the rivalry did not die easily. But Wilson ran a tight ship. He was a Marine, and when necessary he acted like a Marine, but while he was strong, and tough when he had to be, he was also just as soft and understanding when he needed to be. He provided the strength, discipline, and structure necessary to get the new school up and running.

When you care about somebody and have a high opinion of a man, the best way to show it is by simply saying he was a good man. Dewey Wilson was a good educator, a good leader of people, a good father, a good husband, a good man in his church, and an outstanding man in his community. Dewey was a good man. And he was the perfect man to be the first principal at Pulaski County.

I remember the many conversation we would have about his days as a Tazewell Bulldog in high school. I was from just across the border in Big Creek, West Virginia territory. We were aware of so many different things that made life interesting back in the day. We found we both possessed much knowledge about the same people and same places. It helped me know him better as a person, not just the principal. Dewey lived just down the block and down the hill in Newbern Heights maybe a total of 120 yards from my home. One day the wife said where’s the boys? I didn’t know. Next came the order, “find them.” A neighbor told me he saw them playing down at Mr. Wilson’s.

My immediate thought was “Dennis the Menace.” Both my boys, age 4 and 6 at the time, could have passed for Dennis. My concerns were for Mr. Wilson. So down the road and a turn at the top of hill later, my concerns went away. My youngest Jason couldn’t get to the ball up to the regulation rim, but Dewey, a tall man, was holding him up so he could drop the basketball down over the rim. Jason was laughing and so was Dewey. I mentioned I hoped the boys weren’t bothering him. Dewey said heck no, they were having fun shooting baskets on his outdoor goal and they were welcome to come down anytime. They went back a few times too, but I knew all I needed to know about Dewey Wilson that day.

I thought it was great that Dewey, Dobson, and former head football coach Joel Hicks were all inducted into the PCHS “Hall of Fame” on the same evening. If you were asked to give the name of three men who had the greatest impact in the history of PCHS, you would say Wilson, Dobson, and Hicks, and I would hope without hesitation.

Wilson was very serious about academic performance. I’m sure his children will tell you that. But he was very supportive athletically. When Hicks came and the football program was not only successful on the gridiron, but also successful in pulling this county together for a unified effort, it was he that came back after school hours in the evenings and began the painting of the big cardinal and gold helmet in the center of what is now Joel Hicks Field. It was beautiful, and Dewey put his heart into it. He would spend as many as three of his evenings in a week to make sure it was perfect when the lights came on Friday night. There were times when we would move in vehicles around the track to provide him light when it got late in the evening. His experience in teaching drafting no doubt an asset. He was a Cougar. Dewey likely attended 75 percent of every football, basketball, and baseball games ever played during his time. He felt whenever possible, the principal should be there, and the men in his administration who worked with him, Carl Lindstrom and Ray Dunavant were the same.

I remember one particular moment in 1979. The Cougar football team was 3-0, but really hadn’t established itself. There was a game in Williamsburg against Lafayette, a team that had dominated Pulaski County at home the season before. They had two players that would eventually have careers in the NFL. To say the least, Pulaski County was a major underdog. Dewey and Carl had gone down the evening before to attend day-long educational meetings on Friday. The trip was so long there was a sparse Cougar crowd. That would change quickly and soon after it didn’t matter where the team played, Cougar fans followed in mass.

Dewey and Carl had heard all day how unfortunate it was to have to travel such a distance and return home overnight after enduring a disappointing football game. Both knew things had changed, but nobody really knew how much things had changed until that night. The Cougars thrashed Lafayette and I’ve never seen Dewey Wilson happier, or with a wider smile. If there had been a square dance in Williamsburg that night, he and Carl would have gone. This was a great time in PCHS history, and wonderful memories for many of us. It was the beginning of the “Miracle on Slaughterhouse Road.”

There are thousands of former students at PCHS that remember Dewey Wilson, and so many other friends who just knew him for the man he was, and for that reason he will always been remembered as a key figure in leading the consolidated school effort. Dewey Wilson led PCHS during its toughest of times, and also helped lead the school to its greatest of times. He will remain etched forever in the memoirs of Pulaski County High School.