Written by Teresa Dennard.

50 Years of Excellence

It all started in 1953 when Superintendent Q.M. Martin wanted to include an Industrial Arts program at Carthage High School. He needed a teacher and contacted David Johnson who had just graduated from college. Johnson had an offer at Austin High in Houston, but decided to go for the interview in Carthage. “Mr. Martin called me every day asking me not to sign a contract with Austin High. I wasn’t even sure where Carthage was, but I decided I’d give it a try.” Mr. Johnson stayed eight years teaching drafting, woodworking and metals. Lots of students signed up for the classes and they were all boys. “We always took students to the state competition on the A&M campus,” recalls Johnson. “The most outstanding piece that was built during my tenure was a big dining room cabinet made of cherry lumber by Billy Hudson who was one of the really outstanding students I had. I left after 8 years to work for a textbook publishing company and George Smith took over. I always said the reason George stayed as long as he did was because it took him that long to straighten up the mess that I left!”

In 1961 Smith slid into the driver’s seat and never looked back. The program began to grow and become even more successful. He insisted on self-discipline in his students and taught the value of pride and hard work in a job well done. Smith’s major focus was on woodworking, but he also taught metal work and drafting. “Our mechanical drawing class ended up developing into a pre-engineering class that kids could get college credit for,” says Smith. “The requirements in our class were the same as the college. Even though drafting is all done on the computer now, I always taught the first 6 weeks on a drawing board. You have the computer that can do anything if you punch the right button, but if you don’t understand the basic fundamentals, you don’t know how it got there.  A couple of my students, Ben Goodman and Ronny Espinoza, went to TSTC and tested out of the first course in drafting. Espinoza now works at Showcase Systems designing for their conveyor systems.”

From the very beginning, competition always played a major role in the success of the Industrial Arts program. Smith expanded on the program that Johnson began. Each year the students came home with not only the top awards for their projects, but were continually recognized as a club for the outstanding work in the community. Scotty Bates, class of 1966, served as the first National Vice-President of the student association.  “I built a bed and a nightstand that I took to the state competition my senior year, and I still use it today. It was a good time in my life.”

In 1973, the Carthage club was named the most active Industrial Arts Club in the nation, as well as the most outstanding chapter in the state. Senior student John Shivers served as the local Club president, was elected President of the State Association, and also served as a National Vice President. “Industrial Arts was a pretty big deal,” recalls Shivers, “and I was in it all four years. Mr. Smith did a fine job teaching us a lot of things. It wasn’t just what we were doing right then, like making a bookcase. He taught us a lot about how to work and how to get things done. Work ethic was a big deal with him. We used to go on field trips to places like Louisiana-Pacific, Carthage Cup Company, Temple Industries, Lone Star Steel. He showed us what was going on out in the world. I’m really indebted to him for what he taught me.” As a testament to Smith’s excellence, three times he was selected as teacher of the year in the East Texas Region, and in 1977 was teacher of the year in Texas. He taught a total of 43 years; 30 years full time,13 years part-time and he fully retired in 2004.

In 1982, one of Smith’s former students, Charles “Bud” Worley was added to the teaching staff of the continually-growing program.  “My first year of teaching I was green as a gourd,” said Worley. “Mr. Smith was a very good mentor. He was like a second daddy to me…whatever he said, went and we had a really good working relationship.” Worley fell right in line with Smith’s regime of service and commitment. H served as State President of the Teacher Association, was on the National Board of Directors and also served as the National Board President one year as well as other offices. “Mr. Smith instilled in me that you need to give back. You need to work and be a part of your professional associations.”

The program, now called TSA, Technology Student Association, has been on the leading edge for a long time, much of it due to the school district’s support in purchasing top-notch equipment. Where other school districts are shutting down the program, Carthage is going strong. In the past four years, the club has been named State Champs in class 3A. In 2010, Carthage had more points than any school at the competition, including 4A and 5A schools. “Over the years I’ve had some students that built some outstanding projects,” says Worley. “Chris Stacy probably made one of the nicest desks ever made. It was an executive-type desk finished all the way around. Also, Clay Bell made a 4-poster bed that was top-of-the-line. Some of the big name furniture manufacturers couldn’t touch it.”  One of Worley’s proudest moments in the 31 years he has been teaching at CHS was having his daughter, Kristina, in the program. Learning the ropes from her dad, she was the only four-time state officer for TSA.

Teaching alongside Worley are Jim Kimberly, who has 17 years with the program, and Jolene Davis with 5 years. Together they will be hosting the celebration of 50 years of TSA at CHS. The event will be on the first Saturday in December, 2013. Make plans to attend to reminisce and congratulate those responsible for making the program such a huge success.