HAROLD N. “PROF” POWERS—passed away on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 at the age of 93 at his residence. Born in Meigs County, Tennessee on November 24, 1925, Prof influenced countless lives as an educator, school board member, mayor, city councilman, scoutmaster, Learn-To-Swim director, church leader and environmentalist.
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Following graduation from McMinn County High School in 1944, he joined the US Navy and served in World War II’s Pacific Theater. He held a B.S. degree in Education from Cumberland University and received his M.S. in Administration and Supervision from the University of Tennessee Knoxville.
After teaching from 1949 to 1950 at Englewood High School, Prof became the first principal of City Park School and held that position for 33 years. During that time he founded the Athens City Schools’ Conservation Camp, Oo-Tah-Nee-Noh-Chee, on Watts Bar Lake, which was the first of its kind in the state. He continued to serve as its volunteer director until his death. During its 68 year history the camping program has received national recognition. For his work, Prof was presented two environmental awards, both in 1968. He was bestowed the E Harper Johnson Human Relations Award from the Tennessee Education Association and is the only person in the state to have been chosen by the National Wildlife Federation as Conservation Educator of the Year.
The street in front of City Park School was later named “Powers Path” in honor of him and his wife.
As a youth, Prof was Athens’ first Eagle Boy Scout in 1942. He later served for 32 years as scoutmaster of Troop 116 in Athens. Under his leadership, the troop produced 183 Eagle Scouts, believed to be a national record. He later received the Boy Scout District Award of Merit and scouting’s highest honor the Silver Beaver Award.
In 2010, 90 of his Eagle Scouts hosted a “Gathering Of Eagles” and founded an endowment scout fund in his honor for boys to attend summer camp,
In 1957, Prof established the city-wide “Learn-To-Swim” program which is held for two weeks every June. Since its inception, thousands of children and adults have been taught to swim. In addition, he developed a similar program for the Athens City School System. As a result, nearly 100 percent of graduating sixth grade students can swim.
He was a member of the National Association for Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling. As City Park principal, he told stories and folk tales to lower grade students almost daily. He continued this practice after retirement by visiting different schools each week. It’s estimated he read or told stories to over 10,000 students each year.
He also established and annually conducted the 7th grade history bus tour of McMinn County’s historical sites.
An 83-year member of First Baptist Church in Athens, he served as a deacon for 57 years and later deacon emeritus. He was also Sunday School Director and taught junior-age boys. In addition, he spent 28 years working at West End Baptist, a mission church started by First Baptist. In later years, he taught senior adults at the Wellington Place Assisted Living in Athens each Sunday.
He served on the Athens City Council from 1984 until 1996, two of those years as mayor. In 1997, he was elected to the Athens School Board and held that seat until retiring in 2010. In 24 years of public service, he never lost an election.
Prof was also instrumental in the city receiving a charter from the Keep America Beautiful program. The organization established a public school educational initiative, Christmas tree mulch effort, an Adopt-A-Highway program and a recyclable materials drop-off center. For his efforts, he was named the 2003 Tennessee Volunteer of the Year by Keep America Beautiful.
He became active in AARP in 1984 and twice served as the organization’s president and four times as vice president/program chairman. Each year Prof would host a fundraising chili supper. In 2006, he received the AARP Andrus Award for Community Service. He also served as committee chairman that raised over a million dollars to establish the Athens Senior Center. In addition, he was president of the McMinn County Retired Teachers Association for four years.
For over 25 years Prof crafted wooden trophies for school students. It is estimated he made over 12,000 during that time.
Prof was recognized in numerous ways including the 1956 Athens Man of the Year, the DAR Community Service Award in 2005, the 1996 Distinguished Alumnus Award from Tennessee Wesleyan College, the Chamber of Commerce’s Hall of Fame Community Builders Award in 1992, the 2003 Jefferson Award as Tennessee’s Outstanding Volunteer, honorary membership in the Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs of Athens, lifetime membership in the P.T.A., the United Way’s Dick Dyer Award and in 2015, Knox Park was renamed in his honor.
He authored three books; Prof, an autobiography; Campfire Stories; and Prof’s Favorite Jokes.
He is preceded in death by his parents M.S. and Veda Pullen Powers, two sisters Faye McMillin and Virginia Thomas, as well as an infant brother.
He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Ozelle Shoemaker Powers of Athens, two children; daughter Kathy and husband David Nichol of Daphne, Alabama, and son Kris and wife Kim Powers of Athens, as well as four grandchildren; Adam and fiance’ Bethany Hunt of Knoxville, Blake and fiance’ Cayci Coleman of Etowah, Corbin and wife Rachael (Simbeck), and Dannah Powers, all of Athens. He is also survived by one sister, Carolyn(Dick) Anderson of Fayette, Alabama.
A funeral service will be conducted at 1:00 pm, Monday, May 13, 2019 at First Baptist Church of Athens with Dr. Jason Clark officiating. Interment will follow in Cedar Grove Cemetery. The family will receive friends from 3:00-7:00 pm Sunday, May 12, 2017 at First Baptist Church.
Pallbearers will be Ben Wilson, Victor Skullman, Rusty Shultz, Larry Lane, Randy Wattenbarger, Larry Pratt and Bo Perkinson. Honorary pallbearers will be Eagle Scouts trained by Prof.
The family would like to extend a special thanks to Golden Touch Life Management Services and Kindred Hospice for their professional and dedicated care when Prof’s health declined.
The family suggests memorials be made to First Baptist Church of Athens, 305 Ingleside Avenue, Athens, TN 37303; Athens City School Camp (Oo-Tah-Nee-Noh-Chee), 943 Crestway Drive, Athens, TN 37303; McMinn Senior Activity Center, 205 McMinn Avenue, Athens, TN 37303; or Boy Scouts of America, Great Smoky Mountain Council, 1333 Old Weisgarber Road, Knoxville, TN 37909.