A key and interesting figure in the history of Baylor School during the transitional era of the mid-20th century recently died.
Charles Hawkins III, who served as headmaster at Baylor from 1964 to 1970, died July 16 in Albany, Ga., at the age of 88.
He had been let go by Baylor as headmaster in 1970 after a disagreement with the school’s board of trustees over the direction and vision of the school at a time when great social changes were taking place in the world, but the situation apparently ended up being only a small bump in the road for him.
He went on to continue to enjoy a distinguished education career, serving in administrative positions at Westminster School in Atlanta and Darlington School in Rome, Ga., and as director of the middle and upper schools at Deerfield-Windsor School in Albany.
He also enjoyed a career that was praised for service as well as accomplishment, as he stayed on at Deerfield-Windsor as an English and Bible teacher until the age of 81 and continued to enjoy his favorite passion – teaching.
Dr. Hawkins, the son of a Methodist minister, had graduated from Vanderbilt after a stint in the Navy, during which time he observed Gen. Douglas MacArthur up close while on the general’s landing craft.
While at Vanderbilt, Dr. Hawkins observed someone else who caught his attention even more -- his future wife, Helen McKinney Clark, who was from Chattanooga.
He later began teaching at the University of Cincinnati, but his wife reportedly did not care for the North.
“She told my dad she was moving back to Chattanooga and taking me with her,” recalled Dr. Hawkins’ oldest child, Anne Hawkins, recently with a laugh. “He decided to keep the family intact.”
Dr. Hawkins, in turn, realized he cared more for high school teaching than college teaching due to the opportunities to have a greater impact on young people.
He had interviewed at both Baylor and McCallie, but thought Baylor offered the better chance for advancement, since his last name was not McCallie, his daughter said.
He came to Baylor in 1952 as an English teacher and worked with the Christian Forum, Round Table literary club and the Baylor Notes school newspaper. He was reportedly a master at teaching the novel, The Scarlet Letter.
He also later became an assistant to longtime headmaster Dr. Herbert Barks Sr. and succeeded him in 1964. On Sundays, he volunteered to teach the college class at First-Centenary United Methodist Church.
As a headmaster, he was known for his informality and flexibility and always kept his door open to students, according to the history of Baylor, It Never Rains After Three O’Clock, written by the late teacher Jim Hitt in the early 1970s.
But it was in his dealings with the school’s board that would seal his fate.
Anne Hawkins recalled this week that her father was simply a progressive thinker for that time, and that conflicted with the conservative Southern businessmen that made up the board in the late 1960s.
“He was a sensitive, cerebral, artistic man who was smart enough to know how feelings in the country at large were trending,” Ms. Hawkins said.
The most serious point of contention dealt with the military curriculum. Ms. Hawkins said that her military veteran father was liberal in his political views and opposed the war in Vietnam and wanted to drop the military curriculum.
But he also was practical and felt that keeping the military curriculum kept Baylor from becoming an even better Southern private school.
“Dad was nothing if not pragmatic,” she said.
Mr. Hitt wrote in the Baylor history that Dr. Hawkins had a list of other plans he wanted Baylor to implement, including racially integrating the faculty and then the student body, becoming coed, phasing out the dormitory program, and adding an elementary school and possibly a junior college.
While Baylor still has a large dorm program and never added an elementary school or junior college, the school later did make those changes and warmly embraced them. The school dropped the military curriculum in 1971, admitted its first black students in 1973, and became coed in 1985.
If some other factors that contributed to Dr. Hawkins' leaving existed, they are apparently lost to history after more than 40 years.
Anne Hawkins, who now lives in Athens, Ga., recalled that her father’s last year at Baylor was one of stress, even though she was away at college as a freshman at the time.
“It was an uncomfortable and very sad time in my family,” she said. “My mother grew up in Chattanooga, and her parents still lived there.”
But the previous 17 years had been mostly enjoyable, she said.
“He went to lots of athletic events and always took me,” she said. “Dad was very involved in the life of the school.”
Chattanoogan Jack Stanford served as Dr. Hawkins’ assistant at Baylor and has many warm memories of their time together there.
“He was a scholar, a gentleman and a gentle man,” he said. “Charlie was my boss, but I never thought of him as my boss. I thought of him as a treasured colleague and mentor. It was Charlie who encouraged me to become more involved in the administrative side of independent school education.”
Mr. Stanford, who was the successful Baylor basketball coach at the time, went on to become the headmaster of Presbyterian Day School and Hutchison School in Memphis.
He added that his family and the Hawkins family – who also included daughter Jane Inscoe, now of Athens, Ga., and son Dr. Charles Hawkins IV, now of Albany – lived near each other for several years in Lupton Hall and were close.
He remembers one story Dr. Hawkins told him when his family still lived on Signal Mountain. Dr. Hawkins had ridden down the mountain one time without properly working brakes and narrowly avoided an accident during what was an obviously harrowing trip.
The two had a good laugh about that afterward, but Mr. Stanford thought that was a good metaphor for Dr. Hawkins’ reluctantly daring streak he possessed. “To my knowledge, Charlie always coasted to a safe stop,” he said.
After Dr. Hawkins retired from his administrative duties at Deerfield-Windsor at age 65, he went back to teaching.
Mr. Stanford said that returning to the classroom is not always easy for a former school head, but Dr. Hawkins was reportedly very happy. As a result, memories of his troubling last year at Baylor were likely far in the distant past.
Dr. Hawkins retired from teaching only reluctantly at age 81 after his wife developed health problems from macular degeneration. She preceded him in death by only two months this year.
After Dr. Hawkins’ obituary appeared in the Albany Herald following his death from complications from pancreatic cancer, former Deerfield-Windsor student Patrick Nichols wrote online, “What a wonderful and kind soul. I am forever grateful to have been a pupil of his during my high school years at Deerfield. Dr. Hawkins set the bar for what a great teacher and mentor should be.”
This man who was twice selected a “Distinguished Teacher” by the President’s Council on Education and was an artist touched plenty of lives positively at Baylor as well.
“Charlie enriched my life in so many ways, as he did hundreds of other educators and students,” said Mr. Stanford. “Yes, he was a master teacher.”
Charles Hawkins, second from left, with family in 2006