Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of 10 weekly article on individuals who made positive contributions to Stephenville, the Cross Timbers area and/or the State of Texas. Many other noteworthy individuals, other than these 10, have made their “mark” in this area. Perhaps some of these names can be included in future columns.
BY STUART CHILTON
Born in Desdemona in 1926, this individual spent his early life in Stephenville. His father worked in the Desdemona oil fields; however, after the Great Depression hit in 1929 and the oil field began to diminish, the family moved to Stephenville.
His father was born in Stephenville in 1899 and was a decorated veteran of World War I, having been awarded the Purple Heart and Silver Star Medals for heroic action in France. The father was gassed, and it was from this battlefield tragedy that his father died at an early age in 1950.
A woman’s circle in the First United Methodist Church is named for his paternal grandmother.
He completed all eleven years in the Stephenville Public Schools, graduating in 1944. During his time in Stephenville High School, he excelled in football,
playing fullback for the ‘Jackets for four years. He was the starting fullback during his junior and senior years. When the team needed the yards, the call went to this jarring fullback to gain a first down or score a touchdown.
In later years, he would say, “Coaches Jimmy Marshall and E.E. (Flash) Walker had a great influence in molding my adolescent life, especially Coach Marshall. They represented the epitome of teaching youngsters the rewards that can be gained from hard work and dedication.”
Following his graduation, he enrolled at Southwestern University in Georgetown on a football scholarship. At this time two powerhouses in Texas football were Southwestern and Randolph Air Base in San Antonio. He played fullback on the Southwestern team that won the Sun Bowl in 1945. He scored three touchdowns in this contest.
Later in 1945, he entered the Army and served until 1947. Upon his return to Southwestern, he married a Georgetown girl, Anne Thomas, who was also a student at Southwestern.
Two important events occurred in his life in 1949 - Graduation from Southwestern, and accepting his first coaching and teaching job at Bartlett High School in Williamson-Bell Counties.
He remained at Bartlett until 1955, when he accepted the head football coaching job at Mesquite High School in eastern Dallas County. Five years later, he was appointed Principal of Mesquite High School. In 1964, he was promoted to superintendent of Mesquite ISD. He served in this job until his retirement in 1986.
Today the Mesquite ISD has more than 42 schools with an enrollment approaching 40,000 students. During his early years in Mesquite, he obtained master and doctoral degrees from then East Texas State University (now Texas A&M-Commerce).
A Mesquite high school was named for him in the 1980s. He and his wife continue to live in Mesquite. The couple’s daughter, Carol, followed in her dad’s footsteps. She is a public school teacher in the Metroplex.
Yes, this 81-year-old individual has taken his place among the ranks of real leaders in Texas. His preparation for success came from determination and hard work he learned at home and in the Stephenville Public Schools.
A Name to Remember - Dr. Ralph Harris Poteet.
Dr. Chilton, a retired educator/journalist, lives in Stephenville. He occasionally writes for the Empire-Tribune.