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By Sarah Baker
Every teacher knows the famous words by Forest Witcraft: “One hundred years from now it won’t matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in the bank nor what my clothes looked like. But the world may be a little better, because I was important in the life of a child.” Significant in the lives of thousands of children, Dr. Paul L. Kelley made Knoxville a better place.
Dr. Kelley passed away on December 16, survived by his wife of 53 years, Norma; two sons, John and Lucas; a grandson, Lucas; and a slew of other family and good friends. “Dr. Paul Kelley was a great person, a great educator, and a great leader,” says D.M. Miller, a long-time friend and colleague of Kelley. “You know how they say ‘When J.P. Morgan talks, people listen?’ Well, when Paul Kelley talked, people listened.” “He was always on the students’ side,” says Miller. “They were his livelihood….his main focus.”
Kelley earned degrees from Tennessee Tech, Northwestern, and UT. He taught at Christenberry Junior High, Fulton High School, and served as principal at South Junior-Senior High School and West High School. He went on to join the central office staff and to be appointed to the Knox County School Board.
Public education is not the only way that Dr. Kelley made a difference. He was also active with the Boy Scouts of America and the Emerald Youth Foundation. Because of Dr. Kelley’s belief that education should not exclude children in special circumstances, Knox County Schools named their non-traditional high school at Knoxville Center Mall, the Dr. Paul L. Kelley Volunteer Academy.
On December 20, Emerald Avenue United Methodist Church, which Kelley was part of for over 60 years, held a worship service to honor his life. The Reverend Dr. James Bailes officiated. If anyone would like to honor the life of Dr. Paul Kelley, memorials may be given to the Emerald Youth Foundation or the Kelley Fund for Music and Youth, c/o Emerald Avenue United Methodist Church.