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Early Education Provides Mold for Outstanding Life (Part VI): First Lieutenant and Dental Officer

By Ralphine Major
Only days after little Barron recovered from his abdominal surgery, Carol and Perry had more blessings come their way.  Perry graduated first in his dental class with a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree on September 21, 1959 from the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry, making him the first dentist from the small Gibbs High School.  In a local newspaper article about dental graduates from Knoxville, Perry was described as the “only son of country store keepers.”  His parents, Joe and Mildred McGinnis, owned and ran the McGinnis Grocery at the corner of Boruff Road and East Emory Road for many years.  (Boruff Road neighbors, such as the Mack Neuberts, Marvin Boruffs, Bill Wrights, Dave Wrights, and Les Spitzers have appeared in earlier Focus columns.)  The store had been in the family since the 1920’s and had been run by Joe’s father and mother, James A. and Myrtle Clark McGinnis, until their deaths in 1955 and 1956, respectively.  Mildred stayed in the store during the day, and Joe would come in from work at Knoxville Transit Lines (KTL) and stay until closing time.  Joe and Mildred continued to run the store until they both retired.  Joe retired as Superintendent of Transportation at KTL where he had worked for over 40 years.

Carol and Perry reflect back on their struggles and hardships and their many blessings.  “That was a brief but profound time of uncertainty quickly followed by the elation of Barron’s return to health and the graduation from dental school.  When those life altering events came to pass, it was then time for so many decisions to be made about our future.  It’s so very difficult, now, to recall just how we managed to do all that needed to be done.  It obviously required Divine intervention.”

After graduation from dental school, the young McGinnis family made a temporary move back to Corryton.  Carol and Barron stayed with Perry’s parents while he was away for Army Medical Department basic training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas for six weeks starting in October.  It was tough on the young father leaving his family behind.  Then, in early November, the family of three moved to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where Perry served as a First Lieutenant and dental officer.  “We gave thanks and settled in for a relatively stable and exciting two years,” Perry said.  (In the following weeks, life in Missouri for the First Lieutenant and his family.)

An October 1959 photograph shows four classmates (four other classmates are not pictured) from the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry, Class of September 1959, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.  “Eight classmates entered Army active duty at the same time and we began Medical Department Basic Training together only two weeks after graduation,” Perry said.

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