By Ralphine Major
I thought by not opening my e-mail, it would in some way discard the news I did not want to hear. But, I opened the message and read its contents: “Tommy passed away.” My mind began flashing back to the times I had seen Tommy Everette through the years—on the ball court, in the high school classroom, and riding his tractor up the road.
For some reason, I always “see” Tommy walking up the hall from the lunchroom with the late Edgar J. House. Tommy towered well above Mr. House, the long-time Gibbs High School business teacher. He had been Tommy’s teacher when he was a student. After Tommy graduated from Carson-Newman, he passed on an offer to play pro basketball in the NBA. He was a young father and chose to come back to his alma mater to teach and coach, beginning a long and successful career in education.
Some may remember Tommy best as the tall center on Coach Bob Dagley’s amazing ‘65 Gibbs Eagles’ basketball team. He certainly was a huge help to me in sharing the Eagles’ story. Tommy appeared in several of my Focus columns, “Standing Tall on the Court.” Our visits to his farm and my frequent phone conversations with him are times I will treasure. The All-American from Carson-Newman will always bring back great memories of basketball, but Tommy’s influence went well beyond the ball court. He spent thirty-one years with Knox County Schools, twenty of those as Principal of Karns High School. Though he and his wife, Carolyn (also a retired teacher) made their home in the community where they went to high school, Tommy made an impact well beyond the boundaries of the Gibbs and Corryton Communities. One teacher told me she worked under Tommy’s leadership for thirteen years, and he was the best boss she had ever had!
Tommy was much loved and respected. The receiving line at the funeral home extended outside the building, everyone there to celebrate a remarkable life now gone. Inside, a beautiful and touching display of pictures, ball caps, and tapestries acknowledged the two Eagles’ teams for which Tommy helped to create so many memories. While Tommy made his mark on the court, he made his mark in education, too. Tommy received the distinguished Governor’s Award for Principal of the Year. The award was there for everyone to see. Carolyn was so gracious in her grief. “He had so much fun with the basketball stories,” she told me. I had fun, too. It has been such a joy for me to share about Tommy and the team.
Tommy’s work here on earth is done. Ours is not. I do not know if there are basketball courts in heaven; but if there are, I think that is where Tommy would likely be—-Standing Tall!