Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Choestoe man was outstanding educator The Career of Norman Vester Dyer

Telling his father that he did not want to farm, but rather to teach, and that the mule he was given by his father would be sold and used for education proved to be a good move for the enterprising Norman Vester Dyer (March 10, 1885 - December 28, 1968).

This seventh of fifteen children born to Bluford Elisha Dyer (1855-1926) and Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer (1857-1959) found ways, besides the sale of his mule for $150.00, to earn his education.

After he graduated from Hiawassee Academy, he took the state teacher's licensing test and earned a first grade certificate. He got a position for a year teaching in the Green School eight miles from Gray, Georgia. Following that year of an eight-month school year, with his earnings $50 per month, he went to Mercer University in Macon to continue his own education. He, with his father's signature, borrowed $250 from Mr. Pat Haralson, lawyer, in Blairsville to go to Mercer his first year. Alternately teaching and going to school, he earned his bachelor's degree from Mercer and repaid all the money he had borrowed for college. Later, mainly by attending summer sessions (seven summers in all, he states in his memoirs), he earned the Master of Education degree from the University of Georgia. It was from Mt. Vernon University in Virginia that he received the doctorate degree. Mercer University, his alma mater, awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Back in the days when an educator was both a classroom teacher and a principal, Vester Dyer found himself serving in several Georgia towns. Among these towns were Lily (near Vienna), Milner, Luthersville, Fairburn, Blairsville, Eastanollee, Dawsonville and Summerville. He was principal of Cornelia High School and county school superintendent in Habersham County at Cornelia for eleven years. His retirement came after eleven years as principal of Villa Rica High School. Altogether, he served forty six years as a teacher, principal or superintendent of schools.

Other than teaching in country schools in Union County, his stint as an administrator in Blairsville was as president of the Blairsville Collegiate Institute. A school begun by the Notla River Baptist Association and supported in part also by the Georgia Baptist Convention and the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, the school was the only high school then in Union County. N. V. Dyer's term as president was in the 1920's, prior to the schools being taken over as a public high school by the Union County Board of Education. In his memoirs, Mr. Dyer says of his work as president of Blairsville Collegiate Institute: "Since it was a church school, I was expected to visit the churches of the county, make religious talks, and fill the place of a missionary as well as carry on the work of the school. I found the students exceptionally interested in the school work, and had very few disciplinary problems." (p. 47, "Fugitive from a Georgia Schoolhouse.").

Following his term at the Blairsville Collegiate Institute, Mr. Dyer moved on to Cornelia as superintendent (or principal) of the public school there.

On June 17, 1915, Norman Vester Dyer married Ruthie Jane Self. She was a teacher at Young Harris, in the elementary and/or academy division of the college. It was there that Dr. J. A. Sharp, president of the college, performed the marriage ceremony for the couple in the college parlor. She was a daughter of Cicero Self and Sarah Lance Self.

Three daughters would be born to this couple, Sarah Ruth on March 14, 1919 in Luthersville, Georgia, and identical twin daughters, Betty Jean and Mary Helen in Cornelia, Georgia on May 26, 1926.

Dr. Mauney Douglas Collins (1885 - 1957) was born the same year as Dr. Norman Vester Dyer. Both Choestoe lads, their careers in education would parallel. Dr. Collins served as state superintendent of Georgia schools from 1933-1957, a total of twenty-five years, during times of great change. These two were friends and associates from their boyhood together at Choestoe throughout their long careers as educators. Dr. Collins wrote the foreword to Dyer's book of memoirs, "Fugitive from a Georgia Schoolhouse": "He (Dyer) has touched for good the lives of hundreds of young Georgians, and encouraged them to get the education that would make them more valuable citizens of their native state."

Is that not the aim of education— touching lives, producing valuable citizens?

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published October 23, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

NOTE: this article was originally Oct. 16, 2008 but was deferred by the newspaper.

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