Bagwell entertains fellow Knoxville High grads at reunion

Betsy PickleOur Town Neighbors

Alumni of Knoxville High School celebrated the accomplishments of eight fellow graduates at the 2019 All-Class Reunion & Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Saturday, May 4, at Bearden Banquet Hall.

About 120 alums and guests attended the reunion, which evolved from a 2010 event at the Tennessee Theatre celebrating the 100th anniversary of the opening of the school at 101 E. Fifth Ave. The Knoxville High School Alumni Association created the Hall of Fame in 2010 and selected 100 alumni for the honor. Afterward, they looked at all the notable alums who had been omitted and decided to add more honorees yearly.

They have met for the reunion and induction ceremony eight of the past nine years and look forward to getting together again in 2020.

They will have a hard time topping their speaker for 2019. Advertising and television production veteran Ross Bagwell Sr. – who graduated in the final KHS class in 1951 – regaled the crowd with stories from his colorful career in show business.

From getting his foot in the door as an NBC page working on “The Howdy Doody Show” to making life smooth for western movie icons Roy Rogers and Gene Autry to interviewing Vernon Presley the day after Elvis Presley’s death, Bagwell’s tales were riveting. He might even have changed some minds about Frank Sinatra (for the better) and Lucille Ball (for the worse).

The KHSAA president, Harvey Sproul, and vice president, Wayne Smith, handled the induction duties. Nancy Sterchi Montgomery, class of 1947, was the only one of the inductees there to speak for herself. The civic leader and former tennis champ seemed humbled by the honor.

Family members accepted the medallions and certificates for the other seven, who were all honored posthumously. Their memories and anecdotes about their loved ones were alternately amusing, moving and uplifting. The other inductees were:

Robert Crossley ’46, attorney; Helen Baker Dance ’51, civic leader; Rev. Moses Beecher Dunsmore ’49, United Methodist minister and administrator; Anne Dean Farmer McWhirter ’45, civic leader; Ed “Britches” Montgomery ’44, University of Tennessee basketball Hall of Famer; Robert Lee Neff ’49, renowned high school teacher, track coach and co-founder of the Knoxville Track Club; and Hal C. Nichols, engineer and civic leader.


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