Tag Archives: Monty Pope

A Historical Reunion

26 Mar

On Sunday, the memorial service was held for Monty Pope. You have read about him a couple of times on this blog and, hopefully, got a glimpse of what he meant to the people he encountered. In fact, hundreds of those people attended.

Looking around the room, I noticed that many of them were graduates of our history program who had traveled from great distances. Then, it hit me. Not all of the history graduates knew each other. The crowd consisted of people who took the same classes from the same teachers but never crossed paths.

Obviously, I realized that there are different generations of students, but it had never hit me like it did that day. Heck, the other two history teachers did not even know who many of the former students because those students predated them.

I am not sure where I am going with this, but it brought a few things to mind. First, it was great that they thought enough of Monty to be there. Second, I have been teaching for a long time. Third, we should have a history graduate reunion to let these people meet each other.Reunion

I have no idea if anyone would show up, but it would be interesting to hear them exchange stories. It would also be cool to know where they are and what they are doing.

The Best History Teacher I Have Ever Known

14 Mar

When the news came, I was going through a stack of documents in a local history museum. At first, it felt like the appropriate place to be.

Monty Pope – my friend and my mentor – had passed away.Monty Pope

Several months ago, I wrote a post about his influence on my life. It did not nearly say enough, but I hope you will read it. Hopefully, it will give you some idea of how great a man he was.

A few days ago, my colleague wrote a heartfelt tribute to Monty. I hope you will also read his thoughtful words.

After hearing of Monty’s passing, the feeling hit that I needed to be somewhere else. Yes, I was surrounded by history, a subject that Monty loved, but, selfishly, I needed one more moment with him. This was not the place for that.

That is when I decided to go to school, the place where Monty positively influenced thousands of people. I went to one of the classrooms where we both have taught dozens of classes and sat in one of the chairs.

That is where the realization came that future students will not have the good fortune of those who came before. We will tell them the same history that they would have heard from Monty, but they will not be recipients of his kindness, his caring and his devotion.

I, like thousands of others, am fortunate to have known Monty and been taught by him. Hopefully, I can honor him by being the best history teacher that I can possibly be. However, I will never reach my goal of being as good as him.

Monty Pope was the best history teacher and one of the best people I have ever known.

The Man From Little Cedar Lick

10 Jul

I have been reading Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne. As you can tell by its title, historians like long titles, and it is about the Comanche.

It is a great book filled with information that I already knew and a lot of information that I had never read before. There are names of interesting people on both sides of the struggle between the Comanche and those encroaching on their territory. These are people who fought for what they thought was right and may have been well-known in their day. However, many of them have faded from history.

I am far from finished with the book, but one name has already stood out. John Coffee Hays is described as the greatest of all Texas Rangers. In fact, he is the one who taught the rest how to do their jobs. His exploits provide great reading, but a tidbit about his early life is what intrigued me.John Coffee Hays

Hays was born in Little Cedar Lick, Tennessee. When I read about his birthplace, a small memory crept to the front of my mind. Several years ago, I was speaking at Rotary about Tennesseans who became famous in the American West. I mentioned the obvious ones like Sam Houston and David Crockett. However, I also talked about John Chisum, Clay Allison and Peter Burnett.

When the presentation ended, a man in the back asked if I knew anything about the guy from Wilson County who became a Texas Ranger. At the time, I did not know anything about him, but this book may have made the introduction.

Like all great investigators, I did a Google search and discovered that John Coffee Hays was born in Wilson County. I also discovered that all of the sites that have information about Hays must have been copied from the same source. Almost all of them were word for word duplicates. The only differences were about his relationship with Andrew Jackson.

I read that his grandfather sold Jackson the land that would become the Hermitage. There was also the story of Jackson being John’s uncle. Also, his father fought with Jackson during the War of 1812. Oh yeah, another said that John spent many days at the Hermitage.

All of that may be true, but, around here, everyone wants to be connected to Jackson. If your ancestors lived in this area while Jackson was alive, then they were best friends. If your name is Jackson, then you are descended from him, which would be difficult since he did not have children.

I will have to ask my colleague, who has a great blog called Jacksonian America and who is one of the leading experts on Andrew Jackson.

Then, I remembered that I know someone named Hays. I sent a text to Nick Hays, who is running for County Trustee, and asked if he was related to John Coffee Hays. He replied that he was, but the family did not have much information on him. He learned most about him from Monty Pope. On the first day he walked into Monty’s class, he asked Nick if he knew about the Hays who became a Texas Ranger.

By the way, if you live in Wilson County be sure to vote for Nick.

As I read about Hays, I began to wonder about the place where he was born. I have lived here all of my life and have heard many stories about its history, but I have never heard of Little Cedar Lick. I thought about asking the folks at the Wilson County Archives, but I do not have much faith in them these days.

Instead, I went to good old Google. Man, that thing is as handy as a pocket on a shirt. All I found was Little Cedar Lick Church. With nothing else to go on, I drove to the location. It was on a road that I had never been on, and I had no idea what to expect. The picture in my mind was of a little country church.

Instead, I found this.image-3

I have no idea if this is the same area where John Coffee Hays was born. I only know that he was born in Wilson County and made his name as a Texas Ranger. Then, he moved to California and became the sheriff of San Francisco before being one of the founders of Oakland.

Throughout all of that, Hays may have looked back and remembered Little Cedar Lick, but I am afraid that place may have disappeared through the ages.


Monty Pope – Teacher and Mentor

18 Jun

A few days ago, I had lunch with Monty Pope. Most of you have never heard that name, but please allow me to introduce him. Monty recently retired from a long career teaching history that began in the public schools of Nashville and ended at Cumberland University.

I was working on a Master’s degree when I first met Monty. He was offering a class on Historical Geography, and I needed to fulfill some hours. It turned into a class that I will always remember. Monty took us on a tour of the town that I grew up in and, through architectural styles, showed us when and how the town developed. Riding on that van, I had no idea that Monty and I would teach together for over a decade.Monty Pope

When I was hired, I did not know what I was doing. I had never taught a class. I had never made out a syllabus. I had no notes from which to lecture. Luckily, Monty was there to be a mentor and show me the way. Simply, he taught me how to teach.

Monty taught me that there is more to the job than talking about history in a classroom. We are to be mentors to the students just as he was a mentor to me. We are to help students when they have problems. We are to be advisors and counselors.

As I type those words, something should be clear. Certainly, we are to be academic advisors and counselors, but we are to be ready to face other issues. What do we do when a student comes to us crying because a family member has passed away? What do we do when a student is pregnant and expecting during finals week? What do we do when a student asks for advice because they lost their job?

Monty taught me that we advise students in history, but we also advise them in life. Monty taught me that we should go by the book, but, sometimes, situations arise that the book does not cover.

Monty taught me how to teach, but, more importantly, he taught me how to be a teacher.

Monty also taught me History. I have been enrolled in countless history classes, but my only class with Monty was the one I mentioned. However, I learned more History sitting in Monty’s office than I did in most of those classes.

He is a Jacksonian and knows as much about Andrew Jackson and Tennessee history as anyone. His tales of the old days in this area are fascinating. Monty can weave a historical narrative better than anyone I have ever known. His secret, perhaps, is that he never lets the facts get in the way of a good story. As I have heard many times, a Pope has been at every significant event in American history.

Monty has taught thousands of students through the years, and each one of them could write a post about him. I am certain that the vast majority of them would say the same thing. Monty was their history teacher, but he was also their mentor.