Collection Title: Jackson Purchase Oral History Project – Schools and Education
Series Number: OH260
Interviewee: Mathis, Howitt Conway, Sr.
Interviewer: Bates, Mary J.
Date interviewed: No date provided.
Processed by: O’Daniel, Hannah
Date processed: March 25, 2014
Description: 1 sound disc (38 minutes)
Abstract: H. C. Mathis began the interview by briefly chronicling his early life in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, college education in Tennessee and teaching career in Muhlenberg County. He discussed his experiences as the president, superintendent, and director of West Kentucky Vocational Technical School at Paducah, Kentucky and the expansion of the institution during his seventeen year term. He cited the expansion of job opportunities in the Jackson Purchase for graduates of West Kentucky Vocation Technical School as a major social and economic change during the 1950s and 1960s. He mentioned the significance of United Steelworkers of America v. Weber for the continuance of affirmative action programs and his support for such programs. He recounted local and subsequent federal programs to improve urban neighborhoods in Paducah and the role of West Kentucky students in providing volunteer labor for the projects. On the issue of African Americans maintaining separate churches after desegregation of education and other areas of public life, Mathis remarked that churches are central to the survival of the of black community and that the maintenance of separate churches is not a hindrance to equality. He discussed his pride in how West Kentucky expanded under his administration. He concluded the interview by describing how he learned about West Kentucky Vocational Technical School and was encouraged to apply for what would be his future administrative position at the school.
Biographical / Historical note: Howitt Conway Mathis, Sr. was born on January 2, 1912 in Greenville, Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. His parents, John Robert and Maggie Edwards Mathis, raised him in Greenville where he attended the segregated schools. He later attended and graduated from Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial University in Nashville, Tennessee. He subsequently returned to Muhlenberg County, where he taught and served as a principal at the elementary and high school levels. His wife was Eloise Walker Mathis, with who he had at least one son, Howitt C. Mathis, Jr. In 1957, he and his family moved to Paducah where he was appointed as the director of West Kentucky Vocational Technical School. He served as an administrator at West Kentucky for seventeen years. Mathis died on May 12, 1986 in Rochester, Minnesota and was buried in his hometown of Greenville, Kentucky.
General information: No user access to original recordings. Use audio user copies, digital derivatives, transcripts, and/or tape indexes. This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code). Permission for reproduction must be requested from Murray State University.