By JOE LOFARO
Special to the Press
MARTIN — He started working at Martin High School; he remembers the name change to Westview High School; and he witnessed the construction of a brand new building on Stella Ruth Road. Now, after 45 years of service to the Weakley County Board of Education, he will retire as the principal of Westview High School on Highway 45.
He is David Byars and he said after this current school year comes to a close in a just a few short weeks he will retire. He recently told the Westview faculty and sent a letter to Weakley County Schools Superintendent Randy Frazier.
Byars, 68, said he is retiring at the end of the year because the time is right. “I am 68 years old and in pretty good health. In 10 years I will be 78. So, if I get out now, I can still do the things I want to do. If I want to cut hay or do whatever then I can do it.”
Byars graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 1967. He spent a year as a graduate assistant in the Knox County school system before returning to Weakley County. He was certified to teach health, physical education and social studies.
Byars was set to return to Weakley County as an assistant football coach to James Gray, but Gray left to become an assistant at UT Martin. However, Byars was an assistant football coach to Jimmy Dunn his first year back in the county, 1968.
In 1969, Byars was asked to coach girls’ basketball at Martin High School. His team won two games. “I told them if I was going to do this, I had no intentions on coaching one year and being done,” Byars said. “So, I did it again. We went about .500 that year.”
Through the years, Byars and his Westview High School team became competitive. “We would get a little better each year,” he said. “We had players such as Rita Faye Windom, Star Hatler and Julia White Brundige, and our biggest rival was Obion County Central coached by Elvin Hatch.
Westview advanced to the district quarterfinals three consecutive years, from 1974-77. In 1977, the team finished second in the district and advanced to the regional semifinals. Under the direction of Byars in 1978-79, the team went 18-7 and won the district. The team advanced to the regional quarterfinals.
In 1979, Westview upped the bar. The team finished with a 28-3 record and won both the district and the regional and advanced to the substate.
Westview made three consecutive trips to the substate between 1980-82 and compiled an 84-12 won-loss record.
The 1982-83 season started off slowly. Byars had to overcome the loss of nine players from the 1981-82 season, which went 29-4 and won the district and finished second in the region. The team also endured five consecutive losses. Westview racked up a 21-12 season and advanced to the Region 17-AA tournament, where it suffered a loss to the McNairy County Bobkittens.
There was an opening for the Westview High School principal’s job after Robert Conley’s departure.
The local school board had to decide who the new principal would be, Dunn or Byars. The first vote ended in a 2-2 deadlock.
“We had gone to Florida and then to Dallas to visit a relative, and I was in constant contact to find out if I got the job or not,” Byars said.
Editor’s Note – Part II of this feature will run in Thursday’s Weakley County Press.
Published in The WCP 4.30.13