Tidbits of Shelby County History
Biographies IV

This is the last week I will publish the biographies for Miss Jim Ann Taylor’s 8th Grade Social Studies class from Center Junior High. It has been a pleasure learning more about the men and women the students chose to honor during this class project.

G. Washington Reece, Minister

Reverend G. Washington Reece, minister of B.M.S. Baptist Church in Center, Texas was born in Collins, Mississippi. His parents were uneducated, but they were good parents. He never knew the meaning of want. They were church people and taught that honesty was the best policy. He attended the public schools of Gulfport, Mississippi, grades one through twelve and then entered the U.S. Army.

He has done many things to earn a living, including public work, administrative salesman, funeral director. “I did not choose the ministry; I was chosen for the work by the Holy Spirit.” His hobbies are hunting and fishing.

There have been a lot of exciting moments in his life, but he chose the two as the most exciting ones as they were when his first son was born and when he baptized both his sons.

He has a philosophy, and it is, “The desire to please God, and to serve my fellowman. Love thy neighbor as thyself. To thine own self be true, then to no one can you be false.” Rev. Reese was asked what advice he would give teenagers and he replied, “Keep your body physically fit, be mentally alert, and be spiritually sound. Create a set of values and strive to attain them.” He also reminded us that in the midst of changing cultural and sociological values, we should learn to appreciate the true worth of every person. Avoid hatred and strife, be law abiding, even though it may be a bad law. Live within the law and should it be grievous, work until the frame of due process to change it.

Some of the organizations he is a member of are:  National Association for the Advancement of People, Master Mason, Disabled American Veterans, and the National Convention U.S.A., Inc. Baptist. He has also been honored by the following:  President of the Interdenominational Alliance of Ministers, Center, Texas (Black), Nominated as Many of the Year, 1965, Marshall, Texas, Charter member of the Harrison Panola Community Action Association, serving in various offices in this.

Rev. Reese has acquired a very thorough education. He received his Master of Theology from the American Baptist Theological Seminary, Nashville, Tennessee. Other studies include the University of Oklahoma at Norman, Honorary Doctor of Divinity, Ministerial Institute and College, West Point, Mississippi, while serving as Dean of religious studies. He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in the European Theater in 1944-45.  Written by Mae Dean Patton.

Chester Holt

Mr. Holt was born in the Short Community in Shelby County on December 17, 1894. He was a teacher for many years in the rural schools in Shelby County and is now retired.

During Mr. Holt’s childhood, living conditions were poor, even though he had very good parents His one real problem was to overcome the handicap that had befallen him since birth. He did this quite well. He went to a one teacher rural school and then on to high school and college. His brother loaned him enough money to get through school. He paid it back and no one has put any more money out on him or bought him anything since he was 16 years old.

Some people may ask how and why he chose to become a teacher. He said that back then there were only two main jobs available to a handicapped person, so he chose to become a teacher. And a very good choice it was, too, because he became an excellent one. He grew to accept his handicap and to overcome it.

Mr. Holt says that the most thrilling moment in life to him was when he received his B.S. degree from college. He had proven that by no means was he so physically handicapped that he couldn’t be as normal as anyone else.

His philosophy is life as always been “try and you can do anything,” and he certainly has. His advice to other teenagers is “no matter what, please finish high school and college if you can.” After what he has been through, to do just this, I think, is a privilege for me.

Mr. Holt won with his teammate in high school, a gold medal in the District Debating Contest. He attended Center High School and Stephen F. Austin College and served as County Clerk in Shelby County from 1918 to 1922.

The most important hobbies Mr. Holt enjoys are hunting, fishing and wood carving and he entered a chair in a bottle in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” in 1936. His bottles are widespread all over the state including the Texas Educational Department in Austin, Texas.

The most important thing about Chester Holt is that he never really had a handicap. He can do anything any other man his age can do. He can drive, fish, hunt, and work in the garden. He places wooden straps on the things he uses, such as hoes, rakes, brooms, and even has invented and carved his own wooden leg. He has made it so that if one-part wears thin and he is afraid to use it, he can replace it without having to make a whole new one. He can even shoot a gun. Surprised? Don’t be. All he does is file the trigger guard to the point where he can reach the trigger. Yes, he is very remarkable man indeed.   Written by Lynn Lock (Mr. Holt died in 1984. He and his wife Ella W. Holt are buried at Oaklawn Memorial Park, Center, Texas)

Mr. Jim Hayes

This story is of a great citizen, whose name you may never hear outside of Shelby County, is that of Mr. Jim Hayes. I know that most of you will read this know him, but for those who don’t, he is a science teacher at Center Junior High.

Born in Center, Texas to Mr. and Mrs. Bittick Hayes, he had a good family life and living conditions as a child. He had one brother. Everyone in his family believed in working for a living. His parents had a small business, but it was enough to send him to High School and College.

The reason why he chose teaching was because it was the best job he could find. His hobbies are music, swimming, and cattle raising. He loved to teach.

The most exciting moment in his life was when he finished high school.

His philosophy is that everybody has to learn to work to contribute to society. Also, one has tolearn to abide by the rules of society and government to find his place. The advice he has for teenagers is to finish high school and college if possible. Try to help somebody and get along with your fellow man. “Learn to work!”

Mr. Hayes was organist at the Methodist Church for 30 years. He served in the Air Force overseas during World War II. He received his B.A and M. Ed. Degrees from SFA University. He also attended North Texas University and Panola College.  Written by Patricia Washington  (Jim Hayes died in 1994 and is buried in Oaklawn Memorial Park, Center, Texas)

James William Forbes

My daddy is the weatherman of Center. He also works for the Soil Conservation Service, which is his main job. He fixes boat motors and other mechanical parts at Center Marine. He is a guide on Toledo Bend for the fisherman and he keeps me in order.

He was born at Mt. Ida, Arkansas and lived there until he was about a year old. He had a good childhood. He was an only child.

His education was good. He played football most of his high school years. In his Senior year he was in “Who’s Who” at Mena High. He got the honors of Wittiest, Biggest Flirt, and he and mother got the Cutest Couple.

The most rewarding time in his life was the six months he spent in the hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia where he was placed when he shattered his spine when he fell from the top of a tree. He acquired many new friends and met many people. He said this experience was rewarding because he gained an appreciation for people and everyday things, we all take for granted.

The most exciting moment of his life was when he was a Smoke Jumper and made his first parachute jump. He was only 18 years old at that time.

His philosophy through life is the “Do things for others without expecting or wanting anything in return.” The only advice he could give teenagers today is “Be a great listener.”  Written by Janet Forbes (James Forbes was born in 1935 and died in 2016. After his death, his wife, Virginia Ann Forbes, continued to gather the weather statics for Shelby County until her death in 2019. They are both buried in Oaklawn Memorial Park, Center, Texas.)

Dr. Joe B. Hooker

Dr. Joe Ben Hooker is a Doctor of Medicine who works at the Center Memorial Hospital and the Memorial Clinic in Center, Texas.

He was born in Galatia, Illinois into a very poor family. He wore patched clothing to school. He and his two brothers and one sister had excellent family relations and excellent parental guidance. His mother was sick quite often. They had most necessities and few luxuries. They always got something for their birthdays and at Christmastime, usually one item. He worked at odd jobs and from the time he was eight years old, he carried a paper route for spending money. He was buying his own clothes when he was fourteen. In his senior year of high school, he was in United States Navy. He worked in a hospital corps school, for which he received his high school diploma. He got his Bachelor of Science and Pharmacy degree by working his way through the University of Florida. After that, he worked eight years as a pharmacist and saved $10,000. With that, he went to medical school. He was a graduate of 1963.

Dr. Hooker had planned to be a doctor from the time he was four years old, but he met many obstacles and discouragements along the way.

Dr. Hooker enjoys quail hunting and singing in the church choir. His most rewarding moments were when he got married and when he got his medical degree. All his life he has followed a verse from the Bible which he firmly believes in:  “For all things work together for good to those who love the Lord.”

Upon inquiry of what advice, he would give to teenagers today, Dr. Hooker hesitated several long moments and then replied, “The mark of maturity. The cardinal sign of approaching adulthood is not in conforming to the teenage code of rejecting adult authority, but in learning to discipline oneself, learning to work for rewards, and understanding that for every pleasure there is a price.” He furthered his statement by, “Obtain the maximum of education and/or training which you are capable of absorbing. Remember you will not always have your parents to advice, correct, and reimburse you, and otherwise help you over the rough spots.”

Dr. Hooker is an active member of the First Baptist Church and the Masonic Lodge, including all the masonic bodies through the Shrine. He also belongs to the Lions Club, Texas Medical Association and American Medical Association. He has been president of the Shelby County Medical Society and is presently the secretary. He has also been the Chief of the Medical Staff at Memorial Hospital and is an ordained Baptist deacon.

Dr. Hooker got his Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree at the University of Florida. He did his graduate work at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. And finally, the ultimate – at the University of Tennessee in Memphis – his degree. His dream had come true. He was a Doctor of Medicine.  Written by Sharon Hooker  (Dr. Joe B. Hooker died in 2013 and he is buried in Oaklawn Memorial Park, Center, Texas.)