Last week, I met a group of the nicest people one would ever want to meet and they had a history that tied right in with Denison’s history and the history of the educational system in town.
They were the grandchildren and other relatives of B. McDaniel, long time superintendent of Denison Public Schools. The relatives had traveled from points across the U.S. to place the ashes of Mr. and Mrs. McDaniel’s last daughter in her final resting place at the McDaniel grave site in Fairview Cemetery in a private service.
The daughter, Helen Louise McDaniel Wolf, died Jan. 13, at the age of 98. She had been living in Carmichael, California, for many years and her family had brought her ashes to Denison to be interred at Fairview. She was born in Denison and worked for American Airlines out of LaGuardia in New York City, where she met her husband, Hal (Harold). They were married 46 years and he died in 2003. Helen was the oldest daughter and the last of the McDaniel siblings. Patti McDaniel Nogales, who also is buried at Fairview, was the youngest.
After being contacted earlier by Lynn Conreay of Raleigh, North Carolina, we had made plans to meet on Saturday at noon after the graveside service to take a group picture in front of the school that is named to honor the former superintendent. Actually this is the second school to wear his name. First was the old Denison High School that was named McDaniel Junior High when Denison High was moved into a “new” high school in 1954 on Mirick Avenue and the school became a junior high.
When that school was demolished in 2007, the name McDaniel Intermediate School for seventh and eighth graders went to the Lillis Lane-Crawford location. That’s were we gathered to meet, talk and take photos.
Among those attending were Lynn Duggan McDaniel Conreay, Diane T. McDaniel Stewart of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Sandra Gruber, daughters of Edward S. McDaniel; Tony Nogales and Patti McDaniel Nogales of Barrytown, New York, children of Patti McDaniel, one of the McDaniels’ daughters; Kris Blower of Stockton, California, and Kathy Crawford of Belgrade, Montana, nieces of Helen McDaniel Wolf. Others attending were cousins, nieces and nephews and great-grandchildren.
Whoever coordinated this group getting together at one time must have been a real organizer, but coming to say goodbye to the McDaniels’ last child was an appropriate time for the effort to come and see the McDaniel resting place and the school that now wears his name.
When Lynn contacted me, she was seeking information about the McDaniels that none of the family had. I went to Volume I of the Grayson County History Book that was published in 1979 by Grayson County Frontier Village to see whether, by chance, there was a family history there. Sure enough, there was, and it just happened to be written by Helen McDaniel Wolf, the ancestor they were going to be here to bury. I also sent her information from the book, “Two Schools on Main Street” that Mavis Bryant and I wrote in 2007. The relatives were anxious to see the book with Mr. McDaniel on the cover and the chapter of information about him inside.
McDaniel was born on the family farm near Trenton in 1886. His father was the leading citizen of Pilot Grove. He attended Chapel Hill, a one room school nearby and Trenton High School through the ninth grade before going to a private preparatory school for Annapolis, then two years at the Naval Academy. He then returned to Texas to begin his teaching career and to court his future wife, a primary teacher. In June 1909, he took the step that led to his lifetime in Denison. When he was en route for an interview, he had to change trains in Denison and ran into a friend here who suggested he check about a teaching position here. After speaking with W.S. Hibbard, president of the school board, and F.B. Hughes, the superintendent at the time, he was employed as a math teacher for the junior and senior classes.
That year, he married a Blossom teacher, Miss Patti Duggan and the young couple moved into an apartment in the 900 block of West Gandy until they purchased a home in 1912 at 1115 West Gandy, where they lived the rest of their lives. Their children were Lewis Tillman McDaniel; Gordon Duggan McDaniel, who died in the service of his country in 1943; Helen Louise McDaniel Wolf; Edward Stuart McDaniel; and Patti Bernice McDaniel.
In 1909, the school in Denison was crowded and students were very high spirited, so it took a man like McDaniel to establish the rapport and discipline necessary for mutual respect and education, his daughter wrote. Another thing that Mrs. Wolf wrote in her history was that her dad never turned his back to the students. In the middle of his second year, the high school principal resigned and he was elected to become principal in 1911. As the enrollment grew, his time was spent more with administration but he never lost close touch with the students.
He continued his personal education by attending Austin College and earning a bachelor’s and master’s at the University of Texas in 1937. Then when Mr. Hughes resigned, he became the new superintendent of Denison Schools.
Mrs. Wolf wrote that when he approached the mandatory retirement age of 65, the school board was reluctant to give him up with all his experience, so after some discussion they extended the mandatory retirement to 70. He agreed only if the other teachers got the same opportunity to stay until 70. Earlier, he had been offered a raise and he turned it down because the teachers couldn’t be included.
In June 1956, after the new senior high on Mirick was completed and in operation, he retired. After his retirement, he was honored at the annual high school alumni reception and was given a new car.
Not to go to a rocking chair after retirement, he served as a member of the first City Council elected under the new Council Manager government and when the sale of liquor was legalized, he resigned from the council on personal principals. McDaniel Junior High was named in his honor in 1961.
As a personal note, Mr. McDaniel’s office was next to the high school principal’s office during the early 1950s when I was a student there. I remember seeing Mr. McDaniel coming and going and he always spoke. I also remember that superintendent sounded so important that we always were scared to death of him. We looked upon him as “a gentle giant of a man” who expected us to behave and learn.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at email@example.com. She has been a longtime contributor to the Herald Democrat with her bi-weekly column, which appears in the Wednesday and Sunday editions. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.