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Back to School: School named for determined education advocate

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, August 12, 2015
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When the fate of Rhome students was being decided by voters in Decatur, V.R. Eaton led the charge to get the area in what would become Northwest ISD.

V.R. Eaton

The efforts of the local rancher, farmer and education advocate eventually paid off, and now nearly 50 years after his death, the newest Northwest school that will open this month will bear his name. The V.R. Eaton High School on U.S. 81/287 at Willow Springs and Blue Mound roads will begin classes Aug. 25.

“It’s a great honor for dad and the entire family to have this high school named for him,” said Roy Eaton, V.R. Eaton’s son and the publisher of the Wise County Messenger.

V.R. Eaton grew up in the East Texas town of New London – the town that became known for the 1937 natural gas leak that triggered an explosion and killed 295 students and teachers.

After attending Tyler Commercial College, he moved to Fort Worth around 1934 and worked in the milk delivery business.

He settled in the Rhome area with his family on the Chisholm Trail Ranch, and his son recalled his father always being “a big believer in education.”

Eaton organized a cooperative of business leaders and agriculture community members in Rhome, Justin, Haslet, Roanoke and Fairview. The common thread was that they all faced crisis in their respective schools and desired a quality educational program.

“Mr. Eaton was among the core group who worked many hours overcoming almost unbelievable obstacles on a local and state level to make the district a reality more than a half-century ago,” said Jerhea Nail, executive director of communications and government relations at Northwest ISD.

The younger Eaton recalls specific examples of the arduous hours his father invested to realize the dream shared by so many in the community and its surroundings.

“I remember walking door-to-door in Decatur with my dad, passing out leaflets urging Decatur residents to vote against the consolidation,” he said, “They did, and that paved the way to form Northwest ISD … There were many trips to Austin at their own expense. I’m not sure the Texas Legislature or the Texas Education Agency had heard of a multi-county school district before Northwest.”

After the district was formed, V.R. served on its founding school board, which oversaw the issuing of bonds that opened a new high school in 1950 west of the Texas 114 and Farm Road 156 intersection (which now houses the district’s Special Programs Center).

He helped scout out that 40-acre tract of land that is now also dotted by NISD Stadium, baseball/softball fields, Texan Stadium, the new Northwest High School, Pike Middle School and Hatfield Elementary.

“I remember riding with my dad and then-Wise County Sheriff Carl ‘Rook’ Ramsey to inspect several possible building sites on Texas 114 to make sure the ‘safest’ location was picked,” Roy recalled. “I remember driving our farm truck to move furniture from the Justin school to the new Northwest building the summer before it opened.”

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