Dec 18 2012
08:07 am

Long time educator dies at 84.

He was the principal at South when I attended there. Mr. Kelley and Mr. Scott, the vice principal (and former Marine), were like the good cop/bad cop. If you got called to Mr. Kelley's office it was usually a good thing. If you had to go see Mr. Scott there was a chance you'd get your britches dusted. They were both really good people who cared about their students and mostly kept us out of trouble.

Mike Cohen's picture

Dr. Paul Kelley

I was fortunate to be the school system's PR guy while Dr. Kelley was on the board.

He was someone who believed in education, believed in doing the right thing, was constantly supportive of principals and teachers (and always brought them up when discussing any issue) and cared deeply about the system.

We are better off as a community for having Dr. Kelley's commitment to public service. My thoughts and prayers are very much with his family.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


I am so very sorry to hear this.

In the year I first ceased work outside the home in order to be more involved in my childrens’ chools, it was Dr. Kelley more than anyone else whom I pestered with questions by phone.

Although my community was then split into three school board voting districts--and thus served by three different school board members--Dr. Kelley was the representative I could always depend on catching at home and on giving me probably a half-hour with every call.

I did not originally understand that this was in part due to his domestic responsibility to care for his ailing wife, of which he never spoke.

I will most remember Dr. Kelley--who invited me to call him "Paul" but it just seemed disrespectful--as the foremost champion for overturning our school system's hurtful and ineffective "zero tolerance policy."

It was after the suicide of a KCS high school student unable to overcome the errant policy's sweeping effects on his life after being expelled that a deeply troubled Dr. Kelley took up his quiet campaign.

I say "quiet" because, as you may recall, after lengthy discourse on the subject of revamping the policy failed, Dr. Kelley took to wearing to every school board meeting a sweatshirt he had had printed which read simply "End Zero Tolerance Now" (which ultimately the school system did).

"Quiet" was his way in every debate. His admirers will also recall his habit of addressing his colleagues as "Mr. Miller" or "Mrs. Jablonski," rather than by their first names, in his effort to always afford his peers the respect he believed their opinions deserved--even if his own opinion differed. What a gentleman he was.

I am so pleased that the school system was able to honor his life’s work in naming for him, before he passed, its Dr. Paul Kelley Volunteer Academy at Knoxville Center Mall.

For whom else could they have named this institution established for the express purpose of affording youth a second chance?

Mike Cohen's picture


You are right...he was Dr. Kelley.

Rachel's picture

Dr. Kelley was a true

Dr. Kelley was a true gentleman and a force for much good in this community. Knoxville is less without him.

My condolences to his family.

Bbeanster's picture

I don't want to step on the

I don't want to step on the column I'm writing about Dr. Kelley, but he was always a champion of LGBT kids, too.
He consistently fought for underdogs and cared about all kids.

Tamara Shepherd's picture


He consistently fought for underdogs and cared about all kids.

Through the raucous debate in 2002 over a state income tax, Dr. Kelley, whom I'd characterize as a "moderate" Republican, was a member of and donor to Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, the statewide organization promoting the tax (and on whose local organizing committee I then served).

He was "rare" in many ways.

Jess Worthington's picture

Dr. Kelley

I was a student of both Mr. Kelley and Mrs. Kelley was my home room teacher in the late 60's. With my many years of military service and several years in the DC area, I have not had the pleasure of recent personal contact with either of them. For that I am deeply sorry. They were both absolutely phenomenal teachers and great human beings and am honored to have known them both. I extend my deepest condolances.

Bbeanster's picture

Norma Kelley is a pistol.

Norma Kelley is a pistol. She's about big as a minute and would fight a bear with a switch. I saw her sit R. Larry Smith down one night when he came to an Oakwood/Lincoln park meeting and tried to take over a school board candidates' forum by demanding to know everyone's political affiliation. Norma told him that school board races are non-partisan and that he was NOT welcome to crash a neighborhood meeting and derail the debate. He stammered and huffed a bit, but ended up doing just as she instructed him -- sitting down and shutting up.

She should probably be running more stuff around here.

R. Neal's picture

In case you missed it

Tamara Shepherd's picture


Monday having been a busy Christmas Eve around here, I did miss it...

That was a wonderful tribute, Betty. Thanks.

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