Donal Gilstrap, a first-time nominee, was most known for his position as Howe High School principal during three different decades. While also serving as the elementary and middle school principal, it was his gentle yet stern approach to leadership that won his respect among students and peers. Gilstrap grew up picking cotton in the 1940s and was not able to attend school until all of the cotton was picked, which was usually around November. His mother had a sixth-grade education and his father received no education at all, but he was a hard worker. Strength was a family trait as Gilstrap used his ability in football to earn a college degree at Hardin-Simmons University. Post college, he spent four years in the Army including a free vacation to Korea. While stationed at Lawton, Oklahoma, he met the love of his life Barbara whom he married in 1959. Together, they had two children, Catherine and Patrick. He was recruited to Howe by six school board members who drove to Lubbock to recruit him.
Jean Norman, nominated for the second straight year. She will go down in Howe history in much of the same regards as Mame Roberts and Norma Wallace – a truly iconic figure among all of Howe’s finest ladies. Her fingerprints of leadership are seen throughout the community from Bonham to Dorchester and especially from Ponderosa to Farmington. She was instrumental in forming the Howe Public Library and eventually the Howe Community Library. Her leadership helped breathe life into the former Howe First Christian Church, not once but twice. Norman was a key member of the foundation and the formation of the Howe Historical Society in the 1980s and 90s and renovated the church previously to house a museum. Serving most recently as president of the Save the Church organization, the group has raised enough money to transform one of Howe’s oldest buildings into a beautiful wedding venue. The longtime school teacher has also been a longtime member and church leader at the First Baptist Church of Howe. She was named the 1992 Norma J. Wallace Citizen of the Year and 25 years later was nominated once again for the award.
J.J. Chisum, nominated for the second straight year, was perhaps the most loved man in Howe from the time he opened Chisum’s One Stop Grocery Store in July of 1957. He was called the “One-Man- Chamber of Commerce” as he helped give information to anyone that asked. Mr. Chisum often ran open tickets for families knowing well he would never get paid. His response was always that he couldn’t stand to see anyone not have food on their table. Mr. Chisum was the Norma J. Wallace Citizen of the Year in 1985.
Bob Walker, most known for operating the Howe Enterprise. He put out a weekly publication for 421 consecutive weeks from 1966 to 1974. He was instrumental in reforming the Howe Chamber of Commerce in 1972 and served as the chairman of the Howe Centennial Committee which was a week-long festival and celebration of the city and its fine history. He was elected as the Howe Chamber of Commerce President in the 1970s which saw the volunteer organization run at its full peak of operation at that time. Mr. Walker also served on the Planning and Zoning Commission of Howe. After selling the Howe Enterprise, he went on to own and operate Allied Office Supply in Downtown Howe for a number of years until his retirement in 1989.
Steve Simmons came to Howe in 1987 as a coach for Howe ISD. His motivating nature has inspired a couple of thousand kids and adults to be highly motivated, truly dedicated as well as rough and tough. Perhaps no one in Howe’s history has held so much pride and love for their community and the children of Howe. He has served as the elementary physical education instructor for Howe ISD for nearly 30 years. As well as his work with children, he’s also been a varsity football, powerlifting and baseball coach and junior varsity basketball coach. As a longtime member of First Baptist Church in Howe, his faith is unquenchable. It is only a matter of time before something in this town is named Steve Simmons something.
Jimmy Bearden was a longtime Howe ISD school board member as well as serving as Youth Baseball Commissioner and coach. He was a volunteer fireman as his father before him. Mr. Bearden was instrumental in bringing an all-weather track to Bulldog Stadium. As Vice President of Magni-Fab, he provided labor and materials to many local projects such as directional signs in Howe, Yard of the Month signs, backstops for ball fields, benches for dugouts. One of his last endeavors was to build a tram for the Grayson County Fair Association to carry the elderly and disabled to and from the Fair Grounds. Mr. Bearden received the Norman J. Wallace Citizen of the Year Award in 2001.
Norman Dickey was hired by Howe schools in 1964. He took a football program that was on the verge of collapsing due to the lack of willing participants and grew it to a District, Bi-District and Regional Champion team just six years later. After 12 years as head coach of the Howe Bulldogs, he holds the most wins of any football coach in school history with 51. After spending time as a coach, math teacher, counselor, interim principal, interim superintendent, and three-time interim athletic director, Dickey retired from the school district in 1996. In addition to his accomplishments, Dickey spent countless hours mowing Bulldog Stadium, working on the scoreboard, running the clock, officiating junior high games, keeping the stats and everything in between.
Elmer Schenk (1949 – ) was hired as Howe High School’s second ever band director in 1977. By the time he left Howe in 2000, he was known as one of the best band instructors in all of Texas. As early as 1979, Schenk had taken a fairly new band program and turned it into one of the most surprisingly talented marching bands in the region. By 1980, he made them the best in Texas. With a demand for perfection, his bands received over 20 Sweepstakes Awards (first division in Marching, Concert, and Sight-Reading) and were named the Class 2A TMEA Honor Band in 1986 and 2000 and was a top-five finalist three other years. His band won the UIL State Marching contest in 1980, 1995 and 1997 and was a finalist multiple other times. He is also a founding charter member of the Association of Texas Small School Bands which is an organization that has brought immeasurable recognition and opportunities for smaller school bands and their students since 1992. Though retired, he continues to mentor band directors in the area and work with band students through substitute teaching and the volunteering of his time.
Carrie Waller (1931 – ) was involved with nearly every organization that had anything to do with Howe. She became the first-ever female city council member in 1972. She was also instrumental in reorganizing the Chamber of Commerce in 1972 in time for the city’s Centennial Celebration. That year, she created the Howe city flag and the Centennial logo. As well as being the first city councilwoman and remaining for 11 straight years, she was also mayor pro-tem for nine years and acting mayor for three months. She was the director of the Howe Historical Society as well as vice president, treasurer, and reporter. She was a founding member of “Friends of the Library”, a member of XYZ Senior Citizens Club, First United Methodist Church Women and Wednesday Workers. She served as director, secretary and treasurer of the Howe Chamber of Commerce, secretary of the Howe Community Facilities Development Corporation, and a member of the Howe Transportation Policy Advisory Committee.
Ray Bledsoe (1932 – ) was a mover and shaker from the time he moved to Howe in 1964. He was voted commissioner of the Howe Youth Baseball League and immediately went to work to build a youth ballfield for the kids. He was successful in constructing A.M. Ferguson Park without using any city funds. After serving on the Howe ISD Board of Trustees and any other committee for the betterment of the school or city, Bledsoe, in 1986 became mayor of Howe. He received 80% of the vote even though he was not on the ballot. Bledsoe worked the job as if a full-time employee by working 40-60 hours per week as an unpaid mayor. Bledsoe was successful for obtaining many grants for the city and even worked a deal for a connector road from US 75 to Texas State Highway 5 now known as L.B. Kirby Ave. In 1997, Bledsoe received the National Leadership Award, given by the National Association of Small Cities. Only 300 officials in the country received this award. He was presented on the House Floor in Washington.