- Special Sections
- Public Notices
HILLSVILLE — Growing up during the Great Depression, Velma Bowman Horton worked hard to get the dimes and nickels to go school and become an educator.
As a teacher and guidance counselor, Horton did her utmost — working constantly and tirelessly — to help Carroll County students get they best education they could, too.
That’s why friends and family believe that the Velma B. Horton Memorial Scholarship is the perfect way to honor the woman who helped countless people during her 40 years in education.
Horton died at age 84 in January from injuries that arose from a vehicle accident in Dublin.
Lifelong friend Kathleen Melton explained that, because Horton faced the challenges growing up during the Depression, she could identify with the students who had it rough.
Velma, one of eight children, would work on weekends and during her spare time in the family field to grow food and then take on chores for neighbors, such as washing clothes, cooking, ironing and cleaning house for extra money.
“She might have made 10 cents or 15 — practically nothing — but it meant a lot at the time,” Melton said.
Once they left the one-room Excelsior schoolhouse they attended together, Melton and Horton had to make their own arrangements to travel to Hillsville for a time.
“There was no school bus, so we rode the mail truck,” Melton remembered. “It cost $2 a month to ride it, which we had to work out the money for.
“He had to go pick up the mail, therefore he had to go anyway. Most people didn’t have vehicles at the time so that was the only way to go.
“The next year they started running school buses, but we still had to pay the $2 — it was an extra.”
The times weren’t easy for anyone. Many young people didn’t get to go to school at all.
Melton recalled that Velma’s family raised a hog to have some meat, but someone stole it.
Velma and Kathleen would stay after school to work in the cafeteria, so they could earn their lunch.
They would clean up, mop the floors and work to earn meal tickets for the next day.
The family worked hard to earn their keep and didn’t want anybody to give them anything.
“That family always amazed me,” Kathleen Melton said. “They had it so hard but with that mother they had, they all turned out well.”
Horton and Melton both became educators, as did Velma’s sister, Hazel Horton.
Velma started teaching in 1946, making $80 a month, according to Hazel. Even as a girl, Velma always looked out for her sister, who was five years younger.
Velma always wanted to get to Excelsior School first and would hurry her sister along. Hazel remembered her sister sharpening her pencils during recess, to keep the younger girl from getting up during class.
Velma Horton taught in one-room schoolhouses around eastern Carroll County for 10 years.
Starting at Hylton school, Horton had to board at a home in Dugspur because she didn’t have a car.
“That was her first teaching experience,” Hazel Horton said. “I think it was quite an eye-opener.
During the six years Velma worked at Hillsville High School, her supervisor, a Mr. Hodges, encouraged Velma Horton to go back to school and get her masters degree in guidance.
Velma followed that advice, furthering her education while also adopting two daughters and raising them.
When she returned to school, Velma became the guidance director at Carroll County High School for 21 years until her retirement.
Harold Golding, a longtime educator, has fond memories working with Velma Horton, going back to the time when they would meet in the Goad building in Hillsville to make plans and prepare for the opening of Carroll County High School in 1969.
As they carried out the tasks, Golding remembers Velma Horton taking care of everybody else there.
As a young administrator at only 24 years old, Golding learned that Velma always gave great advice to handle challenging situations.
He considers her his mentor and a legend in Carroll County education. Velma worked extremely hard to do right by the children, putting everyone else before herself, taking armfuls of paperwork home after a long day at school.
“She was always canning and always cooking and always bringing something to school — she was a bright star everyday,” Golding remembered. “She was just a good ole educator, church-going family person.
“She was a mother to a lot of kids.”
Velma Horton influenced several people to follow in her footsteps as an educator.
Horton taught Helen Melton eighth grade English.
“She was a strict teacher, but we all learned so much in her class and had the greatest respect for her,” Helen Melton said. “English was my favorite subject, but she gave me my background in grammar and instilled in me a love of English, and I attribute my choosing a career as an English teacher to her.”
Helen Melton joined the staff at Carroll High, which caused her respect for Velma to grow even more.
“Never in all my years of teaching, nor when she was my teacher, did I ever hear anyone utter a negative word about Velma,” Helen Melton recalled. “All students, faculty, parents and staff had the greatest respect and admiration for her.”
Melton also saw that Velma worked non-stop for the students.
“She was always at CCHS by 6:45 a.m. and she never left before 5 p.m.,” Helen Melton recalled. “When she did leave, she carried stacks of work home with her to complete.”
Velma’s daughter Anita Reed remembers her mother filling the living room with school work.
“I remember when we were growing up, when they would do the schedules for the students, there would be poster boards all over the living room,” she recalled. “To do the class placements and to be sure you didn’t have too may students in one class.”
Reed used to tease her mother that, based on all the people who would come up and reminisce when out in public, that Velma either taught all of Carroll County eighth grade English or served as their guidance counselor.
“Until she passed away, students and parents continued to call her for help with college applications, scholarships and school work and advice,” Helen said. “She worked as a guidance counselor for as long as she lived.”
The children loved Velma, Kathleen Melton said. She had a way of reaching out to those who might have struggled and got them interested in their education.
If they didn’t have clothes, Velma would get some from a family with older kids and make sure they were warm.
“She just took an interest in those kids. They would flock to her.”
Velma’s life revolved around what she could do for others, Helen Melton said. She never worried about herself.
“Anyone who had faced what Velma had, the death of her husband and the tragic death of her youngest daughter, would have given up, but she continued on,” Helen Melton said. “After her daughter’s death, she devoted her life to rearing her daughter’s two children.”
Velma could identify with kids who had a hard time, Kathleen Melton said.
“Well you talk about somebody like that, you’d say nobody could be that good, but she was,” Kathleen Melton said. “The children who went to school under her would verify that — they just loved her.”
“So many people have told me they couldn’t have gone to college if it hadn’t been for her, because she got them scholarships,” Hazel Horton said. “Nothing would have pleased Velma more than to help young people get scholarships —that would have made her really happy.”
It’s an honor for the family that some one thought to do this in Velma’s memory, Reed said. “Oh, I think it’s great and the kids are ecstatic and they think it’s the most wonderful thing.”
Memories of Horton
These comments are selected out of 100 about Velma Horton from The Gazette’s online obituary guestbook.
• Brenda Beasley: "Velma Horton was a dear and special lady. She was a inspiration to me at HIS and at CCHS. She will be missed dearly. "
• Steve Anderson: “If I had to make a list of the five greatest educators I have encountered in my 34 years of teaching, she would be on that list. She was always one of the first to arrive at school and one of the last to leave. This world could use a lot more Velma Hortons.”
• Ken Gregory: “Velma was one of the kindest and most gentle spirits I have ever known. She always made you feel special and did so with a heartfelt tenderness.”
• Randall Gravley: “Mrs. Horton was my eighth grade English teacher and what a wonderful and dedicated teacher she was. At that time I never realized what a great influence she would be in my life. Her sweet spirit and memory will live on in all who were fortunate to have experienced her presence, either in and out of the classroom.”
• Gordon Leonard: “Mrs. Horton was one of a kind. The most encouraging, delightful and always willing to help person. She wanted the best for every student and strived to make us all better people. She was highly respected and rightfully so.”
• Yvette Petty: “Mrs. Horton was my guidance counselor at CCHS back in the late 80s. She assisted me in procuring a free, one-year student exchange program in Germany after high school. This positive experience abroad was life-changing and has had a positive impact on me from that point forward. I’m so thankful she was there to guide me into great things throughout and after high school.”
• Mechael and Lisa Cobler: “Velma: a lady full of grace, wisdom, compassion, service, goodness, and love. She was an inspiration to so many. She made a difference.”
The new scholarship fund is now accepting donations. All gifts are tax deductible. Send donations to the Carroll Scholarship Foundation Inc., The Velma B. Horton Memorial Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 517, Hillsville, Virginia, 24343. For more information, call (276) 728-4121.