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MURRAY COUNTY CHARACTERS
Lula Gladden

In Proverbs chapter eight verse eleven it states, "Wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it." I am sure that to Lula Gladden these words were something that she cherished every day. Miss Gladden was both in the Gladden Springs community October 15, 1876 and spent fifty-one years of her life educating others.

Miss Gladden began her formal education at Sumach Seminary located in north Murray County. This esteemed institution attracted students from fifteen different states and educated students at three levels: primary, secondary and what would now be considered a junior college level. Lula was the first female graduate from this prestigious institution on May 26, 1897. She then continued her college education at George Peabody College for teachers in Tennessee which is part of the present day Vanderbilt University. Miss Gladden was a pioneer in her day in the education field.

Miss Gladden taught at various schools in the county including the Fuller's Chapel Methodist School. She was the first female administrator in Murray County when she was chosen to head the newly formed Chatsworth Elementary School when it opened its doors in 1907. Lula like many teachers constantly spent money from her own funds to assist her students and was even known to borrow money or buy things on credit for just that purpose.

In October of 1919, Lula was hired by the county as an organizer for adult illiterates at a salary of 50 dollars a month for a term of three months. Then position would be the same as our modern General Equivalency Diploma (GED) program. The purpose of this program was to educate adults and help them obtain a certificate that demonstrated they had skills that were equal to that of a high school graduate. Again that thirst for sharing wisdom was demonstrated in Lula's desire to help others with no regard for age.

Later Lula became one of the original faculty of Murray County High School in 1934 having already spent some 30 plus years in education at that point. She taught Latin, English and mathematics. This school was created from a consolidation of Lucy Hill, Chatsworth and Eton which were three smaller schools in the area. Miss Gladden was the author of the school's alma mater which is still sung today. A brief portion of the song is listed below:

From the cliffs of old Cohutta,
Once against the sky
Came the walls of Alma Mater
So rugged and so high

Forward ever be our watchword
Conquer without fail;
For our hearts shall love thee ever,
Alma Mater, Hail!

Not only was Miss Gladden's formal education important to her but so was her faith. Lula was a member of the Ladies Aid Society which also included the following ladies: Mrs. S.M. Barnett, Mrs. Forney Bradley, Mrs. W.S. Cox, Sr., Mrs. Tom Moreland, Mrs. Hardy Rhyne and Miss Martha Holbrook. These ladies met at Chatsworth Elementary School. Their dedication led to more formal church services and finally to the formation of the First Baptist Church of Chatsworth.

Lula's dedication to her community was evident by the several hundred people who attended her funeral on September 28, 1944. Her funeral was and is unique to this day because it is the only one to be held in the Old Rock Building of Murray County High School. The funeral was held there at Miss Gladden's request. Lula is buried with her sister and brother, none of whom ever married in Spring Place cemetary.

When Murray County Junior High School was change to a middle school in 1986, the campus of the former junior high was renamed Gladden Middle School in Lula's honor and her portrait as well as her teaching diploma are on display in the entrance of that school.



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