Donald Hayes Conley
Donald Hayes Conley was born on November 2, 1902 in Caldwell County close to Lenoir. Of six children in his family, three sisters became teachers. While attending high school, he worked on the family farm until he reached college age. In addition to working on the farm and attending high school, Conley’s mother made extra efforts to instill a solid educational base in young Donald: “My mother taught me Latin and Algebra by lamplight when I was going to high school. Even though she had not been to college or high school, she’d pick it up and taught it to me. I owe my inspiration and commitment to my mother and my father and to my teachers,” Conley recalled in a 1987 interview with Kimberly Dale. Attending Duke University, he graduated Cum Laude in 1923.”
In 1923, Mr. Conley arrived in Winterville High School to teach, and in 1924 he assumed the duties of principal of the school. By 1932, Conley was named superintendant of Pitt County Schools. For 33 years he energetically worked to improve Pitt County’s school system, notably consolidating the number of schools operating in the county from fifty-four to thirteen. Never one to rest on his laurels, Conley worked for a number of years as Pitt County’s Attendance Officer following his retirement as County School Superintendent.
People who knew and worked with Conley noted that his personal demeanor affected the outcomes of challenges that he faced; Pearl Frizzel, secretary at the D.H. Conley in 2009, said that Mr. Conley was a reserved man not given to rage or anger. He was to the point, honest, and fair. When there were problems, Conley was not afraid to seek advice from those whose opinion he valued. Observers said that Conley displayed a real ability to remain calm when tense situations might have caused others to mad, and he knew how to listen. As a leader, Mr. Conley was open to suggestions when confronting problems. Ultimately, Conley’s educational belief was motivated by his desire to help each person to grow on his own. Longtime teacher Brenda Gatlin Hawkins remembered Conley for his desire to steer kids in the right direction. As someone who cared about the children of Pitt County, Conley made the effort to get to know students and their parents in order to facilitate a healthy learning environment.
The present day high school named for him was dedicated on May 23, 1971
author: Steven A. Hill
(Sources: “D.H. Conley Honored As New School Bearing His Name Dedicated Sunday” Daily Reflector May 24, 1971, by Blanche Hardee) (“Mr. D.H. Conley: The Man Behind the Name” Greenville Times August 19-Sept 1, 1987 by Kimberly Dale) (Interviews with Brenda Gatlin Hawkins and Pearl Frizzel, June 2009)