Crockett County pays Tribute to Mr. Bill Emerson, past Director of Schools


Crockett County pays Tribute to Mr. Bill Emerson, past Director of Schools 

Mr. Bill Emerson served the Crockett County community for over 40 years through his commitment to the field of education. During his administrative tenure, he became a Crockett County icon. Mr. Emerson oversaw the consolidation of Crockett County high schools and middle schools in the 1980s. Bill co-founded the Tennessee Small School Administrators Association, which successfully lobbied for a new funding formula for rural schools. In the decade that followed he campaigned for implementation of the legislation, culminating in a favorable ruling by the Tennessee Supreme Court. One of the primary objectives achieved was equalization of pay for teachers in rural school systems. As teacher, coach, administrator, friend and mentor, Bill touched countless numbers of lives.

In the fall of 2021, Crockett County Schools will have a ceremony recognizing the legacy of Mr. Bill Emerson through the naming of our High School gym as “The Bill Emerson Memorial Gymnasium”.




January of 1994 was my first experience talking with Mr. Bill Emerson.  He was interviewing me for the head football coach position.  My grandfather always told me to surround myself with people who have integrity, wisdom, and a passion for their job.  Not long after my time with Mr. Bill, I knew he exhibited every one of these qualities.  I am so blessed to have met Mr. Bill Emerson and gotten to experience his leadership.  Crockett County Schools is a great place for all students, faculty, and staff because of the legacy he left. Mr. Bill Emerson was a pioneer for education, not only in Crockett County but also in the entire state of Tennessee.  He will be greatly missed by many.

P. A. Pratt

Director of Crockett County Schools

I started here in 1984 and was soon thereafter pulled into administrative affairs. My Superintendent was Larry Ridings. He was involved in this movement and very committed to it. He spoke to us often about the efforts of Mr. Emerson, how important this work was to small school districts, and how Mr. Emerson was one of the main drivers of it.

I was saddened to hear this weekend the news of his passing. We here in Trenton are very grateful and appreciative of the work done to make funding more equitable for small districts and we realize that it wouldn't have happened without the efforts of people like Bill Emerson. He took the fight to Nashville on our behalf- and won!

Tim Haney

Director of Schools

Trenton Special School District

He was my math teacher throughout high school as well as our principal.  He was wonderful in both capacities. Plus, he was a great coach.  There was NEVER a foul word that came from his mouth …. wish that were the case these days!

My NEW gym shoes and binder were stolen at the end of a semester.  I had to work to buy my own shoes and these were brand new.  However, that was not my main concern.  My binder had my NOTES from ALL my classes for the semester and I needed them to study for my finals.  Mr. Bill heard I had been crying and called me to his office.  When he heard what happened he said “’They were only after your new shoes. I bet I can find your binder in the dumpster.”  So, with his nice slacks, nice button-down shirt, tie, and nice shoes, he asked me to go with him to the dumpster to find my binder.  He would NOT allow me to get into the dumpster…. but dressed in some of his BEST clothes he climbed into the dumpster and searched until he found my binder.  I cried again, but this time it was with the kindness and sacrifice Mr. Bill showed me.  I will never forget that scene.  I have reminded him of that several times over the years.  He always just smiled and said, “thank you”. 

Mr. Bill was always well prepared, kind and just.  He was a tough teacher…but I can take tough as long as it is showered with kindness and fairness.  He was an exceptional man!

May God bless his family.

Camille Nanney

Teacher Maury City Elementary

Bill Emerson, retired superintendent of Crockett County Schools and Bells City Schools.  Having retired in 2005, many of you may not have known Bill Emerson.  However, TSSE school systems owe much gratitude to Bill Emerson.  In 1986, he, along with fellow superintendents, Wayne Qualls of Hickman County and Mike Antrican of Hancock County began an organization called the “Tennessee Small Schools”.  This group of 77 rural school systems brought three lawsuits against the state of Tennessee claiming the state was not providing equitable education to all students as the Tennessee Constitution required.  The “Small Schools” prevailed in all three cases.  From these three rulings by the state courts, the Governor and General Assembly proposed and passed the “BEP” as a remedy to resolve the inequity.  From this situation, the organization of small schools evolved into the “Tennessee School Systems for Equity” [TSSE] —an organization, currently made up of 87 members, whose sole purpose is the financial equity and adequacy of school systems in Tennessee.

We are thankful for the efforts of Bill Emerson.  What an example he set for all of us!

Dr. Jerry Nash

Tennessee School Systems for Equity Organization

The state of Tennessee and the community of Bells lost a great citizen and advocate for public education in Bill “Mac” Emerson. I knew Bill when we were both superintendents in Crockett County- he in Bells and I in Maury City. We were on opposite sides of the fence during the consolidation of Crockett County. During that time, I never heard him speak a harsh word.


He was the unquestionable leader in the state-wide push to achieve better funding and equity for school systems. He was well respected, and I am glad to have called him my friend.”

Larry Ridings

Former Principal, Crockett High

Former Director of Schools, Trenton Special School District

Bill Emerson will be remembered as one of the great leaders of education in Tennessee. From his early days as math teacher at Bells High School through his years as Superintendent in Bells City and Crockett County, he always had high expectations for students and teachers as he worked tirelessly to provide an excellent instructional program and environment for learning.

Taking a leadership role in the Small Schools lawsuit against the State of Tennessee to more equitably fund education thrust Bill into the front of issues that many had talked about bud done nothing. Bill’s determination and insight into funding problems were successful in causing the development of a new funding formula for all Tennessee schools. Many students, teachers, parents and even school administrators may not know his name, but his efforts produced monumental changes in Tennessee education.

I am proud to have been able to call Bill Emerson my colleague, friend, and mentor.

Mike Barker

Tennessee Department of Education (retired)

To my friend, colleague, mentor, partner and ok yeah, boss. You were more like a buddy than any of the above mentors. You achieved so much and gave so much and gave so many others the credit for it all. Every Crockett Countian owes Bill Emerson, even those not yet born and every one of the 135 “small school systems” in Tennessee and their teachers are forever indebted to him. It has been a true honor to know him, work side by side with him and most of all to be able to call him my buddy.

I wholeheartedly support a permanent memorial for him at CCHS!

Eddie Whitby

Former Assistant Director and Director of Crockett County Schools

Back to School News       Print