The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Everett Won The Medal

By William P. Swartz, Jr. © 1985

Issue: April, 1985

One of the great educational influences in our earlier schools was the Literary Society and the Debating Society. Sometimes they were one and the same group. Every school having six grades or more had one. Generally Friday afternoon was set aside for these groups to present their programs. When practical, Friday night was the regular time of meeting. Elocution, current events, debating, parliamentary procedures and special theses were parts of the programs. These programs developed character, self confidence and public speaking ability. It is to be regretted that these benefits are no longer a part of our educational and social life styles. They were an important part of school life in Carroll County. Practically all of my uncles participated in them. My mother was awarded a medal in a county competition in elocution.

My cousin Everett Kinzer whose home was located at the intersection of what is now US 221 and state road 100, had many capabilities. He was a natural comic being. He could mimic and imitate anyone he chose. He could keep people laughing for continuous periods. He played or "picked" a banjo from the time that he was ten years old. He accompanied an uncle and some friends to the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson. Upon his return home he could and did repeat the major portion of the President's inauguration address.

He was in the last part of his third year of high school. He and Mack Goad, who became a well known Hillsville dentist and who was one of my most cherished friends, composed the Latin class that year. The two were waiting for the teacher who had been slightly delayed. While waiting, Everett said, "Mack, I have had about enough of this Latin subject. It's a dead language. Let's quit it. In fact, I have had about enough of school. I think I will quit both." With that he got up and went home. The principal tried unsuccessfully to get him to return and complete the year.

Mack Goad told me, not too long before he died when I asked him if he remembered when he and Everett quit Latin, that he remembered it well. He went on to say, "Bill, it was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. When I entered pre-dental school at William and Mary, Latin was a required subject. I had to get a tutor and work long and hard to make up my Latin credit. I wished many times I had not agreed with Everett Kinzer to drop the subject."

The year following Everett's quitting school, the principal prevailed on Everett to come to see him. The principal said, "The countywide debates which are held only once every three years are scheduled for this spring. The winners are to receive a gold medal. This school must be represented.  I have no one who would have a chance to win the competition but you would. If you will return for the spring term I will allow you to take whatever subjects you want and you will represent the school in the county debates." Everett thought about it. Entering the debates appealed to him and he returned to school.

He had no trouble in winning the three preliminary debates, but the final competition was something else. The subject was, "Resolved that the U.S. shall be a low-tariff nation," which was being debated in Congress at the time. Everett told me years later, "I was assigned the affirmative side to present and I knew that I needed help from someone much smarter than I was to prepare my subject matter. After thinking about it for several days I went to see Judge Bolen and told him my problem. After a little study, he told me to return in a week and he would see what he could do."

The following week, Everett returned and the Judge handed him pages of yellow foolscap paper filled on both sides. Everett thanked him, mounted his horse and started home. The spring rains had begun, the road was muddy and the horse was making slow progress. Everett had a large wagon umbrella he was carrying and he began reading his material as he rode along. He told me, "By the time I was half way home, I knew that the Judge had prepared exactly what I needed to work up my presentation. The following three weeks I really worked on it. I gave it to the mules when I fed them morning and night and when I plowed in the afternoons after school. At the end of two weeks, those mules were well educated on the subject.”

 Finally the scheduled date arrived for the big debate and the room was packed. If I am not mistaken, I think it was held in the Hillsville Courthouse. Everett presented his affirmative thesis. He told me that he did it as well as anything that he had ever done. He said, "when I sat down, I knew that I had done my best."

The negative debater then presented his thesis which was also well done, and he sat down. It was then time for Everett to present his rebuttal. Everett said, "I knew I had the debate won but I also knew that I could easily lose it if I did not handle my rebuttal right. I also knew that I did not know anymore to say as I had already used up everything that I knew on the subject and the least that I could say the better off I would be. I slowly and in a very deliberate manner rose to walk to the front of the platform. I said, "I have listened carefully to all that my honored opponent has said. I have considered diligently all that he has presented. I can find no single point that has detracted from the basic fundamental arguments I have proposed. He has covered a wide territory, but he has failed to meet any of my affirmative challenges. I concluded by saying that his thesis is not unlike an old Mother Hubbard dress. It covers everything and touches nothing."

Everett won the medal.