Paul Hembree played tennis for Lipscomb from 1939-1941. At the proud age of 89, he has the honor of being one of Lipscomb's oldest athletes. Paul first arrived at David Lipscomb Campus School in 1935 as a 6th grader. He later played tennis, basketball and was the star quarterback on the final high school football team that disbanded in 1938 because of a shortage of players. Besides athletics, Paul also has a love for music and arts. He was a member of the Lipscomb Glee Club and an avid photographer who, as a student, took the class portraits for the 1940 and 1941 Lipscomb Backlogs.
Paul is also a gifted artist who continues to paint and share his talents with his family and friends. Paul is a loyal supporter of Lipscomb Athletics and a long-time member of the National Bison Club. Retired and living in Brentwood, Paul recently visited with Andy Lane, Executive Director of the National Bison Club to reminisce about his athletic days at Lipscomb.
What sport did you play at Lipscomb? What years? Who were your coaches?
“I played tennis for Lipscomb from 1939-1941, playing for Coach Herbert Nance. I was also close with Coach Bob Neil and Coach Fessor Boyce and his family.”
What is your fondest athletic memory at Lipscomb?
“I have two stories. The first involves a big tennis match we were playing at Lambuth, battling for the Mississippi Valley Conference Championship. The entire championship came down to the results of my singles match, but I didn't get off to a great start. My opponent beat me decisively the first set, and it didn't look good when I was down 5-2, 40-love in the second set. But I kept telling myself, ‘this guy is not going to beat me.’ I started rallying and came back to win 10-8 in one of the most exciting matches I ever played. I was so happy for my teammates and for our team – winning one of Lipscomb’s first-ever conference championships.
“Second, I have a strong memory that occurred while traveling to a match. We traveled in cars then and we were heading south through the intersection at Franklin Road and Old Hickory Boulevard. It’s now downtown Brentwood, but at that time the road was only a two-lane road. Coach and our 6 tennis players were traveling in one car, and as we went through the intersection we were t-boned by a huge truck. We were lucky to not be seriously injured or even worse. As we got out of the cars, there was glass everywhere. We were surprised to see that the big truck was carrying six caskets. To this day we talk about how lucky we were and how it was not our time to go. For weeks after that, we picked glass from the wreck out of our tennis shoes.”
Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Lipscomb? How?
“Obviously Coach Nance was influential and also Bob Neil. Bob was such a wonderful man and had the ability to incorporate the great things about sports into life's experiences. His love for singing and music also was influential for me. Fessor Boyce was also a part of the Lipscomb community and had a tremendous impact on the athletes.”
What is your fondest non-athletic memory from your time at Lipscomb?
“Besides sports, I was also involved in the Glee Club and worked in the darkroom for the Backlog, taking and developing the class portraits. Of course, Chapel was such a big part my Lipscomb experience. Chapel met in Acuff Chapel at the time because it was the only area large enough for everyone to gather.
“I remember once when President E.H. Ijams was speaking in Chapel. During his talk he brought in a big jar of rocks. The jar had big rocks and small rocks inside and he started shaking the jar up and down. As he shook the jar he pointed out that the big Rocks were surfacing to the top. He made the point that if we always tried to be good people that our goodness would help us surface to the top. To this day I remember that speech and how it impacted my life.”
What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Lipscomb?
“As I look back at my life. Lipscomb was such a blessing to me. The friendships I made were so valuable. To this day I still have so many close friends from Lipscomb, including one of my best friends ever in Bob McKay, who lives in Columbia, Tennessee. My experience at Lipscomb emphasized what I learned growing up in my home: keeping God at the center of your life is the most important thing. Lipscomb showed me how important it is to be a Christian and to continue studying the Bible. I am so proud that teaching Bible Classes has always been a part of my life. I learned growing up in my home the importance of sharing the message of Christ. As a result of the foundation that my family and Lipscomb gave me, I am proud to have served as an elder in the church 32 years.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
“When I was young, Mrs. Lyla May Harrison was the one I really liked. Later, in college, I really enjoyed Mrs. McBride, who taught calculus and mathematics. She was so challenging, but patient to create a really great environment. I also enjoyed S.P. Pittman as teacher. He was such an institution at Lipscomb. I am named after Brother Pittman, with my middle name being Pittman. My family was very close to him when I was growing up, and he was such a big influence on me at Lipscomb.”
Who is your employer? What is your occupation? What does your position entail?
“After leaving Lipscomb I graduated from Vanderbilt with a degree in Engineering. I returned to Nashville after the war and went to work for Nashville Electric Company in 1947 as an engineer. Over the years I was blessed to become a junior engineer, senior engineer, secretary/treasurer, vice president to eventually president of NES. I served as president from 1977 until I retired in 1985. It was a great experience and I was blessed to travel a great deal and meet so many wonderful people over the years. I truly have been blessed.”
Tell us about your family
“I was married to the former Josephine (Joey) Kirk for nearly 60 years. She passed away in 2006. We have two beautiful daughters, Paula (Frisby) and Susan (Shumaker), six grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and two more on the way.”
Where do you live now?
“I currently reside at The Heritage in Brentwood.”
You may contact Paul Hembree at email@example.com