Another look at the life of Forrest E. Burleson
May 1, 1915—At the urging of his principal, Professor J. H. Riddle, Forrest Burleson takes and passes the state teacher examination. The Alabama State Department of Education was a leader among the states in centralizing teacher certifications based on an exam process, starting in 1899.
May 15, 1915—J. H. Riddle, principal of the Morgan County High School, reports a very successful year’s work for the session just closing. Dr. Cooper of the University of Alabama, state high school inspector, has said he is delighted with the work of both teachers and pupils of the school over which Professor Riddle presides. Commencement exercises will begin Thursday, May 20, with an entertainment by the juniors at 8:30 p.m. Friday at 2 p.m. will be class day exercises, and at 8 p.m., diplomas will be delivered to the graduating class.
Sept. 15, 1915—Forrest Burleson, not having abandoned his long-standing ambition of becoming a teacher, nevertheless enrolls at the University of Alabama in the School of Law. Edward B. Almon, a member of a family as distinguished as the Burlesons and a UA Law alumnus, began his service in Congress from the north Alabama district in this year. Hugo Black, later a senator from Alabama and a member of the U.S. Supreme Court, had graduated from Alabama Law in 1906. Mr. Burleson’s connection to these distinguished men and other prominent alumni was brief, however. After only one semester, his teaching ambition reasserted itself, and he transferred to the College of Arts and Sciences to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Jan. 5, 1916—F. E. Burleson has resumed classes at Rural Grove, where he is the sole teacher. The Rural Grove community was located east of the present Interstate 65 and west of U.S. Highway 31, south of Decatur. By the time of the 1928-29 school year, Rural Grove, Route 2, Decatur, had two teachers, James Gurley Jr. and Lottie Bean.
Aug. 16, 1917—Analysis of test scores shows that more than 50 percent of Morgan County school teachers who were examined for their qualifications to instruct in the classroom failed the test. Those who did pass, however, included several from Hartselle. Among them was John Sparkman, who was certified to teach the second grade. It was not required that a person have any more than a common school education to take the teacher qualification test. Like Forrest Burleson, John Sparkman had also started to school in a one-room-one teacher school. The two men were alumni of MCHS, Burleson graduating in 1915 and Sparkman in 1917. Burleson was three years older than Sparkman, who was born in 1899.
Feb. 1, 1919—Mr. Burleson resumes rural one-room school teaching in a Morgan County community, where the former teacher had become so unpopular that he was driven away.
June 1, 1919—Mr. Burleson is hired as a construction foreman on a highway construction project. He works in this job for a year. Convicts were not being used on Alabama roads at that time, although some legislators were advocating this. Mr. Burleson supervised freely employed workers. Also, although the 13th amendment abolished slavery, it didn’t prohibit mandatory service on constructing roads, which was viewed as another form of acceptable involuntary service, like jury duty. Men so “drafted” were also supervised by Mr. Burleson.
Sept. 22, 1919—Despite support from Hartselle’s Rep. Brindley, the Alabama House of Representatives this afternoon defeated a proposal to give the common schools of the state $1 million a year. Forrest E. Burleson, the successor to Rep. Brindley, would continue the fight for more state support for local schools when he took the seat formerly held by Brindley.
Feb. 14, 1920—F. E. Burleson argued in a debate tonight that America is declining morally.
Sept. 1, 1920—Forrest Emory Burleson, who would in time become affectionately known as “Fessor” Burleson, returned to his first love, the school classroom.