Tribune-Courier News Editor
BENTON – Educator, leader, friend— members of the community are mourning the loss of a man who labored to better his community and left a lasting impression on the county’s school system. Reed Conder, 85, died Sunday at Lourdes hospital after a brief illness.
Conder is best remembered by many for his work in the educational system. Conder served for more than two decades as Marshall County Schools superintendent and was a key figure in consolidation efforts.
Current superintendent Trent Lovett said he may have been Conder’s last hire before his retirement in 1986.
“I was doing my student teaching and he called me in and offered me a job at South Marshall Middle School as a teacher and coach,” Lovett said Monday. “Because of his visionary leadership and foresight, the majority of our facilities are what they are. His vision really led the way for our county’s school system.”
Reed was born in 1926 in Lebanon, Tenn., to Atlas and Elizabeth Conder. His family came to Aurora in 1935. The Conders briefly moved back to Tennessee before returning as one of the many families who located in the north end of the county during construction of Kentucky Lock and Dam. Conder graduated from Calvert City High School, where he met future wife Katie during his senior year.
In an oral history project conducted by historian Justin Lamb for the Marshall County Library, Conder said he enlisted in the Navy in 1944, returning to Marshall County after two years of service. He and Katie married soon after and moved to Tennessee for work in the family automobile business. But a death in the family altered Conder’s plans and possibly the course of Marshall County, leading him to further his education.
Conder’s athletic ability garnered a scholarship to Middle Tennessee State University. After graduating, Conder began his career in education. In 1950 he became principal at Brewers High School, while Katie taught seventh and eighth grade. In 1956 he became principal at South Marshall, staying until becoming Superintendent of Marshall County Schools in 1965.
It was during this time Conder helped guide students and faculty as the county’s multiple high schools consolidated.
On Monday, former North Marshall High School principal Barney Thweatt said the county had lost a leader and a friend. Conder hired Thweatt as the Jets principal in 1967.
“He was very supportive of me as a rookie principal,” Thweatt said. “I made a lot of mistakes, but he always supported me. I considered him a friend from day one.
“He had as much courage and conviction as any leader I’ve ever worked under. The vision he had for the consolidation of Marshall County Schools and the courage he had to see that through has to be respected.”
Thweatt and Conder were among many educators involved in changes to the system in the 1960s, moving from vocational and home economic focuses to preparing students for college. Marshall County Schools continued earlier consolidations of smaller schools, bringing its three high schools under the same roof at its current campus. Conder is credited by many for guiding educators and the community through the process.
The consolidation was unpopular with many. Conder weathered criticism and threats, working on the goal of bringing the county’s resources together. In 1986, Conder retired as superintendent. The gymnasium at Marshall County High School was later named in his honor.
Following his career in education, Conder worked for the Marshall County Health Department. He also worked for the state Department of Education.
During his career, Conder received multiple accolades and awards, including the Kentucky Association of School Administrators’ Distinguished Service Award.
Arrangements are being handled by Filbeck, Cann and King Funeral home. For more information, see page B4. The Marshall County Judge Executives Office will close Thursday at noon in observation of the funeral.