Kilgore DAR Chapter Presents Women in American History Awards | Lifestyles

KILGORE – Two women who have been instrumental in the Rangers’ program were honored with the Samuel Paul Dinkins chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution last weekend.

The Kilgore DAR Chapter presented posthumous Women in American History Awards to Gussie Nell Davis, founder and first director of Rangerettes, and Jeanne Denman Hale, who, in addition to many other accomplishments, founded Rangerettes Forever, the first group of Rangerettes. alumni like this.

Rangers manager Dana Blair accepted the award on behalf of Gussie Nell Davis on Wednesday, while Jeanne Denman Hale’s daughter Martha Deen accepted an award on her behalf on Saturday.

The National Society of the Girls of the American Revolution is a service organization passionate about serving our community, preserving history, educating our children, and honoring and supporting those who serve our nation.

The Paul Dinkins chapter says that Gussie Nell Davis was honored for “her exciting innovation that spanned the world”.

“On November 4, 1906, in Farmersville, a star was born – a star whose brilliant beam would soar across Texas, the United States and the entire world. Throughout her life, Gussie Nell Davis was often compared to a “fireball” and she would indeed create a brilliant new art form, the dance-exercise phenomenon.

Dr BE Masters, Dean of Kilgore Junior College, was known for his expectations of excellence. A friend told her about a dynamic young woman who ran the Greenville High School cheering team, who under her direction did drills and a few dance steps on the football field, and she named them the Flaming Flashs. Dr Masters asked Gussie Nell Davis to come to Kilgore, and he told her he wanted her to form a girl group that would fulfill three purposes:

1. Equalize the boy / girl ratio in middle school, which was then 6-1

2. Provide girls with more opportunities for physical activity

3. Provide a halftime show during football games that would entertain the fans enough to keep them in the stands instead of slipping away for a “pinch” of whiskey.

When Miss Davis asked him if he wanted a drum and bugle corps, he laughed and said “No! I wouldn’t have one !! ” When she asked him what he had in mind, he replied, “Well, it’s up to you – that’s why I’m hiring you! “

So, she combined her knowledge of drill and her love of dancing to create unique halftime entertainment unlike any other in the country, even in the world. It wasn’t until later that a new definition had to be worked out to describe it – the term ‘Precision Dance / Drill’, and her group, which would be called the Kilgore College Rangerettes, would be the world’s first dancers on a stage. sports field !

Miss Davis was employed after the football season ended, so during the spring semester of 1940 she immersed herself in the physical education department, instituting a variety of enjoyable activities for female students. She introduced dancing, archery, badminton, table tennis and shuffleboard. She also quickly rose to prominence for teaching not only physical education skills but also personal life skills that would ultimately improve the lives of thousands of young women.

There were no trials for this first group in 1940. Gussie Nell chose all of his daughters in his physical education classes. His first criterion was physical coordination and a sense of rhythm. A slim figure ran a distant second, and the beauty of the face was hardly ever a consideration …

Under the guidance and training of Miss Gussie Nell Davis, the Rangers have made themselves known for their exquisite fine kicks, unparalleled precision and thrilling showmanship. The Red Grange television sports announcer was the first to call them the “Sweethearts of the Nation’s Gridiron”. A Chicago Tribune writer called the “Rettes” “shouldered girls who misbehave” after captivating a record crowd of 96,000 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

But Gussie Nell didn’t just lead a perfect line of dancers. She was a motivator long before the era of motivational speakers. She used her dynamic enthusiasm to instill in every young woman the importance of standing, not only physically, but psychologically; approach life with discipline and determination, even in the face of pain and / or obstacles; believe in yourself and use your God given talents and skills to devote yourself 100% and more to any endeavor. Every Rangerette remembers “Beauty knows no pain!” She taught her daughters that they would get the most out of life if they put the most in it!

Jeanne Denman Hale, meanwhile, was honored for her many accomplishments, the chapter said.

“Jeanne Denman Hale, my mother, was born on October 31, 1924, exactly one year after her parents met at a Halloween party,” according to a biography provided by Martha Deen. “My grandmother wore a backless dress and her sister painted a black cat on her back. My grandfather said to a friend, “I want to meet this girl with the cat on her back. Well … they met, they got married, and they had my mom next Halloween!

“When my mother graduated from TSCW (now TWU) in speech, theater and journalism, she moved to New York City in hopes of becoming an actress. To pay the rent while she went to auditions during the day, she took a job as a choir dancer at night. But she was fired when the owner found her reading a book in the lodge between performances. He told her that she was supposed to be in front, drinking with the customers. She told the owner, “I was hired to dance, not to drink! Then she decided to try out the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, and she got it. But she tore a muscle in her groin in rehearsal and returned to Henderson to recover. She met my dad, who had just returned from WWII, and that was it!

“They raised cows and children, four of them including twins, my brother and I… She owned a dance studio in Overton for several years and was Sandy Duncan’s first dance teacher! When I was 5, she was Mrs. Texas, and she was in the top 10 of the Mrs. America.

“When we were a little older Mom went back to teaching, first to Kilgore Junior High, then to Kilgore High School, then to Kilgore College, where she eventually became Director of Public Relations and Community Relations. old. In this position, she led several trips made by the Rangers and Ranger Band, to Venezuela, Romania and Hong Kong. She also had an explosive idea … She created an alumni group whose goals were to support current members, foster camaraderie between membership years, and raise money for scholarships. This group of alumni became known as the Rangerettes Forever. It was the first of its kind, and now Rangerettes Forever has raised over $ 1 million in scholarship funds.

“My mom has been active over the years in church, scouting, ATP, and community service. She is the author of a speech manual and a few unpublished novels. She was a member of Mensa and also of Inter Intel, which represents the 10 percent of Mensa members with the highest IQ. At First Christian Church, she began Sunday School Class for Young Adults and taught it for over 30 years. Along the way, they eventually had to change the class name Young Adults Forever Sunday School.

“She became an animator for the East Texas Oil Museum, where she used her computer skills to produce two cookbooks, as part of fundraising activities. She has also prepared a cookbook for Rangerettes Forever called From Kicking to Cooking. She was an active member of the Texas Shakespeare Festival Guild. In recognition of her many accomplishments and civic contributions, she was named First Lady of Kilgore in 2000. ”

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