Biography of George L. Atkeson
George L. Atkeson. To those parents who value the intellectual development of their children, it is a matter of vital importance that in the early and formative period of their lives, their instructors in the public schools should be thoroughly qualified for such responsibility in scholarly attainments and in personal character. In securing so widely known and so experienced an educator as George L. Atkeson as superintendent of their city schools, the good people of Altoona, Kansas, displayed exceptional wisdom. Intelligent public opinion here, as at other points, makes more insistent demands, asks for more decided results than in old days, a realization having come that the needs of future generations must not be imperiled by any narrowing of public school education in the present. A wider and deeper service is demanded than ever before, and to this field of effort a welcome is given the able, the understanding, the progressive educational leader, a worthy example of this class being found in George L. Atkeson. He is a native of Missouri, born near Tipton, in Morgan County, September 20, 1866. His parents were Francis M. and Mary A. (Frye) Atkeson.
Francis M. Atkeson was born in 1830, near Charleston in Kanawha County, West Virginia, in which section the early ancestors of the family had settled after coming from England. His father, Andrew Atkeson, was also born in what is now West Virginia, and from there, probably in 1832, removed with his family to Morgan County, Missouri. He became a farmer there and operated the first blacksmith shop in Tipton.
Practically Francis M. Atkeson spent his entire life near Tipton, Missouri, having been taken there in childhood by his parents. He followed agricultural pursuits exclusively, acquired property and became a substantial citizen. During the Civil war he served two years as a member of the First Missouri United States Reserves. He gave political support to the republican party but accepted no public office. He was married in Morgan County, Missouri, to Mary A. Frye, who was born in North Carolina, in 1834, and died at Tipton in 1906. The following children were born to them: Joseph, who died in childhood; Walter, who died at the age of seven years; Elizabeth, who died in infancy; Susan, who lived to the age of twelve years; Weeden, who is a farmer residing near Versailles, Missouri; George L.; and Ella, who resided at Fortuna, Missouri, is the widow of Alfred Akin, who formerly was a farmer and merchant. The father of the above family died in 1898, at Tipton, Missouri, at the age of sixty-eight years.
George L. Atkeson was reared on his father’s farm and remained with his parents until he was twenty-one years of age, in the meanwhile gaining much practical knowledge of agriculture. He was, however, afforded educational advantages and after completing the public school course at Tipton, attended Hooper Institute, at Clarksburg, Missouri, following which he became a schoolteacher in his native state, a natural choice of profession and one with which he had continued to be identified ever since. In 1890 Mr. Atkeson came to Fredonia, Kansas, and after teaching school at Elder Branch for two years, entered the State Normal School at Emporia. In 1898 he was graduated, receiving a teacher’s first grade certificate, with which document, desirable as it was, he was not satisfied until in 1914 he added to it a teacher’s life certificate, won through attending the summer schools at Emporia, securing also the right to place B. S. after his name.
In the meanwhile, however, Mr. Atkeson had been building up a sound reputation in the educational field and making personal friends wherever located. He taught through 1892 in District No. 3, Wilson County, Kansas, and then for one year served as principal of the schools of Allen, in Lyon County, during the following year serving in the same capacity at Lafontaine, in Wilson County, during the next year being principal of the Coyville schools, in Wilson County, and for three succeeding years was principal at Burr Oak, in Jewel County. In 1902 public approval was shown by the election of Mr. Atkeson to the important office of county superintendent of schools of Wilson County and this was emphasized by his re-election in 1904, without opposition, and he continued county superintendent until the close of his second term. He then took up his residence at Fredonia and was interested there in a hardware and implement business until 1912, when he re-entered active school work, accepting the position of superintendent of schools at Altoona. Here he had under his supervision two schools with fourteen teachers and an average of 500 pupils. He is a man of progressive ideas, not only in politics but in other lines, particularly in his profession, and he had brought about many changes and improvements during his many years of tenure of office. During the three years he served on the board of education at Fredonia it was largely through his efforts that a most efficient superintendent of schools was retained long enough to enable the building up of the present admirable school system at that place, and his efforts in relation to the Altoona schools have met with like success. As superintendent his views are clear cut and practical and, while his standards are high they are not beyond the comprehension of his teachers, by whom he is held in the highest esteem. Mr. Atkeson is a valued member of the Kansas Teachers’ Association and of the Southeast Kansas Teachers’ Association, representative educational bodies of the country.
At Burr Oak, Kansas, in 1903, George L. Atkeson was united in marriage with Miss Mary E. McCormick. Her parents, now deceased, were James and Jessie (McCammon) McCormick. Her father was a substantial farmer of Jewell County and for twenty years was postmaster at Burr Oak. The family was one of much social prominence in that section and Mrs. Atkeson was carefully reared and liberally educated. Mr. and Mrs. Atkeson have two children: Wilma E., who was born November 11, 1904; and George L., who was born September 20, 1908. It is very certain that their educational future will be well planned. The family belongs to the Presbyterian Church, in which Professor Atkeson is an elder. He is identified fraternally with Fredonia Camp No. 1224, Modern Woodmen of America, and with Twin Mound Lodge, No. 57, Knights of Pythias at Fredonia. He owned a comfortable residence at 1011 Quincy Street, Fredonia.
Perhaps one reason why Mr. Atkeson had been so eminently successful in his profession is, that to him teaching had always seemed a high form of human service, and he can feel compensated in a realization that through his efforts the younger generation is being daily developed in finer perception, in more thorough realization of the meaning of trained faculties, in greater taste for that which is enduring in education. Under his wisely directed efforts the Altoona schools have a wide opportunity.