COSBY—Beth Ogle Freeman, former Cocke County Superintendent of Schools, died Monday morng, June 1, 2020, following a short period of declining health. She was 93.
Born in 1926, she was the fifth child and oldest daughter of Alfred Lemons Ogle and his wife, the former Algia Jane Baxter and the last surviving member of the family.
Her own education began at Bluffton School, a short distance from the family home. She later transferred to Cosby Elementary School and graduated from Cosby High School in 1945.
Following her high school graduation, she worked her way through Lees-McCrae Junior College in Banner Elk, North Carolina. At all levels of her schooling, she was active in many school sponsored activities and was a star basketball player who delighted in telling stories of her days as an athlete.
As the years passed, she remained a student, earning her bachelor’s degree from East Tennessee State College (now ETSU, following this with her Master of Arts from ETSU and her EdS from the University of Tennessee.
She began her teaching career at her alma mater Bluffton School. She later taught at Compton Memorial and Bell Hill Schools before joining the faculty of Cocke County High School where she taught science and health. She entered the supervisory field working with Title I for a time.
In 1972, she threw her hat into the political ring, running for and being elected Cocke County’s third female Superintendent of Schools, holding this position until her retirement in 1979. During her tenure as superintendent, Freeman oversaw a period of consolidation and growth with West End and Northport Elementary Schools consolidated into Northwest Elementary and a new elementary school being built at Parrottsville.
It was also during this time that Parrottsville High School was closed and consolidated with Cocke County High School.
Cocke County Director of Schools Manney Moore, upon hearing of Freeman’s death, issued the following statement: “On behalf of the Cocke County Board of Education and our education community, we are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Beth Freeman. Mrs. Freeman was instrumental in hiring and mentoring many educators and she has made numerous other contributions to Cocke County and the school system in particular. She will be missed.”
In addition to her work as an educator, Freeman worked alongside her husband, the late Jackson Stokely Freeman, owner and operator of Freeman’s Grocery in the Denton community. The Freemans also purchased and operated Smoky Mountain Growers and Packers, packing and shipping field-grown tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.
Following her husband’s death, Freeman continued to operate the store, which stood across the road from the family home, working until late this winter when a serious fall began her decline in health.
An avid genealogist and historian, Freeman worked diligently for decades researching and compiling family histories. With the late Delmer Baxter, she co-authored Winter/Spring, a collection of family histories and anecdotes from the Cosby community.
Later she worked with Tildy Webb on These Are My People, another genealogical history of Cosby families.
She was a devoted member of several historical organizations, including William Cocke Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution, Daughters of 1812, and Colonial Dames. She descended from several of East Tennessee’s earliest settlers and was especially proud of her ancestor, Dr. Martin Shultz, the only trained physician at the Battle of King’s Mountain.
Well into her 80s, she and her cousins, Ruth Matthews and the late Elsie Matthews Bomar, could be found hiking in the Smokies and trekking to long-lost family cemeteries in search of their roots.
As long as her health permitted, she loved to travel, and delighted in bringing family and friends small remembrances from her journeys. Her trip to Ogle Castle in England, where she met her British relatives, was a highlight of her life.
A member of the Church of Christ, Freeman herself was a granddaughter of the Elder Isaac Ogle, who pastored churches in Sevier and Cocke County for fifty years. Ogle’s Chapel Church in Cosby was named for him.
She was a longtime member of the Cocke County Equalization Board. In 2019, she was honored by the Cocke County Education Foundation as a recipient of their Celebrate Our Success Award, given to someone who was educated in Cocke County schools and later became highly successful in their career.
A graveside service for Freeman will be held Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Newport’s Union Cemetery. She is survived by a granddaughter and two great-grandchildren. Her children, Lorinda and Larry Jack, preceded her in death.