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Surprised assistant principal receives history of Nashville ‘Alma Mater’

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News-Leader photo/JOHN R. SCHIRMER ALMA MATER COPIES FOR ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL. Ashley Riggs, assistant principal at Nashville Junior High School, displays a copy of the Nashville “Alma Mater” which she received from Allison Horn, granddaughter of the song’s author, Amy Holcombe Ball Johnston. Horn and her husband Jason presented the copies to Riggs Thursday, Aug. 30.

A surprise awaited Nashville Junior High School Assistant Principal Ashley Riggs Thursday morning, Aug. 30.

Long-time friends Jason Horn and Allison (Ball) Horn presented 250 copies of the Nashville High School “Alma Mater” to Riggs. She will distribute them to faculty members throughout the district.

Horn is the granddaughter of Amy Holcombe Ball Johnston, who wrote the “Alma Mater” in 1937.

Riggs also received a copy of the history of the NHS “Alma Mater” written by Johnston in 1987.

The following is the text of the song’s history as Johnson wrote it.

The Nashville High School “Alma Mater” was composed  in November 1937 by Amy Holcombe, a member of the junior class of Nashville High. The idea for a completely original school song was conceived after the 1937 Nashville-Hope football game of that year. Rivalry between the two schools was great even then. The Hope High School “Alma Mater” had their words but used the melody of a well-known college song. One week after the game with Hope, the proposed “Alma Mater” was presented to the students and faculty of Nashville High in a morning assembly meeting, and accepted unanimously.

Mr. Ruel Oliver, Band Director for the Nashville School System, verified the originality of the song, and with the assistance of Mrs. Cleone Goss, an excellent musician who taught piano lessons and had arranged the song for the composer, it was played for the 1938 graduating class as the official “Alma Mater.”

Amy Holcombe married Hayden Ball, Sr. and their three children, Diane Ball Williams, Joe Holcombe Ball, ll and Rebecca. (‘Becca) Ball Worthington, were also graduates of Nashville High School .

In 1982, the Howard County Historical Society requested a copy of the Nashville . High School “Alma Mater” for the museum, located on Hempstead Street in Nashville. Jan Barger, calligrapher for the State of Arkansas, was engaged to make a copy for the museum that would be suitable for framing. All other copies, with the exception of those reserved for Nashville’s school faculty members, were given to Chapter AM, PEO, in honor of Mrs. Goss, a PEO charter member. They were available for sale to the public from PEO member Mrs. Mary Sue Williams.

In this year of 1987, almost 50 years later, five grandchildren of Amy H. Ball and the late Hayden Ball Sr. are students in the Nashville schools. These include Hayden Worthington, 12th grade;

Jay Worthington, 10th grade; Mandy Worthington, 7th grade; Hayden Ball ll, 7th grade; and Allison Ball, 5th grade.

Hayden Ball Sr., a 1936 graduate ofNashville High School, was serving his second term as treasurer of the Nashville School Board at the time of his death in 1957. Board members requested Amy H. Ball to complete his term and she was also elected for a second term. In 1963, Amy H. Ball married Dr. Thomas G. Johnston, grandson of the late Dr. W.M. Gibson of Nashville. Dr. Johnston was also a 1939 graduate of Nashville High School.  

Respectfully submitted,

Amy Holcombe Ball Johnston