W. D. Mooney, Master Headmaster
Henry Matthew Ward, author
Readers familiar with the James Hilton novel, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, about the life of a loveable and venerated British boarding school professor of Latin, would find much to compare with W. D. Mooney, except Mooney was real, more versatile and more venerated. The comparison was apparent to one writer for the Memphis Appeal when, in 1938, he wrote about a most unusual retirement party given by former students of Mooney and titled the article, No More Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Mooney had just completed over 50 years of teaching, coaching and being several schools headmaster without missing a single day of school for illness. Those present or sending telegrams included the very top of business and military leaders from around the country. So great was their love and admiration for the educator, the donations collected by the organizer of the party provided for the purchase of a very nice house and monthly stipend for Mr. & Mrs. Mooney's retirement, even though some of the students had not seen their mentor in nearly half a century.
He was among the earliest graduates of the famed Webb School before it was removed from Culleoka to Bell Buckle, Tennessee. He was founder of Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, Tennessee, the Mooney School of Murfreesboro and subsequently Harriman, Tennessee, and for many years the Academic Headmaster of Riverside Military Academy, Gainesville, Georgia.
He was a scholar of the highest order; author of a widely used Greek textbook, national lecturer on Latin and Greek, professor of mathematics in college before beginning the line of preparatory boys schools that he founded. His students were accepted on his recommendation alone into such prestigious universities as Vanderbilt, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, and West Point.
Yet Mooney also had a lifelong love of sports. He introduced football to the secondary schools of Tennessee, and coached a prep school team that beat many college teams of the day. He played championship tennis, was an excellent swimmer, and shot his age in golf when 80 years old!