By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer
Former Portales Municipal Schools superintendent Willis Firman Haynie loved children, devoted his life to education and was service-oriented, according to his family and friends.
Haynie, a Portales High School graduate who led the school district from 1964-1968, died Feb. 19 in Houston at age 91.
“He was very much a people person,” said his younger sister, Ruth Visage of Portales. “He was always a leader.”
Visage said Haynie was director of Texas Boys State, which involved about 1,000 boys a year, for 55 years. He held an emeritus position for six years after that.
“I think it was the greatest pride he had being able to touch the leaders, that many leaders, each year,” Visage said.
A memorial service for Haynie, a World War II veteran, is planned during this year’s Texas Boys State in June in Austin.
Visage said Haynie’s whole life was built around education.
“He believed in the United States and the future, and he felt like the future was dependent on education,” she said.
Haynie earned a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate of education. His daughter Priscilla Scharnberg remembers traveling from Borger, Texas, to the University of Colorado in Denver every summer for 13 years while her father earned his doctorate in between school years.
Besides being superintendent in Portales, Haynie served as a teacher, football coach, principal in Borger and retired from administration at the University of Texas. Visage said Haynie also served on the National Education Advisory Committee under President George H.W. Bush.
Scharnberg said her father loved children of all ages, but favored junior high students.
Haynie, the third of four children, moved to Portales with his family in 1930. He graduated from PHS in 1938 after playing football, a sport he continued at Eastern New Mexico University.
“Dr. Haynie was just a marvelous person,” said Haynie’s long-time friend and high school classmate Jane Mauk Hilliard of Portales.
Haynie was an outstanding student, student body president and participant in many activities, she said. Hilliard said Haynie’s life was one of service.
Haynie married Margaret Dennis in 1941. The couple had two daughters, Scharnberg and Prudence Griffen; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Scharnberg said Haynie loved to fish and found much of the alone time he enjoyed in a bass boat.
Scharnberg called her father a strong Christian man with strong values.
“Daddy was just always Daddy,” she said. “He told lots of stories, but he was just a good old country guy who made it well, growing up in Portales.”