Gentle Spirit Slips Away: Jessie Higdon Wilkie
Top, left: Helen Higdon Allison and Jessie Higdon Wilkie wearing her “Hug-a-Higdon” shirt. Cousins Helen and Jessie staffed the HFA registration at the 1995 meeting in Asheville.
Middle, right: Eva Higdon Wood, Jessie Higdon Wilkie, Tour Guide, Bernice Cowan Higdon, Helen Higdon Allison. Jessie attended many of the HFA annual meetings. In 1997, she along with her cousins toured the campus at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Bottom, left: Nancy Higdon, Jessie Higdon Wilkie, Charles P. Higdon. Charles and Nancy visited with Jessie in 2003 on the day of the William Huffman Higdon reunion. Jessie served in many different roles in the HFA; she was the secretary for a few years, a director, and the necrologist.
Jessie Mildred Higdon Wilkie, age 92, died Friday, Dec. 17, 2004. A native of Macon County, she was born Sept. 10, 1912, at Higdonville, North Carolina, the daughter of the late James Leonard and Lavada Strain Higdon. On June 1, 1935, in Cullowhee, she married William Howard Wilkie, who preceded her in death May 10, 1963. Jessie was a member of the Higdon Family Association and the Macon County Historical Society.
A graduate of Franklin High School in 1930, she graduated magna cum laude in 1934 from Western Carolina Teachers College with a B. A. in English. She served one year as student body president and was voted best college citizen among the women for two years. In 1934-35 she was the first principal of Otter Creek High School, which later became Nantahala High School.
While a resident of Long Shoals Road Skyland, from 1938 to 1990, she was active in many community organizations including the Grange and Arden branch of the Needlework Guild of America. She was also president of the Skyland Community Club. At the time it was instrumental in starting the Skyland library. She taught Sunday school at Skyland Methodist Church and for a number of years was the local correspondent to the Asheville Citizen-Times from the Arden-Skyland area. She was a substitute teacher at Valley Springs High School and active in the PTA while her children were enrolled there. She returned to teaching after receiving the M.A. in English from Appalachian State Teachers College in 1963. She taught English, beginning in 1963 at A.C. Reynolds High School and then at T.C. Roberson High School, from which she retired in 1977. She attended Oxford University in England during the summer term of 1971 and traveled in Ireland.
After retiring she traveled in England, Scotland and the South Pacific.
She was a member of the North Carolina State Employees Association and the Buncombe County Chapter of
North Carolina Retired School Personnel. She had been a member of Arden Presbyterian Church since 1951,
serving as Sunday school teacher, choir member and president of the Women of the church.
An avid flower gardener, she also had a lifelong interest in genealogy and in 1983 published a book about her
Higdon family, Descendants of Joseph Huffman Higdon and Margaret Matilda Berry Higdon.
In 2014, Jack Moore, a descendant of William Huffman Higdon, found a newspaper clipping from the Feb. 24, 1927, issue of the Franklin Press, Franklin, NC, that published one of the “Winning Essays in the Building and Loan Essay Contest on the Subject: ‘How I Can Use the Building and Loan to Pay For a College Education.’” This winning essay was written by a 15-year-old sophomore at Franklin High School, Jessie Higdon, and this winning essay, in style and content, literally foreshadowed her lifelong interest in writing.
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