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Thelma Blackburn Boynton

Thelma Blackburn Boynton, 100, of Pikeville, Tennessee, died Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

She was a member of Mt. Crest United Methodist Church where she served as secretary, treasurer, and historian. She loved gardening, quilting, sewing, cooking and especially spending time with family and friends.

Mrs. Boynton was a life-long learner with a passion for education, attaining her teaching certificate from Maryville College by the age of 18. She continued her education up until the age of 90, when she enrolled in a doctorate program at Tennessee State University.

Mrs. Boynton launched her teaching career during the 1938-39 school year, commuting by horse from Mt. Crest to the Grapevine School. She taught at New Harmony for one year and then went to a three-room school at Sampson.

Along with the rest of the country, things changed dramatically because of WWII. She and her husband did their part. Joining Signal Corps attached to the Army Air Forces, Mrs. Boynton found herself at Wright Field in Ohio where she was in the Radar and Communications Testing Section. The team worked to create a form of communication that would enable pilots whose planes went down to communicate their locations to their bases.

When the war ended, she and her husband came back to the Cumberland Plateau. Several years later, Mrs. Boynton returned to teaching after her children started school.

After serving during the war, her passion for Science expanded, and she carried her enthusiasm over to students at Bledsoe County High School. Mrs. Boynton helped lead Bledsoe County high school students to honors like a Navy Science Cruise Award, an Air Force Award for Outstanding Science Project, and additionally helped produce a National Science Fair finalist.

In 1964, she, along with her husband, James Carl Boynton, continued their careers serving at Mary V. Wheeler Elementary School.

In 1982, Mrs. Boynton retired from Bledsoe County Schools, after serving as the first Director of Special Education.

Thelma’s passion for Bledsoe County and education were formed by her grandmother, Mary V. Wheeler. She once stated that “I intended to come back and teach Bledsoe County kids, and I wasn’t going to let anybody be ahead of them.”

It is Mrs. Boynton’s wish that all of her students know it was her honor to “watch their success in life.”

Mrs. Boynton was preceded in death by her father, Carlos James Blackburn, Sr.; mother, Emma Mae Wheeler Blackburn; husband, James Carl Boynton; brother, Carlos James Blackburn, Jr.; sisters, Arkie Naomi Blackburn, Angie Leigh (Cecil) Angel, Mary Edna (Walter) Emery and Emma Jean (Mel) Byrum.

Mrs. Boynton is survived by her sons, James Ralph (Donna Helen) Boynton, John Alden (Emma) Boynton and William Arnold (Kathy) Boynton; grandchildren, Dustin (Tiffany) Boynton, John Alden Boynton, Jr., Willa Suzanne Boynton-Fulmer, Carl Justin (Stephanie) Boynton, Matthew Arnold (Ashley) Boynton and William Andrew (Lucy) Boynton; great-grandchildren, Russell Boynton, James Boynton, John Alden Boynton, III, Lyndsey Erin Kilgore, Connor Jacob Boynton, Willa Rachel (Adam) Vandiver, Ella Hayden Boynton, Margo Beatrice Boynton and Oscar Maxwell Boynton; great-great-grandchildren, Maliea Grace Kilgore and Maddison Lindsey Kilgore.

Graveside services were held Friday, July 17, at 6:00 p.m. at Wheeler Vaughn-Boynton Cemetery, 4621 Old Spencer Road, Pikeville. Burial was in Wheeler Vaughn-Boynton Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Wheeler Vaughn/Boynton Cemetery Fund, 4709 Old Spencer Rd., Pikeville, TN  37367.

Online condolences can be made at

Arrangements are by Putnam-Reed Funeral Home, Pikeville.

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