Alumni Hall of Fame Inductees » 2010 Inductees

2010 Inductees

2nd Annual Dobyns-Bennett High School Alumni Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: September 3, 2010


Emary B. "Jitney" Blankenbecler
Emary B. "Jitney" Blankenbecler, Jitney as he was affectionately known, was born in Coeburn, Virginia and moved to Kingsport when he was very young.

He excelled in academics and athletics while a student at Kingsport High School (now Dobyns-Bennett High School) from 1921-1926. He was the president and valedictorian of the Class of 1926.

Jitney was the first Eagle Scout in Kingsport in 1920 and his scout masters were Allen Dryden, Sr. and S.K. Lindsay, who influenced his life profoundly.

He was a veteran of World War II and served as commander of the American Legion, receiving the American Legion Distinguished Service Award.

He became a popular figure in the community and was elected mayor of the City of Kingsport from 1949 to 1951. Jitney was also a part of the Santa Train for more than 50 years.

The student council members elected him as grand marshall of the Dobyns-Bennett Homecoming Parade in 1989 because he was known as the "Ambassador of Downtown Kingsport". He gave to his community, not only in his early life, but throughout his life.

Emary B. "Jitney" Blankenbecler passed away at home at the age of 92 in September 1998.


Robert Gale "Bobby" Cifers
Robert Gale "Bobby" Cifers was born in West Carters Valley of Kingsport on September 5, 1920. He graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School in 1940 where he began a legendary athletic career.

He was a two-time national scoring champion in football and was recognized as the Athlete of the Century by TSSAA in Track and Field. From 1941-1943 Bobby was a standout running back and punter for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and led them to victory in the 1943 Sugar Bowl over Tulsa.

He was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Corps where served from 1943-1946. During the war, he played football for Randolph Field in 1944 and the Army Air Forces Training Command Skymasters in 1945. He was the first-round draft choice of the Detroit Lions and during his rookie season, Bobby set a single-game punting average record. Still holding the NFL record for single-game punting average as of April 2013. He went on to play with the Pittsburgh Steelers and would end his NFL career with the Green Bay Packers in 1949.

After football, he was vice-president of Cifers Construction Company in Chattanooga. Prior to his retirement he was a real estate appraiser in Chattanooga. In 1985 he was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and in 1988 was inducted as a charter member of the Northeast Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.

Bobby had three brothers, Bill, Ed Cifers (who was a 2012 DBHS Hall of Fame Inductee), George and three sisters.

Robert Gale "Bobby" Cifers passed away on July 1, 2001


Stanley M. Johnson
Stanley M. Johnson was an outstanding high school basketball player while at Dobyns-Bennett. In 1955 he and his close friend, Colonel Brue Wilder became members of the Dell Sports Magazine Coaches and Sports Writers American All-Stars Team.

In 1960 Stanley graduated from East Tennessee State Univeristy with a degree in English. He then attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and received a masters degree in Church Music and a masters in Religious Education. During his studies at Southwestern he served two churches as a part-time music director and youth leader.

Any time he saw a need, he responded. This became a pattern of Stanley's life. He taught music lessons without ever accepting payment for the service. He offered his time to pick up children after school and transport them to church where he taught many of them to play guitar, clarinet and in addition, taught voice lessons. To enhance the music lessons provided he made arrangements with a piano/organ teacher to come to the church to teach students after school, increasing the opportunity for more children to learn music.

He worked diligently to find part-time jobs for young people, especially disadvantaged ones. His family knew that almost every holiday celebration would have to start late or end early because Stanley was delivering food and toys to needy families in the community. He never left a duty to someone else; that was who Stanley was.

Stanley passed away in November 1997.


Selwa Showker Roosevelt
Selwa Showker Roosevelt was born in Kingsport and resided here until her marriage in 1950 to Archibald B. Roosevelt, Jr., grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt.

She is an honors graduate from Vassar College, she has worked as a journalist for The Washington Post and a free lance writer for numerous magazines such as, Family Circle, McCall's and Town & Country; where she was a contributing editor for several years.

Ambassador Selwa "Lucky" Roosevelt was Chief of Protocol of the United States from 1982-1989; almost seven years. Take note, this is longer than anyone has served in that position. In that capacity, she was in charge of organizing over 1,000 visits of world leaders to the United States. Ambassador Roosevelt was President Reagan's representative to the Washington Diplomatic Corps, and her office was the Office of Record for some 30,000 diplomats in the United States.

In addition, she was responsible for the Blair House Restoration Project; a six-year renovation of the nation's 100-room Presidential guest house involving $9 million in government funds and $5 million in private funds.

After retiring as Chief of Protocol, Selwa was decorated by the Italian government and made a Grand Official of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy.

In 2012, she received a commendation for President Barack Obama for her government service and for helping "save" the Blair House.  Her coorespondence from Fleur Cowles is at the Univerisity of Texas at Austin.


John S. Palmer

John Spencer Palmer
was born on September 10, 1935 in Kingsport. He started his broadcasting experience as the student radio announcer of Friday night broadcasts from Dobyns-Bennett and his participation on the debate team.

He graduated from Northwestern University and obtained a masters degree from Columbia University.

Palmer joined as a news correspondent for NBC News where he worked for over 40 ears, first from 1962-1990; and again from 1994 until his retirement in 2002. During his tenure with NBC News, he held several positions, including correspondent stints in Chicago, Paris and the Middle East. He was the White House correspondent (1979-1982); news anchor for The Today Show (1982-1989); and anchor for NBC News at Sunrise (1989-1990).

In 1994, John returned back to familiar ground serving as White House correspondent for the weekend edition of NBC Nightly News and an occasional substitute news anchor for The Today Show. He retired from NBC News in January 2002.

John was also host of The Informed Citizen, The Prudent Advisor, and Life after Life in 2006 once aired on Retirement Living Television and last known show, Encore with John Palmer on CN8 in 2007.

John died at the age of 77 on August 3, 2013 in Washington, D.C. from pulmonary fibrosis. He is survived by his wife Nancy and three grown daughters.


Cecil Puckett
Cecil Puckett graduated from Dobyns-Bennett in 1947. There is a very rare 16 mm of the Dobyns-Bennett/Knoxville High School football game on YouTube from October 26, 1945 with Cecil Puckett playing his heart out.

Harry Wright, Class of 1949 said in an interview, "On the faith of Georgia Tech football, that Cecil and Bobby Cifers were two of my heroes." He continued, "Cecil was probably the best all-around athlete to come out of D-B; just a super guy in every way. I'd go out of my way to meet him in the hall anytime so I could just to say, 'Hi Cece.'"

Cecil graduated with a bachelors and a medical degree from the University of Mississippi. After college he went on to receive many accolades from his peers. For two years Cecil was assistant football, baseball and basketball coach at Tennessee High School. At Dobyns-Bennett he was a health and physical education teacher for seven years. Cecil served for 14 years at Robinson Middle School as assistant principal and activities director and two years as assistant principal at Sevier Middle School.

In 1983, Cecil received the Kingsport Times-News Award for "Distinguished Service to Others and to the Community." In 1985 he received the Outstanding Educator Award which is presented by the Superintendent of Schools and Board of Education. Also in 1985 the Mayor of Kingsport proclaimed October 18 as Cecil Puckett Day!