Huntington, WV Black History

Helen Stovall Hill Gunn

Educator

Helen Stovall Hill Gunn was a dedicated educator in the Cabell County public school system who also gave countless hours of her time in civic affairs in the Fairfield neighborhood and Huntington community.

Helen was born in Keystone, West Virginia, on October 3, 1918, to attorney Tyler Edward Hill and Sallie Stovall Hill. She was raised in Charleston and attended St. Francis de Sales Academy for Young Ladies in Powhatan, Virginia, and graduated from Garnet High School in Charleston. In 1939, she received her bachelor of science degree in secondary education and graduated cum laude from Bluefield State College, where she was a charter member of the campus chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. In 1940, she received a master of arts degree in English Literature from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.

On August 16, 1940, Helen Stovall Hill married Robert Wesley Gunn, whom she had met and to whom she had become engaged when they were students at Bluefield State College. For the next three years, they resided in Gary, West Virginia, in the home of Memphis Tennessee Garrison. During that time, the couple worked and saved so that Helen’s husband might attend dental school. They made that dream come true and, in June 1946, Robert W. Gunn graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, with a degree in Dental Surgery.

Soon thereafter, the couple returned to their beloved West Virginia, ultimately settling in Huntington, where they raised five children. While their children were young, Helen was a stay-at-home mother who devoted herself to educating her children and supporting her husband’s career. Even with all the demands of motherhood, however, Helen gave generously of her time to Huntington civic affairs. She was a charter member of the Huntington chapter of the Links, Inc. She was also an active member of Beta Tau Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Ladies Guild of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, Catholic Daughters of America, the Women’s Auxiliary to the Huntington Professional and Businessmen’s Club and the League of Women Voters. For several years, she served as Girl Scout Troup No. 43’s leader. She also served on the Executive Committee of the Cabell County Infantile Paralysis Foundation; the Mayor’s Commission for Civil Rights; the Huntington Steering Committee for Community Action; the Board of Directors for A.C.T.I.O.N., Inc.; the Mayor’s Committee for Community Development; the Huntington Arts and Cultural Advisory Committee; the Board of Trustees of United Community Services, Inc.; and the Board of Directors of Barnett Child Care Center.

While her husband was pursuing his dental studies at Meharry, Helen had taught English Literature at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. So, when her youngest child was well settled in grade school, she resumed her teaching career. She taught for several years at Oley Elementary School and Oley Junior High School. She subsequently obtained a certificate in counseling from Marshall University. Thereafter, she taught English and served as a guidance counselor, first at Huntington East High School then at Huntington High School, from which she retired in 1978. After retirement, Helen remained active in many civic organizations.

Though she received many awards for service during her life, the award she most cherished was the recognition she received for her outstanding contributions to the calling of motherhood. In 1991, Helen was selected by the West Virginia chapter of American Mothers, Inc., as West Virginia’s Mother of the Year. That same year, she represented West Virginia at the 56th Annual Convention of American Mothers, Inc., in St. Louis, Missouri.

Helen passed away on October 29, 2003.

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