Smyrna High School towers as a beacon on Bulldog Drive where my children Katherine and Michael Harber both graduated. The advent of Robert ‘Bud’ Raikes is a longstanding and storied chapter of time. Robert was a win-win leader for the advancing school for 52 monumental years. He served as prime role model to scores of students, whom he encouraged to attain the highest goals while maintaining an ethical and principled sojourn. Robert is Smyrna’s all-time ambassador for quality education. Raikes Street is a familial street name beside our Smyrna Senior Citizen Center today as a testament to the legacy of his ancestry.
I stopped by Mr. Raikes’ office to chat and say hello on several occasions, and he was always friendly and personable. I realized from the first day he was a peacemaker with deep fairness desiring every student succeed and every teacher provide a quality education. I witnessed his relationship with students and parents, as he conveyed solutions in a reasonable and calm manner. He further thoroughly supported his teachers. During Raikes’ tenure, Smyrna High won a girls’ basketball championship (1982), four boys’ bowling championships (2005, 2006, 2009, 2011) and two football titles (2006/2007) under Coach Philip Shadowens, whom he maintained a father and son relationship.
Robert Lee Raikes attended Old Rock School (Smyrna High) with my mother Judy Johns Rogers and her siblings Randy and Sue Johns Fox; and they all remained good friends. He always inquired on my family and maintained an incredible memory. To know this elegant gentleman firsthand, one must be cognizant of his earliest beginnings.
The Welsh surname of Raeke heralds a family crest dating to the ancient Celtic region in the Moors of Wales. The namesake is derived from ‘dweller in a narrow valley.’ Robert Raikes certainly moved into a big valley casting a large net with the development of a stellar high school in Smyrna.
Many of Robert’s relations lived and prospered in Milton and Auburntown and forged a lineage of deep roots in these communities. His father Rucker Raikes of Smyrna perished in 2010 at age 87 and is buried in Mapleview. Rucker was born in Rutherford County and wed Mary Kate Greer Raikes, who was the mother of Robert and Billie Jean Raikes. Mary Kate died in 1967 at 53 years old, after marrying Rucker at age 19 in 1933. Rucker and Mary Kate are buried in Mapleview Cemetery. In 1967, Rucker wed Lucy Bright Groom Owens Raikes (1910-1994). Rucker retired from Sewart Air Force Base where he labored from 1942 to 1970. He was also a deacon of the First Baptist Church in Smyrna and a member of the Rutherford County Commission. Jean Raikes of Milton died in 2012 after a career with Sewart Air Base and Tennessee Farmers Co-op. Many remember Robert’s brother-in-law Donald Ries, who worked with Smyrna Post Office for 30 years and was visible in community.
Robert’s paternal grandparents were Gus Claude Raikes (1870-1930) and Meda Jane Cooper Raikes (1877-1959). They were wed in 1897 and buried in the Milton Cemetery. Robert’s maternal grandparents were William Clinton Cooper (1852-1933) and Sarah Frances Davenport Cooper (1861-1943). Sara was born on the cusp of the Civil War. William wed Sarah when she was 15 in 1876; and she bore 8 children. William’s father was Jehue Cooper (1850-1914), who wed Susan Bogle (1843-1916). Jehue and Susan are buried at Cooper Cemetery in Cannon County. Sarah Frances and William are buried in the same cemetery in Auburntown. Sarah Frances’ parents were Burchet ‘Dug’ Davenport (1834-1904) and Deborah ‘Diby’ Willard Davenport (1838-1901). Deborah was a strong woman who bore 13 children. Burchet’s father was Warren Davenport (1803-1879), who is buried in the Davenport Cemetery of Cannon County. Warren and wife Susannah Whitlock Davenport (1805-1867) lived in Sanders Fork and died in Cannon County. In all, Robert Raikes ancestral genealogy is tracked to the early 19th Century and composed of hard working, humble, honorable and determined individuals.
Robert dated a lovely young girl Margaret Cox at Smyrna High School. She was born in Altavista, Virginia, and they united as a team of much love for 59 years. Their daughters are Vicki and Kimber of Murfreesboro. Margaret died at age 79 in 2018. She was a 1957 graduate of Smyrna High and worked in the office as secretary retiring in 1996. Margaret was known to carry a big heart for students and was a very compassionate friend. Both Robert and Margaret were lifetime members of First Baptist Church (LifePoint) in Smyrna.
Robert graduated from MTSU and returned to his Alma Mater Smyrna High where he taught 7th and 8th grades in Science in the original Old Rock School where Smyrna Library stands today. In his first year as teacher, there were 70 in the graduating class. In January 1961, he taught 7-12thgrades at a newly constructed Smyrna High on Hazelwood Lane with 750 students. At the helm as principal was his mentor J.J. McWilliams, whose method of discipline was quite extreme. Strong order and cooperation was paramount in his running a tight ship. McWilliams served as principal 1948-1960.
As a student at Smyrna High, Robert played football from 1953-1955 and always maintained a deep knowledge of the game. He served as assistant under Coach Jack Jolley of the football team and was later hired as head coach until October 1973. He also coached the basketball team through 1973. Altogether, Robert was teacher and coach for 14 years. When McWilliams died in this same year, Robert Raikes began an illustrious tenure as principal until 2011.
Two new high schools were built for Smyrna and Lavergne in the fall of 1988, and Robert departed the Hazelwood Lane school that evolved into Smyrna Middle. By 1984, Smyrna High added a vocational building, practice football field and offered computer math training under the guidance of Robert. There were 400 graduates in that year, and the school was progressing in an everlasting manner.
Robert believed in paddling as a discipline and only when necessitated. He desired to instill principles to students that would affect every day of the rest of their lives. He was also pro-active as an advocate for students who struggled and needed an extra helping hand. In the school, Robert was in every corner as cheerleader and supporter. When my children attended their Swim Banquet, he was sitting at the front with Margaret every season and so thrilled to be there. He also was ever-present at swim meets and on the floor of the pool with great interest as their principal.
I remember seeing Robert on the premises for Parent/Teacher conferences and also at sports events. He was primarily dressed in immaculate tailored suits and looked his best. I witnessed him outside on the premises picking up trash. He was willing to undertake any job to make this school shine.
Robert was awarded many honors in his scholastic career. In 2011, he was admitted to the TSSAA Hall of Fame; and in 2018, he was inducted into the Smyrna High Hall of Fame. He is a recipient of the A.F. Bridges Principal’s Award and served multiple terms as President of the Rutherford County Secondary Principals Association. The football stadium is named for Robert L. Raikes, who was both coach and student player at Smyrna High.
In 2000, newly zoned students from Smyrna High were directed to the new Blackman High school system. In 2018-2019, Smyrna High held 1,900 students. The school remains in the top 20% of Tennessee high schools for graduation rates.
Robert was a brilliant scholar and educator, whose aspiration was to enrich the future of every student, who could depart with a solid academic education and change the world for better. He had an ‘open door’ at his office and was a hero forevermore to untold individuals. In retirement, he remains as a positive influence and continues to touch many lives. When you see him at Walmart or any Smyrna establishment, he will often stand by and engage in conversation for 30 minutes or more catching up on your life and wishing former students the very best. He projects success to every human and continues to hearten all citizens that it is never too late to meet your goals in a single lifetime. In the 1984 Gold Dust album, Robert is referred to as ’24-Carat Gold’, an accurate description of a man who loved his town and gave his all to create a haven for achievement in education.