I spotted a vaguely familiar name in the Star-Advertiser “death notices” on Sunday, Rodney Burl Yarberry.
It was short and to the point, and explained why the name was familiar. Yarberry, who died in Hilo at age 92, once served as superintendent of education.
This is one of those moments that I mourn the loss of the old newspaper archives. When David Black bought the Star-Bulletin in 2001, he had an option to copy the archives, controlled by Gannett’s Honolulu Advertiser. The option was never exercised. Then, when Black later bought the Advertiser from Gannett in 2010, the archive was not included in the deal.
I don’t know what ever happened to that century worth of clipping files carefully indexed by name, but at times like this they are sorely missed.
Back when the archives were accessible, you might have expected an editor to flag Yarberry’s death and assign someone to pull the clips on him for an obituary.
Now, if you’re lucky, Google will turn up something interesting. In this case, we’re lucky.
Yarberry served as superintendent of education for 4 years beginning in 1962, later moving to Kamehameha and then serving as commission of education for the Trust Territories of the Pacific Islands.
This is from an abstract of a 1991 interview with Yarberry by Warren Nishimoto, now director of the University of Hawaii’s Center for Oral History.
R. Burl Yarberry was born in 1920 in Pueblo, Colorado. He attended public schools in Pueblo and graduated from high school in 1938. After a year attending the Colorado School of Mines, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served in the Pacific during World War II. Following his discharge, he earned a BA in English from Western State College of Colorado and an MA in American and English literature from the University of Arizona. Between 1950 and 1954, Yarberry was teacher and principal at Ouray High School in Colorado. In 1956, Yarberry received a PhD in English from the University of New Mexico. Shortly thereafter, he arrived in Hawai’i as an English instructor at Hawai’i Vocational School, today known as University of Hawai’i at Hilo. He soon became the college’s director, a position equivalent to chancellor today. In 1962, at the age of forty-one, Yarberry was selected by the state Board of Education to be superintendent of schools. After a four-year tenure as state superintendent, he became coordinator of secondary education and boys’ school principal at the Kamehameha Schools. Two years later, he was named commissioner of education for the U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands [TTPI]. Beginning in 1972, Yarberry was involved in various federal and private projects focusing on educational reform. This article presents a narrative on Yarberry’s early life in Colorado, education, years as head of UH-Hilo, and tenure as state superintendent of schools.
Fascinating career for sure, and an opportunity for a fascinating obit. But the lack of those clipping files makes opportunities like this much harder to take advantage of.