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  • "I remember Winston when he was the director of music at..."
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    - Barry and Nikki Nicholas
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September 22, 1929 - April 17, 2013

Gainesville - Thomas Winston Childress, 83 of Gainesville died April 17th following a brief illness. Winston, son of Herman W. and Pauline Willoughby Childress, was born in Birmingham, AL on September 22, 1929. His family moved to Miami, FL in 1942 where he attended Dade County public schools. He attended the University of Florida where he earned a B.A. in history (1952). He received a Master of Religious Education degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1956), and a Master of Science degree in elementary curriculum from Barry College in Miami Shores, FL (11968). In 1976, he was awarded his Ph.D. in reading education from Florida State University.

Winston enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps while pursuing his undergraduate studies at the University of Florida. On the same day he received his B.A., he earned a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Lieutenant Childress was assigned to the 15th Artillery Battalion of the Second Infantry Division in Korea. He served as a forward artillery observer assigned to the 9th Infantry Regiment and saw combat (summer 1953) yin the Chorwan and Kumhwa valleys. He was promoted to first lieutenant and received the Bronze Star Medal for his combat service in Korea (1954).

From 1956-1963, Winston served as music/choral director and education director of Baptist churches in Georgia and Florida. He taught in the Dade County public elementary schools during 1963-1968 and worked as a reading teacher and specialist for the Dade County school system until 1973. After completing his doctorate degree, he was research associate at Florida State University acting as consultant for reading with Florida's Right-to-Read Program.

Dr. Childress joined the faculty at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC in 1976 and received tenure in 1981. He served as chairperson of the Department of Reading Education from 1982-1985. Dr. Childress retired from Appalachian State University in June 1995 and was awarded emeritus status. He was a member of Phi Delta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Mu Alpha.

Winston was involved with music throughout his life including playing trumpet in the Gator Band, participating in a barbershop quartet and a band member with a group of professors while at Appalachian State University. Upon retirement, Winston relocated to Gainesville with his wife, who was born in Gainesville, where he has enjoyed reading, computer surfing, genealogy, motor home travel, growing bromeliads, dog walking through his neighborhood and public school volunteer work.

Winston is survived by his wife of 60 years, Betty Jo (Gardner) Childress; daughter, Paula Watkins; two grandchildren, Chris Watkins and Cassandra Watkins, all of Gainesville; a son, Marc Childress and wife, E-Lu Chen of Emporia, KS; a son Tom and wife, Sandy of Fort Myers, FL; a grandson, Brett Childress of Orlando, FL; and a granddaughter, Brianna Childress of Tampa, FL. He is preceded in death by his parents, Herman and Pauline Childress; his sister, Janice Childress Matthews; and granddaughter Heather Childress.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, April 20th, 2013 at 2:00pm at the Forest Meadows Funeral Home Chapel.

Funeral Arrangements are under the care of Forest Meadows Funeral Homes and Cemeteries, 725 NW 23rd Ave., Gainesville, FL 32609 (352) 378-2528. Please sign his guestbook at

Funeral Home
Forest Meadows Funeral Home and Cemeteries
725 NW 23rd Avenue
Gainesville, FL 32609
(800) 958-2528
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Published in Gainesville Sun from Apr. 19 to Apr. 20, 2013
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