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Wilburn Wheeler - Class of 1991

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Wilburn Wheeler was born October 6, 1909 in Gilmer, Texas. His early years were spent in east and central Texas, and eventually his family moved to Spearman where he graduated from high school. Wilburn's first musical experience was playing trombone in the Spearman Municipal Band. He attended McMurry College, later moving to Texas Tech, where he graduated in 1933 with a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics. He earned both a Master of Education and a Master of Science degree from Texas Tech.

Wilburn's teaching career spanned 43 years and included classroom work, administration, coaching, and band directing. He taught in several west Texas towns including Lubbock County Line School, Kerr, Andrews, Rankin, San Saba, Freer, and Levelland. His first band directing job was in Rankin where he taught for 5 years.

His teaching career was briefly interrupted when, at the age of 35, he served in the Navy during the latter part of World War II. After his discharge from the Navy, he moved to Levelland to rebuild the band program. It is this position for which he is best remembered. Beginning with 15 members in 1946, he developed the Levelland band into one of the most outstanding bands in west Texas, winning 10 Sweepstakes out of the twelve years he served as director. The band also won the Outstanding Band Award in their class at the Corpus Christi Buccaneer Days Band Festival. An outstanding number of Mr. Wheeler's students continued on to college and majored in music.

In 1958, South Plains Junior College was founded in Levelland, and Wilburn joined the faculty there as math professor and band director. The college band grew to 80 members, and Wilburn remained as director until 1968. He then became Chairman of the Math/Engineering Department at South Plains, and held that position until his retirement in 1974. Wilburn was an enthusiastic contributor to community enterprises, and organized a community band at South Plains College in 1967 with people from all over the community participating.

Wilburn was an active member in Phi Beta Mu, T.M.E.A., T.B.A., and Kappa Kappa Psi. He received numerous awards for teaching excellence in both high school and college. Many former students will remember his beating of a trombone to pieces in a rehearsal one day, not knowing it was a junk one, but as Wilburn said, "it sure got the band to play lot better!" Wilburn passed away April 18, 1988.

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