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Carl Dan Killian Collection

Identifier: MSS 80-69

Content Description

Correspondence and other material related to Killian's personal and professional life. Carl Dan Killian (1903-1976), a noted educator in western North Carolina, became head of the Department of Psychology & Education at Western Carolina College in 1935. Killian helped establish and became head of the Western Carolina Clinic Complex in 1964. The clinic facilities included the Developmental Evaluation Clinic, the Mental Health Clinic, and the Speech & Hearing Clinic. In 1967 Killian was named Dean of the School of Education. He was elected to the North Carolina Senate (1971) and also served on state commissions and study groups dealing with education and health.


  • 1928 - 1973

Conditions Governing Use

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Biographical / Historical

The man who came to be known as "Mr. Education" in western North Carolina was born Carl Dan Killian in Hayesville, North Carolina, on April 10, 1903. His father had moved to Hayesville in 1900 after practicing medicine there in the summers while attending Emory Medical School in Atlanta. Killian had one sister, Ms. W.A. McGlamacy of Hayesville, and two brothers, Dr. Frank M. Killian of Franklin and Ralph Killian of Hayesville.

Most of Killian's early education was acquired in Hayesville. However, before his senior year in 1918 there was some doubt as to whether the Hayesville High School would reopen. Because of this development, Killian was sent to live with his uncle, Dr. F.A. Moss in Pelham, Georgia, where he subsequently graduated in that year.

The summer following his graduation Killian worked on the North Carolina State University experimental farm. That fall at the age of sixteen he entered North Carolina State University. His roommate was Nick Carter, for whom the present North Carolina State stadium is named. During his freshman year Killian declared Agriculture as his major. Instead of returning to North Carolina State in the fall of 1920, Killian went to Camp Dix, New Jersey as a psychology assistant in the E and R Schools. He returned to North Carolina State the following year.

During the summer of 1922 Killian visited his uncle, Ralph Moss, a school principal in Royston, Georgia. During this visit, Mr. A.B. Greene asked Killian to teach Bible and English at the Gibson Mercer Academy that summer. Mr. Green went on to found the Hiawassee Academy in Georgia which as Killian put it, turned out many good people of state, national, and international reputation.

Killian returned to North Carolina State that fall and changed his major to Biology and Chemistry. Despite this change he retained his interest in agriculture, as illustrated by his servuce as secretary-treasurer of the Student Fair, helping to found the magazine the North Carolina State Agriculturist, and serving as its first editor.

Killian spent that summer working at the YMCA Assembly at Ridgecrest, North Carolina. During his senior year at State, he became friends with Ralph Scott, the brother of Governor Carr Scott and uncle to Governor Bob Scott.

That year Killian also served as a representative of Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company, and after graduation from State returned to Hayesville as the company's representative. He took as a partner Mr. Jim Penland, and together they operated a successful insurance business that year. Killian did not especially enjoy selling insurance, and he availed himself of an opportunity to teach the next year.

Killian spent 1926 as the science teacher in the Hayesville High School and in the spring of 1927 he decided to go on to graduate work in Entomology at Cornell University. The weekend before he was to leave for Cornell, his uncle, Dr. F.A. Moss came to visit. He talked Killian into going to Columbia to study Educational Psychology where he obtained his Master's Degree in 1927.

After receiving his Masters degree, Killian went to Central State Teachers College, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, as an instructor. The following year he went to the University of Texas as an instructor in the School of Business. The three years at both schools were spent filling in for people who were on leaves of absence. One of Killian's students in his Psychology of Salesmanship class at the University of Texas was John Connally who went on to become Governor of Texas and a candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1980. In 1930 Killian accepted an offer from Ohio State University as a part-time instructor and Ph.D. candidate. In December 1932 he received his Ph.D. in Psychology and went to Hood College in Michigan to again fill in for another professor on a year's leave of absence. After the termination of his position at Hood, Killian found himself in the same plight as many other individuals during the Great Depression in 1933. Jobs were scarce, and Killian decided to return to Hayesville where he was confident that he could, at least, earn a living as a farmer.

But Killian was not to be a farmer. That year he was offered a positon as English teacher at Hayesville High School and in 1934 he became principal. In the spring of 1935 he was offered a postion of acting Head of the Department of Psychology & Education at Western Carolina Teachers College to fill in for Dr. C.H. Allen, who was onleave. After two years, Allen returned, but, at his own behest, as head of the Laboratory School. This enabled Killian to stay on as Head of the Department, a position he was to hold either as department head or as dean of the school until his retirment in 1968.

In 1937 Killian started the Cooperative Guidance Service and in 1938 expanded this into the WCTC Guidance Clinic and the Extension Division, both of which he headed until 1968. Killian was the first to introduce guidance courses and counseling in western North Carolina and the first to focus attention on handicapped or exceptionally talented children in the area. During these years Killian devoted his weekends (except for Sunday morning workshop in the Cullowhee Baptist Church) to clinical work with children who needed help.

In 1941 Killian created the summer demonstration school for children in its modern form. This included experimentation, demonstration, and practice as well as enrichment and remediation. Under Killian's direction the summer program was expanded in 1951 to include special education courses for elementary and high school students. Originally the programs were for the mentally retarded, the speech handicapped, and the disabled reader. In 1958 the summer program for gifted elementary students was begun, and in 1959 a program for superior and gifted high school students was added, all headed by Killian.

In 1948 Killian became special advisor to veterans and director of special programs for them, such as refresher education programs and veterans testing services. Under the latter programs, over three thousand veterans received high school certificates through the WCTC service.

In 1964 Killian helped establish and became head of the Western Carolina Clinic Complex. The facilities included the Developmental Evaluation Clinic, the Mental Health Clinic, and the Speech and Hearing Center.

In 1968 Killian retired as Dean of the School of Education & Psychology (a position to which he had been named a year earlier) to become the full-time executive officer of the State of Franklin Health Council, Inc. This organization, which began as Killian's brainchild in 1964 primarily for comprehensive health planning in the area of mental health and mental retardation, was formally organized in 1966 as the overall health planning agency for the seven southwestern counties of North Carolina. It was recognized as the partnership for health in this region and was funded in part by the federal government until the reorganization of the Department of Health, Education & Welfare rendered it obsolete by the establishment of federal health planning agencies.

In 1970 Killian was elected to the North Carolina State Senate from the 33rd Senatorial District, composed of Clay, Cherokee, Graham, Jackson, Macon, Swain, and Transylvania counties. He served only one term, refusing to run for second term because of personal reasons. But Killian's service in and for state government encompassed more than just one term in the statehouse. He served as a consultant on special education for the administration of Governor Carr Scott. Later Governor Luther Hodges named him as chairman of a legislative commission on the exceptionally talented child. His commission recommended a state-wide comprehensive program in this field, the first such program in the county. Also during the Hodges administration Killian headed a major study by the Board of Higher Education which projected a comprehensive state-wide extension program. Under Governor Terry Sandford, Killian was appointed to the Board of Governors of the Governor's School. Governor Dan Moore appointed him as a member of the State Board of Health, and also under Moore, Killian assumed leadership in bringing the Six Year Program in School Administration to East Carolina College, Appalachian State College, and Western Carolina College.

In the Spring of 1968 Western Carolina College honored Killian by naming a new Education and Psychology building after him. The building now stands as a memorial to the innovation and dedication of Carl Dan Killian and to his four decades of service to the people of western North Carolina.


12 Linear Feet (28 boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection is divided into two parts. The first part has materials identified as personally relating to Killian, and includes correspondence, political material, biographical data, dedication of the Killian building, Cullowhee Baptist Church material, Guidance Clinic materials, certificates, clippings, and photographs. The second part consists of materials that would normally be considered University Archives and were in Killian's possession because of his position at Western Carolina University. The second group includes university programs, activities, committee reports, administration, Education Department, Caribbean Study Project, State of Franklin materials, and additional Guidance Clinic records.

Condition Description

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Repository Details

Part of the Hunter Library - Special Collections Repository

Cullowhee United States