Former Boxer W.D. Clampitt, Dexter School Superintendent

Supt. Wesley D. Clampitt, Dexter, Iowa

Remember the school superintendent who played marbles with the high schoolers? Wesley David Clampitt had an interesting history, including attending Frog Pond School with Clabe Wilson. 

Wesley Clampitt was born in 1899 in Monteith, Iowa, to Reverend Henry Thornton and Alice Clampitt. In 1918, he graduated from Guthrie County High School in Panora and enlisted in the First World War June 3, 1918. After spending 15 months in France, he was discharged in 1919 at Camp Dodge. 

For three years he was a member of an undefeated boxing team, and in 1924, was mid-west champion in semi-final Olympic tryouts in Boston. 

Even before earning his degree, W. D. Clampitt taught in Adair County and was a bookkeeper for a Red Oak auto company. From 1924 to 1927, he was high school principal and coach at Bondurant, then superintendent of schools at Farrar from 1927-1929.

He earned a BS degree from Iowa State College in 1929, and a MS from Drake University in 1936.

He married Evelyn Atwood in 1924 in Monteith and had three children. Doris was born in 1929,  Ralph in 1931, and Lois in1935.

W. D. Clampitt was superintendent of schools in Dexter from 1929-1942. About 1934, a schoolmate of cousins Merrill Goff and Junior Wilson needed a smoke, so the boys went with him, out behind the fifth and sixth grade building. Both tried smoking. Mr. Clampitt happened to check out the science room window and didn’t like what he saw. He spanked the boys and warned them not to get caught by the nicotine habit. After school let out he paid a visit to their parents to let them know what he’d done. They approved.

Next he served at superintendent of schools at Johnston, Iowa. The spring of 1943, Dale Wilson was home to the Minburn farm on furlough after receiving his commission and pilot’s wings. Taking him back to the train station in Des Moines, the Wilsons stopped at the Johnston high school so Dale could see Mr. Clampitt, his well-liked former superintendent. Mr. Clampitt introduced Dale to his senior class and asked him to say a few words, and also walked out to the car with Dale to greet Clabe and Leora and ask about the others. 

Lois, Doris, and Ralph Clampitt, Dexter, Iowa, 1936

Doris Clampitt died in 1943, at only age 14. Mrs. Clampitt died three years later, leaving Mr. Clampitt a widower with a son who was 15 and an 11-year-old daughter.

Wesley D. Clampitt died, an apparent suicide, at the age of only 49 in 1948, leaving two children, ages 17 and 13. He is buried in Dexter Cemetery.

W. D. Clampitt was a member of the American Legion, Iowa State Teachers Association, Dallas County Schoolmasters Association, the Stuart Golf Club, the Community Club, Masonic Lodge,  the Christian Church, and enjoyed fishing, hunting, and golfing.


Clipping probably from the Dexter newspaper, July, 1948: A former superintendent of the Dexter school died late last Thursday at the Iowa Methodist hospital in Des Moines of what was apparently a self-inflicted shotgun wound in the head. He was Wesley D. Clampitt, 49, of Adel who served last year as school superintendent at Van Meter.

L.H. DeFord of Redfield, Dallas county coroner, pronounced the death a suicide and announced that no inquest would be held.

Clampitt was found in an unconscious condition in his home in Adel. His wife discovered him in an upstairs bedroom of their home with a shotgun wound in his forehead, according to Sheriff Evan A. Burger of Dallas county. A discharged .410 shotgun was found nearby.

Besides serving in the Dexter and Van Meter schools, Clampitt had also served in the Johnston school system. He had resigned his post in Van Meter a few weeks ago to accpet a position with a Sioux City insurance firm. He was a graduate of Iowa State College and a veteran of World War I.

Clampitt’s first wife had died two years ago. Surviving him are his second wife and two children, Ralph, 17, and Lois, 14.

Funeral services were held 2 p.m. Sunday, July 4, at the Adel Christian church, in charge of the Rev. Stanley Mahannah, assisted by the Rev. D. D. Loose. Interment was in the Dexter cemetery.

The smoking episode is from Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression. The story about Dale home on furlough and stopping to see Mr. Clampitt is from Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II.


  1. As a former boxer, he must have been quite an intimidating principal! The spanking incident reminds me of the warning my parents gave my brother and me: “If you get in trouble at school, you’ll be in even more trouble when you get home!”

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