82-year-old Cement native receives high school diploma - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

82-year-old Cement native receives high school diploma

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)
(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)
(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

CEMENT, OK (KSWO) - 82-year-old Leaman Lee Wilkes of Cement has accomplished plenty in his life, with an Associates Degree, a Bachelor's, two Master's Degrees, as well as a 20-year career in the Air Force.

But on Thursday night, he achieved another goal and walked across the stage at Cement High School receiving his diploma.

When he was in 10th grade, he had to drop out of school because his parents became ill and needed help with work on the farm. He said going back and getting that diploma was something he always wanted to do, but once his career took off, it seemed unlikely to happen. Wilkes said he gives thanks to his little sister for making it all happen.

"He was my big brother that had accomplished a lot from a little country kid," said Claudia.

Leaman's little sister Claudia Wilkes said the idea of helping him get his diploma started just a few weeks ago.

"I had been to my high school reunion and with a friend of mine and we stopped by Lee's house and he asked, when did you graduate? Lee told him his story and as I thought about it after I went home and I decided I'm going to see if I can get his diploma he deserved that to complete his plaques on his wall," said Claudia.

With graduation soon approaching for Cement High School she got in touch with the superintendent and made the special day a reality.

"She called me up one day and said 'guess what, you're graduating from high school' and I said I am, okay," said Wilkes.

Claudia said he was always a hard worker, working in the cotton field, at just 14 years old.

"I didn't like pulling the cotton sack," said Wilkes.

So, two years after dropping out, Wilkes joined the Air Force. While he was stationed in Texas he got his GED.

"I found out if I took correspondent courses you would get a point towards promotion, so I said lets take some of those, then I found out if I took college courses I would get 3 points, so I started Junior College. Who knew I would pursue education," said Wilkes.

He got an Associates degree in Math in 1964, followed by a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and Education and finally obtaining Master's Degrees in Education and Behavioral Science.

Wilkes said having an education and multiple degrees helped him get promoted in the Air Force, which included projects involving the space shuttle.

In 1973, he was selected as one of the Top Twelve Non-Commissioned Officers in the Air Force. He went to Washington D.C for a special recognition by the Department of Defense.

"Persistence will get you there. You may have setbacks but get up and go again and you will get there," said Wilkes.

"To me, he has always been smart and had a brain and I wasn't surprised he did all of this when the doors opened he walked through them," said Claudia.

 But getting that diploma Thursday night from Cement High School will be one to remember.

"I'm going to cry," Claudia said.

"Kinda exciting going back to the old school seeing if there is anybody still left out of my class of 1953," Wilkes said.

Leaman graduated with 12 other seniors at Cement High School.  Wilkes' sister Claudia said they celebrated the special day with cake and ice cream afterward.

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