Nature 39

Jerry Lytle

October 31, 1933 ~ August 6, 2019 (age 85)

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Clarence “Jerry” Lytle was born on October 31, 1933 to Clarence Jesse and Thelma Lytle. He often joked the cards were stacked against him since he was red-headed, freckle-faced, born on Halloween, and his parents named him Clarence. Jerry was a truly humble and honorable man who saw the very best in people and had an endless passion to help them achieve their full potential. Jerry passed away peacefully at his home on Tuesday, August 6, 2019, surrounded by his family.  A memorial service will take place on Saturday, August 10, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. at First Baptist Church, Commerce.  A reception will immediately follow in the fellowship hall. 

Jerry attended Commerce schools where his leadership abilities were noticed in his four years in student council and as class president in eighth grade and his senior year. He showed strength as an athlete lettering in football, baseball, basketball, and boxing.

After graduating from Commerce High School, Jerry continued his education at East Texas State University where he received bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in education administration and curriculum, supervision, and instruction. Jerry continued to excel in Football as the Lions’ fullback, linebacker, punter, and kick returner. He was a member of the 1952 and 1953 Lion teams that received Tangerine Bowl invitations and was twice voted by his teammates as most valuable player.

In addition to his on-field achievements, Jerry had an unfettered passion for education. After graduation, he became a coach in Reilly Springs, TX where he met and married Shirley Grace Malone. Together, Jerry and Shirley had three daughters, Jeanne, Deanna, and Julie. They returned to Commerce in 1961 when Jerry accepted the position of Coach and Science teacher at W.J. Wheeler Junior High. In 1963, Jerry was promoted to principal of A. L. Day Elementary School, a position he held for five years.

His next move was to ETSU where he became the first full-time Director of Financial Aid. He developed the East Texas Higher Education Loan Authority to provide aid for students at ETSU and other universities. During his service, financial aid assistance grew from $800,000 to over $10 million, allowing students to obtain a college degree who, otherwise, couldn’t have afforded it.

In addition to director of financial aid at ETSU, he was director of career services, director of veteran affairs, supervisor of The Children’s Learning Center and supervisor of foreign students.

Jerry married Debora Schubert in 1985 and together they had a son, Jaret. Jerry’s greatest joy was seeing his kids and grandkids do what they love and be successful. He never missed a game, performance, or significant event for any of his kids and grandkids. He also never missed an opportunity to tell them he loved them and was proud of them.

His numerous achievements include ETSU Athletic Hall of Fame, Commerce ISD Hall of Honor, ETSU Spirit of Mayo Award, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Man of the Year Award, and creator of the East Texas Higher Education Loan Authority. His influence as an educator extends to his family as well. Wife, Debora, is an artist and educator and his three daughters inherited his heart for education. 

Later in life, Jerry displayed his artistic talents through masterfully crafted Bois d’ Arc pieces. Much like his ability to see the best in people and help them reach their potential, Jerry was able to take Bois d’ Arc pieces that most would have overlooked and help them flourish into something beautiful.

Jerry is preceded in death by father Clarence Jesse Lytle, mother Thelma Clinton Lytle, sister Billie Jean Pennell, and brother Walter Larry Lytle.

He is survived by his wife Debora Lytle and son Jaret Lytle; daughters Jeanne Lay, Deanna Hays, and Julie Harris; sons-in-law Chuck Lay and Paul Harris; daughter-in-law Kelsey Lytle; sister Beverly Pirkey; sister-in-law Connie Hall; brothers-in-law Jack Pirkey and Sam Hall; nephews Steve Pirkey, Jason Lytle, and David Lytle; niece Twonette Gessman Evans; grandkids, Mollye Lay, Sarah Clift, Kadie Hays, Alex Harris, Charley Lytle, Maddox Lytle, Cade Lytle, and Cici Lytle; grandson-in-law Charlie Clift; and great grandson William Clift.

Serving as Honorary Pallbearers are Sam Hall, Michael Johnson, Gerald Malone, Jack Pirkey, Lan Rainey, and Gary Thompson.

The Dr. Jerry Lytle Honorary Endowment was established in his name to provide financial assistance to the football and men’s basketball programs. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the Dr. Jerry Lytle Honorary Endowment, Texas A&M University-Commerce Foundation, P.O. Box 3425, Commerce, TX 75429-3425. Online contributions can be made at and the family will be notified of all donors. For additional information or questions on contributing, contact Taylor Phelps, Executive Director – Lion Champions Fund, at (903) 886-5554 or

Services entrusted to Commerce Funeral Home.

To send flowers to Jerry's family, please visit our floral section.


Celebration of Life
August 10, 2019

1:00 PM
1401 Washington Street
Commerce, Texas 75428

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