Donald L. Hilton, highly accomplished artist and educator, passed away February 7, 2021 at his home in Colonial Heights. He was born in Austin Springs and attended East Tennessee State University. He held B.S. and M.A. Degrees with additional graduate studies. He served in the United States Navy aboard aircraft carriers during the Korean Conflict. Hilton taught school at Sullivan West, Ketron and Sullivan North High Schools. He was married to author/educator Fern Overbey Hilton for 60 years. They lived their entire married life in Colonial Heights. Hilton always told anyone who would listen that his family was the center of his life and the inspiration that fueled his life and his career. He also loved his students and remained devoted to them until the end of his life.
Hilton created hundreds of commercial projects, was especially generous to the schools of Sullivan County, to the city of Kingsport, to Sullivan County and to cities of the area by sharing his talents without cost. He was the designer of the Veterans Memorials for both Kingsport and Blountville. Hilton was also known for students who have been successful in major art centers of the United States including New York, Orlando, Chicago, Hollywood and Los Angeles, and Atlanta among others. Although he was a highly praised artist in his own right, he believed the success of his students was his biggest responsibility and his greatest joy as a teacher.
He was the son of the late W. Weldon and Lucy Hodge Hilton of Austin Springs. He was the grandson of Dr. Nathaniel and Suzanna Curtis Hodge, and Daniel and Mary Critsinger Hilton. He was preceded in death by his sister, Margaret Hilton Orren and by brothers, Dennis, Quentin, Robert, and Rev. Roger Hilton, all of whom made significant contributions to their region and their nation.
Hilton is survived by his wife, Fern, and sons, Dr. Wesley Vincent Hilton and Quentin David Hilton. He is further survived by grandsons, Andrew, Benjamin, and Weldon J. Hilton, sons of Quentin, and great-granddaughter, Isabella Hilton, daughter of Benjamin. He is also survived by several nieces.
Rather than attempting a memorial service amid current stresses, a “get together” of friends, family, and students is planned at the Veterans Memorial Eagle in Memorial Park, Kingsport, on his birthday, on August 18, 2021.
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