Wally Flint Cannot Keep a Secret

By Megan Smith


Wally Flint Cannot Keep a Secret

Wally Flint’s life has always been transparent.  From sharing the secret of his childhood boss to opening up about his minor troubles as a teen as a way to help the troubled teens he worked with, Flint has never been one to keep a secret.

After he resigned from his job as a Secret Service officer after a year, Flint always told his friends: “They found out I couldn’t keep a secret.”

Wally Flint grew up just south of Atlanta.  As a boy, Flint claimed that he always held a job.  

“First, cutting the neighbors lawns and doing odd jobs.  Around 10, we had a paper rout we delivered on our bicycles, then we worked in grocery stores,” Flint said concerning himself and other boys in his neighborhood.

Interestingly, when Flint was 14, he worked at a hamburger joint for the very man whose cows hold signs encouraging customers to “Eat more chicken” now—Truett Cathy, owner of Chick-fil-A.

Flint appreciates this background in hard work.

“Child labor laws and the minimum wage keeps kids from working but then the boys grew up knowing what work was,” Flint stated.

Flint saved his money until he had $1000 dollars and applied this money toward one year of college at Methodist Junior College.

Following his time at Methodist Junior College, Flint took a job at Delta Airlines as a mechanic.

“The first day, I met Vivian Willingham.  I loved that girl so much.  She filled up my whole life.  Still does,” Flint said.

Within eight months of meeting, Vivian and Flint were married.  Flint said that he was the happiest guy in the world.

Flint continued to work for Delta airlines for eight years.  

“I didn’t know anything about mechanics but learned on the job and in night schools,” Flint said.

During this time, Flint and his wife had three kids.  Also, Flint completed bachelor’s degree by taking night classes.

Flint eventually took a job as a juvenile probation officer.

“I had been in a lot of minor trouble as a teenager, so working with troubled teenagers became my main interest,” Flint stated.

Flint worked for three years as a juvenile probation officer before the low pay forced him to take a position as a secret service man.

“It made me uncomfortable locking people up,” said Flint.

After a year, Flint decided to resign from this position and went to work as a counselor with Vocational Rehabilitation.  He was back to working with the teenagers who had inspired him.

This job also sent Flint to school part time, and he was able to complete a Masters degree in three years.

Flint then decided to apply for a government fellowship in special education.

“I started applying and right away had three offers.  We decided on the University of Illinois,” said Flint.

While at the University of Illinois, Flint received his Ph.D.  In that time, Vivian got two degrees in music.

“She always twice as smart as me, anyway,” Flint said.

Flint taught at two universities.  He also became the Director of two schools for troubled teenagers and some public schools.

“Along the way, I got to develop some programs for the kids I was most interested in,” Flint stated.

After retiring from Moorhead State University, the Flints moved to McNairy County in order to be closer to their grandchildren who live in Memphis.

The Flints’ oldest son took after his father, working in a myriad of jobs.

Anna, the Flints’ daughter travels the world starting businesses and working as a missionary.

“She just got over breast cancer,” said Flint.  “It didn’t seem to bother her except keeping her grounded for a while.”

The Flints’ youngest son is a jazz pianist who plays, teaches, and composes music.

The Flints retired 20 years ago and live on a farm near Selmer.

“We love hiking and have done a lot of backpacking,” Flint said.

The Flints have also done a lot of volunteer work.  They have been involved with organizations such as meals on wheels and mission BOWL, which helps people in need of house repairs.

“Anyhow, if you want my advice, save up some money, marry a girl that’s smarter than you, and talk slow.  It worked for me,” Flint said.