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101-year-old Alabama man gets high school diploma

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By Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Thursday night’s graduation ceremony at an Alabama high school included a man who finally earned his diploma after 84 years. At 101 years old, John Presley Motes graduated with Goshen High School’s Class of 2017, but he is older than his classmates — and also older than the school officials who handed him his diploma.

Motes was born in Pike County, Alabama, on Sept. 10, 1915, according to his World War II draft card information. He grew up in the Goshen area and should have graduated in 1933, but he had to drop out of school because of a health condition, WFSA reported.

When he turned 18, he joined the Air Force as an engineer.

“He was smart as a whip,” Motes’ wife, Bettye Motes, told WFSA. “He just never got a chance to graduate.”

About seven months ago, Motes’ children asked school officials at Goshen High School to see if their father could participate in Thursday’s ceremony.

“We asked the seniors if they would be willing to do it, and they were beside themselves excited,” Assistant Principal Anthony May told WFSA. “It was sprung on us, but we’re so glad it was.”

Motes did not want to go first in the procession. He wanted to go in the traditional alphabetical order. He received a standing ovation as he accepted his diploma, WFSA reported.

Motes wants to continue his education. His next move is to return to Mobile, where he now lives with his wife, and apply to the University of South Alabama in the fall, WFSA reported.

“I’m going to major in music,” Motes said.

Motes’ children said his goal is to live to be 107.

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