Former Knox County Schools Superintendent Earl Hoffmeister, who oversaw the often contentious merger of the city and county school systems, died Tuesday.

Hoffmeister turned 90 in December. He was born in Maryville.

Hoffmeister oversaw local education from 1976 to 1992, when he retired. He served during an era when superintendents were elected in Tennessee.

His tenure included the landmark merger in 1987 of the two systems, a move that still draws grumbles among old-timers.

Knoxville city schools once operated independent of county schools.

Hoffmeister had a four-decade career in education. His time in Knox County included years at Powell High School, where he also coached football, and Central High School.

In the 1970s he was an assistant principal at Central before becoming superintendent.

At his retirement in 1992, he told the News Sentinel he remained a strong proponent of funding for public education.

"I think the nation and our leaders need to make a commitment to education, like the commitment they made to the savings and loans scandals," he told the newspaper.

"All the money we spend on at-risk programs is worth every penny. Children+need to be educated almost from the time they're born, and we need to take every dime possible and give it to the grade schools and preschools for drop-(out (prevention) money. We need social workers and guidance counselors in every school we have.

"This old world's going to survive," he added. "It doesn't matter what you do to it. Whether the people survive depends on what you put into education."