WARRENTON, Ga. - The new Warren County High School football stadium was named after a longtime, educator, administrator and former school board member during special ceremonies before the WCHS/Hancock Central homecoming game last Friday night.
The memory of the late Albert J. Massey will be forever remembered with the football stadium being known as "Albert J. Massey Field."
Warren County School Superintendent Carole Jean Carey said school officials and others had wanted to honor Mr. Massey in a special way and this was the way they chose to honor his legacy to the school system and community.
"We wanted this to be very special for his family, too," said Mrs. Carey. "He meant an awful lot to our school system, our community and he loved athletics so much. He really loved those Screaming Devils. Mr. Massey was the No. 1 Screaming Devil fan."
Mr. Massey died unexpectedly on July 1.
Mrs. Carey compared him to a mailman in terms of his dedication to athletic programs at WCHS, regardless of weather conditions, etc.
"He was certainly dedicated to the education of students at Warren County High School," added Mrs. Carey, who later unveiled a bronze plaque that officially names the stadium - Albert J. Massey Field. Just before the game between the Screaming Devils and Bulldogs, as heavy rains fell, Jesse Dawson, a vocational supervisor and teacher at the high school, unveiled the field's scoreboard, which also bears that name. Mr. Massey's widow, Emily Massey, also participated in that ceremony. Several members of the Massey family also were present.
A special program, entitled, "The Legacy Lives On," was done inside the newly-named George M. Holliman Auditorium before the stadium scoreboard was unveiled. More than a dozen people participated in that event, including education administrators, local government leaders, former students, friends and family members.
"Everybody has just pitched in, because they loved Mr. Massey," said Mrs. Carey.
Elder Lawrence O. Bacon, a pastor and a retired Warren County educator, who served as master of ceremony, described Mr. Massey as a man who had a close relationship with the Lord.
"He had a real love for the Lord," said Mr. Bacon, noting that he and Mr. Massey talked about their shared relationship with the Lord just a few days before the retired educator's death. "He stood for what he believed in."
Greg Swint, a former student at Warren County High School where Mr. Massey once served as a teacher and later as principal, said, "Mr. Massey was very, very special to me. He made a lot of differences in a lot of people's lives."
Mr. Swint described Mr. Massey as an angel of encouragement, support and wisdom.
He recalled that one of Mr. Massey's favorite sayings to some of the students who attended WCHS was: "It's all about your attitude," as an estimated crowd of 300 people laughed and applauded.
Clara Roberts, a retired educator, said Mr. Massey was a man who always cared about students long after they had graduated from WCHS.
"He was always concerned about what happened to them," said Ms. Roberts, who is now a member of the Warren County Board of Education. "Mr. Massey was always there," including in 1980 when a record number 96 seniors graduated.
Rolf Gunnels, a former principal of WCHS and former local school board member, said the new football stadium was "first-class" and that the man whose name it now bears "was first-class, too."
Mr. Gunnels put together a list of words that he thought best described his friend from the letters in his last name:
M: Master - master of faith; Mission: a leader and an educator; and Mate: Blessed by God to have found such a mate like his wife;
A: Academics, attitude and athletics;
S: Service. He was a man of service, said Mr. Gunnels, noting he also was a good citizen and served his country in the military. "He was a good example to his family and served his country," added the longtime educator and administrator.
S: Success. Mr. Massey was a success in many ways, he said. He proved his success by being an example to hundreds of students.
E: Ethics. He was a man of honor and high principles.
Y: Youth. Mr. Massey was always concerned about the youth of Warren County.
"We thank you for being a very important part of our lives," said Mr. Gunnels.
Virginia Moore Taylor, now a probation officer with the Augusta Judicial Circuit and a former student at WCHS, remembered Mr. Massey as a strong disciplinarian.
She said he was a man who could easily command respect.
"When he was around, you could hear a pin drop," said Ms. Taylor, explaining that everybody around him respected him as much as he respected them. "He gave me an awful lot to be proud of."
Dr. Victoria Seals, a former student who now serves as division chairwoman of the arts and science at Gwinnett Technical College, said Mr. Massey impacted her life, as well as the lives of so many others.
Jesse Dawson, who teaches at WCHS and was a close friend of the late educator, provided a video presentation of his friend's life in education. The video reflected a celebration of 50 years of service in education to the youth of Warren County.
Mr. Massey, who retired in 1987, "was a man of character and integrity," said Jeffery Tarver, a former student and standout football player at WCHS. "He was for all people. He was a man who had vision as a leader. He would tell you the truth whether you wanted to hear it or not."
Mr. Tarver once rushed for 2,000 yards as a football player and now serves as assistant principal at Stone Mountain High School, said, "That man had a great impact on my life."
Antonio Hill, a former student who today serves as principal of M.E. Freeman Elementary School in Warrenton, said, "He demonstrated the essence of his life every single day."
James Newsome, who serves on the Warren County Board of Education, said Mr. Massey left an indelible mark as a leader.