Bruce Blasingame was a great and honorable man.
He was a man whom I highly respected from the time I got to know him as one of his students at Laura Jones Junior High School in Thomson.
The school was behind the McDuffie County Courthouse on property that now is owned by Thomson First United Methodist Church. I attended the seventh grade there before switching over to R.L. Norris when the school system integrated black and white students.
I remember Mr. Blasingame being referred to by some of my friends and other students at Laura Jones as "Slick," because he had very little hair. I can truthfully say, though, that I never called him Slick, but rather addressed him by principal with the greatest and utmost respect. When I spoke to him, I called him Mr. Blasingame.
Through the years, our relationship always was a good one. When we would run into each other -- mostly at sporting events that I was covering, either as a writer or an umpire -- Mr. Blasingame always made it a point, often going out of his way to speak to me. It always meant a lot to me, because I considered us friends.
Mr. Blasingame later was named the principal of Pine Street Elementary School before becoming the principal of Thomson High School.
After years of declining health, Mr. Blasingame died last week.
His death leaves a big void in our community. Mr. Blasingame was not only well-known but well-thought of.
There was a reason. That reason had to do with his having treated everybody with respect. Though he might have disagreed about a particular subject, he always was respectful of the other fellow's opinion, too.
Mr. Blasingame was one of the biggest supporters of the football program at Thomson High School. The reason was simple: He truly loved the Bulldogs through and through.
One of his best friends in coaching circles was Luther Welsh, who has guided the Bulldogs for many years.
Being a supporter and lover of the Bulldogs was something that came easy for Mr. Blasingame because he once guided the Bulldogs as head coach. That was true not only in football but also in basketball and baseball.
Mr. Blasingame believed in student/athletes, and he did whatever he could do within reason to make sure they got an education. He believed an education was something no one could take away from you. It was something you earned.
He did as much to promote Thomson High School in our community as anyone I've ever known.
Several years after serving as football head coach, Mr. Blasingame served as "voice of the Bulldogs" over the airwaves of radio station WTWA.
It was a job he dearly loved because it put him right in the thick of what was going on with the Bulldogs. He knew who was injured, who was questionable and what each player was capable of accomplishing -- either offensively or defensively.
Mr. Blasingame called some great games on the radio.
This past Saturday, I ventured to Dublin to cover the Bulldogs' baseball team in a big region game against West Laurens. At the end of the game, former head coach Terry Holder said he got the opportunity to hear an old radio tape of the state championship game from 1967 -- the year the Bulldogs won their first state title. The tape, belonging to Ralph Starling, was shared with Holder.
"That was really something pretty special to hear," Holder said.
Mr. Blasingame's grandson Clay Blasingame, a freshman, is a backup catcher and travels with the varsity team. I know his grandfather was most proud of him being an athlete, in addition to Clay's sisters. I made it a point to pick at Clay a little more while in the dugout of this past weekend's game.
I think his grandfather would have appreciated it.