LEAVING THEIR MARK
When They Were Trojans
They came down the street and across the miles. They had been there before and left their marks. On this past Saturday morning, they came to mark "the sacred ground, the holy ground," the place where they attended Oconee High School and learned the life lessons of love, faith, and service to others. They came to remember the time when they were Trojans.
Former students, faculty members, and friends of Oconee High School gathered together for the dedication of a historical marker on the site of the former school which stood at the intersection of Vine and Oconee Streets from 1952 to 1970. When Dublin city councilman Jerry Davis, a graduate of Oconee High School, returned home to Dublin, he set out on a mission to mark the location of the school, the largest part of which had been torn down decades before.
After an application to the state of Georgia was rejected on the grounds that the school was not significant as a historical place on a statewide basis, an undeterred Davis turned to his friends and fellow alumni to erect a marker which would forever signify the location of the place which fellow student, the Rev. Richard Sheffield, declared as "holy."
After a welcome by Barbara Watkins James, '62, the Rev. Sheffield, Chairman of the Dublin City Board of Education, prayed, "Let love touch our hearts with love and charity." The 1966 graduate saw himself and others as they gathered in front of the old school as children trying to understand and learn. He asked that every time a child and its mother passed by, the child would ask, "What is Oconee High School"? - to which the mother would respond that it was a place of the heritage of education. Chairman Sheffield sees Dublin High School as an extension of Oconee High and as a place where even more focus should be made by the community, and especially parents, on education, so that the schools can be a place where every child can learn.
Davis, the alumni association's 2nd vice president, thanked those present and all who contributed to the effort, the alumni, the city, and the Laurens County Historical Society. The councilman fondly remembered the days when the school was the hub of the community and community activities and saluted the school's alumni association for continuing to be a beacon of light when the community has fallen into a state of disrepair and for continuing to represent a spirit of excellence. Davis, Class of '69, spoke of the students and faculty with pride and hopes that the marker will inspire others to emulate the achievements of Oconee alumni and continue to make a difference on the local, state and national stages.
Dublin Mayor Pro Tem, Julie Drigger, saluted those present as trailblazers and encouraged the graduates to remember and pass down their heritage by saying, "No one can take that away from you. Never forget where you come from and you will always know where you are going."
School board member, Laura Travick, challenged the gathering, "If we don't leave a mark, no one who passes this way will know these holy grounds and where many got their start in education." Mrs. Travick concluded, "They will know what this ground meant to the people to the people of Dublin."
Assistant Superintendent Elgin Dixon sees the marker as telling the story about those who have come before them and paved the way.
Charles Manning, principal of Oconee High School from 1959 to 1970, praised the strong alumni association and his former students, "Statewide, we were small, but we always gave our best in everything we did. Mr. Manning urged his students to continue their loyalty to Oconee. He counseled his former students to hold to the truth of being a Trojan. As he looked into the sun beyond the gymnasium, which still stands, Manning can still see the football games, with players like Richard Sheffield. "Oconee has always been the best," principal Manning concluded.
Oconee High School Alumni National Alumni Chairman Darlene Blocker, '70, invited representatives of each class to come forward to cut the cover of the marker in the style of cutting the net after a championship basketball game. One by one they came forward, from those who attended in the early days until those who left Oconee to attend Dublin High, and began to cut away and unveil the marker.
Dr. Jerome V. Pearson, a successful Rome, Georgia physician, Class of '71, finished the operation to unveil the southern side of the marker which features the words of Seaman Lonnie Woodum, Class of 1954. Woodum, the author of the school's alma mater, tragically lost his life in a naval accident just months after his graduation. The northern side of the marker outlines a brief history of the origin and life at Oconee High School and the days when the Trojans represented a spirit of excellence in education, sports and community service, a spirit which still lives today.