The Liberty County Commission may not know where to find the money to renovate the former Liberty High School gym in Midway, but they know the facility’s new name: Samuel B. Harris Gymnasium.
During the days of racial segregation the rambling red brick structure at 9397 E. Oglethorpe Highway was the high school for blacks. It had a second life after integration as Liberty Elementary School, led as principal by Dr. Clemontine Washington who later presided there as Mayor when the city was using the former school as a temporary city hall.
The county took over and renovated the school; it now houses a branch library, the Keep Liberty Beautiful office, and a satellite tag office. The former school cafetorium is used for community groups and events.
A new swimming pool operated by the Recreation Department has been built at the site now known as the Liberty County Community Complex. The old gym that served the high school--not yet renovated--stands at the rear of the site.
Although the county has not yet been able to pay for full renovation, they made their intention clear by investing $350,000 in the gym’s failing roof. With the roof stabilized, surveying, planning and restoration can take place.
Sam Harris was well known in Liberty County although in different roles. Most recently he served 25 years as hearing officer for discipline tribunals of the Liberty County school system, Although it seldom comes to public attention, this job is a crucial part of the student code of conduct, and other hearing officers remarked on how reliable and fair Harris was.
Harris’s more well-known jobs include teacher, coach and assistant principal in Liberty County schools.
Harris coached the first basketball team to win the boys state championship in 1965 for Liberty County. Harris was vice president of the Hinesville Officials Associations for 25 years and in 2004 he was inducted into the Liberty County Sports Hall of Fame. In 2012 he was honored by the Georgia High School Association for 50 years of service.
Harris served on the Liberty County Election Board and was a member of the board of the Liberty County Hospital Authority.
County Commissioner Marion Stevens, whose district includes the county community complex, said he was glad to see Harris honored but added, “The gym is not complete, and it’s going to take money to complete it.” He said the commissioners supported the project, but called for other agencies, nonprofits, churches and individuals to contribute to the sum necessary.
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