For years Baldwin High School’s athletic facilities have had no names beyond generic designations like “Braves Stadium” or “Braves Field” but that’s all about to change.
Last year community members and former BHS student-athletes urged the Baldwin County Board of Education to name the high school’s gymnasium after former longtime basketball coach James A. Lunsford, a man they said touched many kids’ lives both on and off the basketball court. After creating a naming facilities policy and filling a committee that eventually recommended that the gym bear Lunsford’s name, the BOE voted unanimously Tuesday to name the basketball arena in his honor.
The man who coached in Baldwin County Schools for over 30 years was in attendance along with his family at Tuesday’s meeting and was given the opportunity to address the five board members and school superintendent.
“I don’t know what I can say, I’m just overwhelmed,” Lunsford said. “I’m a Boddie graduate all the way through Baldwin High School and I’ve worked many years with great young people. I’ve been privileged to do that… I’ve been privileged in my life to be born in Baldwin County and to work with the youth of this community. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Lunsford amassed 560 victories, took six teams to the Final Four and won one state championship in 1981 throughout his 32-year BHS tenure. The veteran head coach retired from the Baldwin County School District, but has continued his passion of teaching young men about life and how to play the game of basketball. He is currently the head boys basketball coach at GMC Prep where he earned his 800th career coaching victory last season and has helped lead to the team to region runner-up finishes each of the past two years. An Albany State University alum, Lunsford has been named Coach of the Year by the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution multiple times, and has also served on multiple statewide and regional All-Star basketball committees. In 2011, he was inducted into the Albany State University Alumni Hall of Fame for his work as an educator and coach.
Beyond his accomplishments as a head coach, it’s a little fitting the Baldwin High gymnasium will be named after him since he had a hand in its design back when it was built.
“But I never thought it would be named after me,” Lunsford told The Union-Recorder in a Wednesday phone interview. “I just think it’s great that I've been able to work in the community — the one I was raised in — to help the kids. I’m happy and overwhelmed. I think I got over 1,000 emails [Tuesday] night from a lot of guys I used to coach.”
The career hoops coach also wanted to thank the school district’s naming facilities committee made up of local community members for making its recommendation to the Superintendent Dr. Noris Price. That recommendation was handed over to the board during Tuesday’s meeting.
“It is a great honor to recommend to the board the naming of the Baldwin High School gymnasium in honor of James Lunsford, as presented,” Price said.
BOE Chair Shannon Hill entertained a motion for a vote that was given and seconded, and the ensuing unanimous vote made it official — the BHS gymnasium will forever hold a connection with Coach Lunsford. Applause filled the board room once the vote was finalized.
The committee’s job is not quite done yet. Members will meet a few more times to decide just how Lunsford’s name will be displayed in the gym, and a date is being set to celebrate the occasion with the community at large.
“We’ll share that date in the near future so that the entire community can come and join us for that celebration,” Dr. Price said.
In other business Tuesday, the board also:
Approved the request for the Early Learning Center to apply for the Head Start grant in the amount of $71,243;
Approved the Baldwin County School System capital outlay project application for Oak Hill Middle School for fiscal year 2021;
Approved adding the T7 (doctorate level) supplement;
Approved the renewal of the NWEA MAP Growth Assessment for Lakeview Primary, Lakeview Academy, Midway Hills Primary, Midway Hills Academy, Oak Hill Middle and Baldwin High School in the amount of $51,250;
Approved the awarding of RFP #012-2019 for custodial supplies to Athens-based Thornton Brothers;
Approved the adoption of the SPLOST VI referendum resolution;
Recognized employees who are veterans;
Recognized Lakeview Primary teacher Brit Gardner for receiving the Georgia Educational Technology Award;
Recognized Baldwin High students Logan Thompson and Chasity Scales for winning the Fire Prevention Week contest;
Recognized the Oak Hill Middle School football team for winning the 2019 CSRA football championship; and
Approved the MOU between the Baldwin County School District and the University System of Georgia Board of Regents by and on behalf of Georgia College for the grant application for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for Phase 2 of the campus connector trail.