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2020 Hall of Pride class revealed

By Suzannah Solomon Wilson

Three Tallassee High School graduates and a former principal will be honored at the annual Tallassee High School Alumni Association Hall of Pride induction ceremony this Thursday.

The induction ceremony begins at 10 a.m. and the public is welcome to attend.

Mr. Jerry Cunningham, the late Coach Jackie Davis, and Mr. Billy McKenzie will be inducted and Coach Carl Stewart will be awarded the Service Award for his work at THS as teacher, coach, and principal.

Jerry Cunningham, known as Mr. C to his students, graduated from THS in 1978 and has spent much of his professional career at Tallassee High School.

He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degree from Auburn University and developed the choral program at Auburn High School, where he was employed from 1990 to 1997.

He then returned to his alma mater where he helped establish the choral program as one of the most respected programs in the Southeast.  He established the Capital City Classic, a yearly show choir competition that draws high school choirs from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida.

Mr. C retired from public education in 2017 but continues to serve as Director on Fine Arts at Tallassee High School.  He is the voice of the Tallassee Tigers football team, executive director of the McCraney-Cottle Arts Council, executive director of the Greater Tallassee Chamber of Commerce, and is chancel choir director for First United Methodist Church in Tallassee.

Coach Jackie Davis was a 1946 graduate of Tallassee High School and devoted his entire life to serving others through his time in the military and teaching and coaching.

Coach Davis played for the legendary coach J.E. “Hot” O’Brien during the time the Tigers won 57 games without a loss.  He joined the Army after graduation and served two years, after which he enrolled at Troy State Teachers College, playing football and earning a bachelor’s degree.

His first job was at Elmore County High School, where he coached all sports and led his team to a victory over Verbena, which broke their winning streak and secured Tallassee’s 57 game record.

Coach Davis left Elmore County and came to Tallassee High School in 1957, coaching under Coach O’Brien and then becoming head coach.  Under his tutelage, the Tigers won the Border Conference Championship in 1961.  His THS track team won the state championship in 1959.

Coach Davis was a career member of the Alabama National Guard and left teaching for two years while he served as officer-in-charge of the 122nd Support Group.

Coach Davis taught and coached at Macon Academy, served as assistant principal at Tallassee High School from 1966 to 1970, and became principal at Stanhope Elmore High School in 1970.  His last years were spent as an education specialist with the State Department of Education.

Mr. Billy McKenzie is a 1948 graduate who has spent his life in hospital acquisition and management as well as community service.

After serving in the U.S. Marines and the Alabama National Guard, McKenzie retuned to Tallassee and was the funeral director at Mann Funeral Home for over a decade.  He then became the EEO officer and Human Resource Director at Tallassee Mills.  While at the mill, he helped establish a program which helped many students with college tuition and which allowed young men to work full time while attending college.
Mr. McKenzie acquired his own hospital in Evergreen, Alabama in 1977 and founded, along with his son, Gil, Gillyard Health Services.

McKenzie also developed Lakeside Country Club in Tallassee, Clairewood and River Hills subdivision in Tallassee, and owns the Trophy Room in downtown Tallassee.

His community service includes being a member of the Tallassee City school board, the Tallassee Parks and Recreation board, the Tallassee Rotary Club.  He was chairman of the local Red Cross and a deacon at First Baptist Church.  As chairman of the hospital board, he was a key player in the construction of the city’s Community Hospital and Community Medical Arts Center on Friendship Road.

Coach Carl Stewart began his career at Stanhope Elmore High School in Millbrook, but fate brought him to Tallassee High School in 1987 where he taught history and coached varsity basketball.  He also served as defensive coordinator for the Tallassee Tigers, and became the athletic director and assistant principal in 1995.  He was named principal in 1999, a position he held until he retired in 2007.

Coach Stewart is a member of the National Association of School Principals, the National Education Association, the Alabama Education Association, Who’s Who Among American Teachers, the Alabama Council for School Administrators and Supervision, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the Tallassee Education Association.

He servied on the Community Hospital Board of Directors for 15 years, and the Tallassee Community Development Corporation Planning Board.  He was the first minority to serve on the Tallassee Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, is a Youth Sunday School teacher and Superintendent of Sunday School.