Twelve persons associated with the Academy of Richmond County will be inducted in October as the inaugural class of its hall of fame.
The 12, chosen from about 50 nominees, range from a Civil War general to an Olympic track star.
Bennie Ward, a physics professor at Baylor University in Texas, said he was honored to be included in the initial hall of fame class, drawn from a group of alumni that dates back to the late 1700s.
“It shows the tremendous contribution that the academy has made to the community and the world in a more general context,” he said.
Ward, originally of Millen, was one of
the first black students allowed to attend the desegregated academy in 1966. He said the prejudice he encountered there steeled him for the resistance he would encounter throughout his career in physics.
Near-perfect grades and a strong letter of recommendation from his advanced chemistry teacher landed him at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned two degrees in mathematics and physics. He later earned a doctorate at Princeton and began teaching at the University of Tennessee.
Ward said he met resistance throughout his career because he was often the first black man to hold his positions. But he had already learned at Richmond Academy how to prove his worth through diligence and hard work.
“It was an incredibly lucky event that allowed me to participate (at Richmond Academy),” Ward said.
Three coaches will go into in the hall of fame: former Georgia football player and Auburn coach Pat Dye, who is in the NCAA College Hall of Fame; Frank Inman, a former Marine who held several positions at the University of Georgia; and A.L. Williams, who won seven straight state baseball championships for Richmond Academy.
Also in the athletics division is track legend Forrest “Spec” Towns, who took Olympic gold in Berlin in 1936 for the 110-meter high hurdles, the first Georgian to win a gold medal.
Two war heroes are on the list: Lt. Col. Jimmie Dyess, a Marine who received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his actions in the South Pacific during World War II, and Confederate Gen. James Longstreet, the principal subordinate to Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Also being inducted is Joseph R. Lamar, who wrote more than 200 opinions for the Georgia Supreme Court from 1901-05 and later was an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The remaining living honorees are Judy Woodruff, a TV news reporter currently on PBS’ NewsHour; former Georgia Gov. Carl Sanders; and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Frank Hull.
Also being inducted is the late Jacqueline Marshall, a longtime English teacher at the academy whose “knowledge and compassion for her students mixed with the academic rigor made her a great and unforgettable teacher,” according to a biography provided by the school.
Portraits of the inductees will be unveiled at a banquet Oct. 4 at Enterprise Mill. They will later hang in the school’s media center.