Last Friday began as a day Charlton County High School and Pro Football Hall of Famer Champ Bailey were reunited as the Hall of Fame would be in town to present the “Hometown Hall of Famer” plaque to the school. By the end of the night, many more events would happen that would make it a day for all to remember.
Bailey arrived at the school around noon on Friday along with members of the Hall of Fame and the Ford Motor Company. The group would meet with Media Specialist Meagan Lee and present the school with 22 Chromebooks to be used by the students.
Students would then gather in the gym for a special presentation of the “Hometown Hall of Famer” plaque. Filled with students, family, and friends the gym was electric when Bailey entered. After Principal Danny McCoy welcomed everyone and made his opening remarks Mayor of Folkston, Lee Gowen, then proclaimed Friday as “Champ Bailey Day”. The Hall of Fame presented the plaque in honor of Bailey to the school.
The “Hometown Hall of Fame” is a national program that honors the hometown roots of the greatest heroes of the game with special ceremonies and plaque-dedication events in local communities. The goal is to reconnect Hall of Famers with the communities that helped them reach their goals.
The plaque was unveiled by George Veras, representing the Pro Football Hall of Fame, making Charlton County High School the 123rd school to become an “Official School of the Pro Football Hall of Fame”.
Bailey then spoke to the crowd, which included many former teammates who showed up in support and reflected back on many memories had growing up. He stated Folkston is represented in the Hall of Fame because of all of them. He told the crowd the connections you make in high school will last you a lifetime.
A reception for family and friends was held in the media center following the presentation. Hard work by Meagan Lee, assisted by Crystal Brooks, made the reception a wonderful event as many old memories were shared. At the reception, Bailey was presented a painting by Lewis Stokes commemorating his years at Charlton County.
Then on Friday night prior to the Indians’ game, a pre-game ceremony was held in Bailey’s honor. Bailey spoke to the Indians in the locker room before the ceremony and told them what it meant to be an Indian and to play not just for themselves, but for the players in the room beside them and next to them when they line up on the field.
More surprises were in store once the ceremony began. Mayor Lee Gowen proclaimed in addition to it being “Champ Bailey Day” that the part of Indian Trail from U.S.1 to the high school would now be called Champ Bailey Lane. Then Superintendent John Lairsey proclaimed the stadium would be called Champ Bailey Field as it was unveiled under the scoreboard.
Bailey was surprised and moved by the recognition and then provided a surprise of his own. On Youth Night, Bailey presented the Glover Brother’s Youth Football Program with a $20,000 check to help them as they promote football among the youth in the area.
Bailey stayed around during the game signing autographs and taking pictures with fans throughout the night.