New Upson-Lee High School Athletic Director Stephen Boyd was the guest speaker at the Thomaston Kiwanis Club luncheon Tuesday. Boyd is bringing new energy and direction to the position. He said his number one goal is putting pride back into the high school in every sport and in every student. One of the ways he and the school administration hope to do that is by, as he put it, “getting rid of the ghost of R. E. Lee.” By that he means that for the past 22 years, Upson-Lee has been a combination of Upson High School and R. E. Lee Institute. Boyd believes it is time that the school had its own identity, instead of carrying on its shoulders the histories of Upson High and R. E. Lee. It can happen with one simple change to its name: take out the hyphen. Instead of it being “Upson-Lee” with the hyphen containing the connotation of two schools joined together; take out the hyphen and make it “Upson Lee” – one school with one name that students can take pride in.
That doesn’t mean that we pretend R. E. Lee and Upson High never existed. Their histories are stored away for review and remembrance, and R. E. Lee and Upson High classes continue to hold reunions, and will always do so. But taking the hyphen out will give Upson Lee students today a chance to make the school their own.
I think his suggestion is an excellent one and I hope the Board of Education agrees and makes the change, not only at the high school, but at every school in the county. “Upson-Lee” is the past; “Upson Lee” needs to be the future.
I also think that government officials in Thomaston and Upson County need to be thinking along the same lines. We need new industry and jobs coming to Upson County. We say we’re presenting a united front to those looking at us as a potential new home, but how united does it look when everything a visitor sees has two names: Thomaston-Upson School System, Thomaston-Upson Industrial Development Authority, Thomaston-Upson County Airport, Thomaston-Upson Archives, Thomaston-Upson County Recreation Department, Thomaston-Upson County Senior Citizen Center, Thomaston-Upson-County Chamber of Commerce, Thomaston-Upson Arts Council. If I were a businessman looking at us, I’d be wondering why everything has both the city and county name on it, wondering why we couldn’t decide on one name, and wondering just how united we really are.
But this change won’t be as simple as removing a hyphen. To present a “united front,” we need to come together as one county with one name and one goal – attracting industry. I’m not talking about combining city and county governments, like they’ve done in Macon-Bibb County, or Columbus-Muscogee County, or Athens-Clarke County. That is not something that I believe is needed here, and I would not support it.
What I’m suggesting is that the City of Thomaston remove its name from the titles, and the school system, chamber and arts council do the same. We are all part of Upson County, so Thomaston would still be represented, just not in the title. And with one name – Upson County School System, Upson County Industrial Development Authority, Upson County Airport, Upson County Archives, Upson County Recreation Department, Upson County Senior Citizen Center, Upson County Chamber of Commerce, Upson County Arts Council – we can show potential industries that we are one people in one county with one goal – bringing new jobs to Upson County. “Thomaston-Upson County” is the past, “Upson County” needs to the future.
Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.