By Gene Graham
YORK Steady rainfall failed to dampen the spirits of York High School graduates who attended a dedication of the Green Dragon monument on the front campus of Harold C. Johnson Elementary School.
“We had 80 in attendance despite the rainfall,” said Gene Knight, a YHS grad and sports announcing icon who was a prime mover in efforts that led to the permanent placement of the monument.
Knight and other monument committee members have been elated with the response to the community project from start to finish.
Harold C. Johnson is the former site of York High School, which opened in 1950 and boasted a Green Dragon as its mascot. The site was transformed into a middle school in 1998, after the high school moved. It was renovated again and opened as an elementary school in 2011.
“Among York High School alumni notables attending the much-anticipated dedication ceremony was nationally renowned artist Jim Shore, who drove up in a Bentley automobile,” said Knight.
“The Rev. Jim Hope, a YHS alumnus and a former coach and teacher who is married to Rachel Brackett Hope, delivered the invocation, wearing his old coaching jacket,” Knight said.
Two of Hope’s brothers were in attendance, making it a family affair. He pastors a congregation in Sylvania, Ga.
Other YHS alumnus who attended were York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant, York school district assistant superintendent Matt Brown, York Comprehensive High School athletic director Steve Boyd, former math teacher Jane Scott Sherer, YHS Athletic Hall of Fame member Tim Hartsoe, Harold C. Johnson’s daughter Betty Cain and former all-conference quarterback and pitcher Joe McCorkle.
Former YHS staff members who attended included principal John Hunter, former coach and teacher Gene Knight Sr. and former teachers and administrators Christine Stephenson and Colvin Stephenson.
Mickey Ward, a former alumnus and teacher, drove from Mauldin, while former YHS cheerleader Nancy Godfrey made the trek from Raleigh, N.C. Another former YHS cheerleader, Betsy Clark, also attended.
The monument committee received unanimous approval from York school board members and reached its fundraising goal of $6,500 to fund the project from donors countywide and beyond.
“YHS alumni reached deep into their pockets to support the monument construction,” he said. “We thank these alumni and local businesses for their extreme generosity.
Knight said he was grateful for everyone who donated with money or time.
Members of the YHS Green Dragon alumni executive committee include Marty Bumgarner, financial manager; Chris Childers, who contributed expertise in the monument design and construction; Johnny Hunter, who lent his media and marketing skills; Anne Miskelly Jones, who put up the York High Green Dragon Facebook page; and Rena Strawhorn.
“Both of these ladies were our steel magnolias,” Knight said. “Rena worked tirelessly to keep up with the day-to-day items that needed attention.” Peatsa Wallace served as legal counsel, he said.
He said the YHS classes of 1966, 1971 and 1974 made the project a reality with their commitment to the project. He also said Brian Lawton designed the monument.
Knight said donations are still being accepted as contributions toward the maintenance fund. YHS Alumni can contribute by mailing a check to: YHS Green Dragon Alumni, PO Box 1232, York, SC 29745.