December 7, 2021–8:17 a.m.
Romans who remember East and West Rome High Schools have fond memories of the cross-town rivalry. Before combining the schools to form Rome High School in 1992, the current Atrium Health Floyd Hospital defined the line in the sand and determined if you would root for the Chieftains, or shout, “East Rome High, Never Say Die” as you cheered for the Gladiators.
Past East Rome High School alumni, administrators, coaches, educators, and students all have vivid memories of the school they once called home. Because of their undying allegiance to the Glads, organizers met with the property owners of the shopping center, R.H. Ledbetter Properties, LLC, and asked if the developers would be willing to carve out a space dedicated to the memory of East Rome High School.
After drafting an agreement, the stage was set for a monument that forever marks the space where many received the foundations of their educational journey and became productive citizens at home and abroad. The brick and stone structure features a large medallion on the front side. Pictured is the rendition of the school mascot, a Gladiator, and the top plaque gives the history of East Rome High School and the combination of East and West Rome High Schools in 1992.
Organizers who worked on this project invited the community out to celebrate the unveiling of the monument and fellowship with their former classmates and colleagues. On Dec. 4, all who wished to commemorate this special day gathered to see the finished design and walk down memory lane.
Alumni in attendance ranged from students who attended East Rome Jr. High School in 1991 to many who graduated from East Rome High School in the early 50s and 60s. The ERHS Monument Committee includes David Guldenschuh (Chair); Jane Palmer (Treasurer); Claire Tolbert Howard (Art and Design Consultant); John Pillsbury (Committee Organizer); Bill Jones (Monument Architect); Rosalind Batchelor (Special Projects); Jennifer Bagley Wilson and David Strain. All were asked to speak at the event and share why this project was so important to them.
Rome City Schools Board Members Faith Collins and Alvin Jackson, and Superintendent of Rome City Schools Louis Byars were also in attendance. There, they met with others in their community who helped to chart the course for the future of Rome City Schools. The RCS School Board also asked Anna K. Davie educator and head football coach for Rome Middle School, Charles Smith, to speak on behalf of the Board. Smith is a graduate of East Rome High School (1980) and he later went on to attend the University of Georgia. Smith
shared his memories of East Rome High School and paid tribute to the educators who made a world of difference for him.
“The educators who helped me, like my football coach Jerry Sharp, my counselor Jane Palmer, my English teacher Mrs. (Willie Mae) Samuel, and my Spanish teacher Mrs. (Roz) Bachelor, made me feel like they cared about me,” Smith recalled. “As a matter of fact, I knew that they all care for their students. As a kid, it makes you not want to let them down and it pushes you to work harder. I have tried to adopt that philosophy and build bonds with the kids I work with today. That is what I feel is the most important thing I can take from my time at East Rome High School.”
Smith addressed the crowd and gave heartfelt thanks to all who came before him. He said that educators like Mrs. Samuel were especially influential to him because they looked like him. He said that being taught by an African American teacher helped him to dream and make the connection between education and success.
“Seeing all of the former students and educators here today is great,” Byars said. “This history is all a part of who we are as a community. When we look back at the Rome High Hilltoppers, to the East and West Rome rivalry, events like this one remind us that we are a part of one Rome community. The spirit everyone here today has shown for their school, East Rome High School helps us to appreciate this monument even more.”
Byars attributed the crowd sharing their memories about the past to a family.
“It takes us looking back to strengthen what makes us all connected through education. We would not be Rome City Schools and Rome High School if it were not for all these wonderful educators and alumni who paved the way. I want to say thank you,” Byars said, “to everyone who helped make this monument a reality. This is a great thing for future generations to use as a guide for excellence in education.