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Veteran of GCPS dies

GRAYSON - A 35-year veteran of the Gwinnett County Public Schools died Saturday. He had served as a coach and principal in the county.

Jimmie Powell, 88, was the principal of Centerville Elementary from the time it was built in 1973 until his retirement a decade later. During that time, he was named the Elementary School Principal of the Year in 1981.

His stepdaughter, Martha Layson, said Powell was thrilled to receive the honor.

"He was touched," she said. "It just meant the world to him that he was someone who deserved that honor."

Layson described her father, who started his career in the school system as a physical education teacher and basketball coach at Snellville High School in 1948, as a quiet man who was loved and respected by everyone he met.

When South Gwinnett High School opened in 1957, Powell went there as the athletic director. He developed the school's golf and tennis programs, coached football, basketball, baseball and track, and was named the region's Baseball Coach of the Year in 1963.

Powell was the school's assistant principal for five years before he moved to Centerville Elementary.

Even after his retirement, Layson said, Powell came back to the school and read to the children there. She said he loved the children as much as he loved coaching.

Louise Radloff, a member of the county Board of Education since 1973, said she came to the district at the same time Powell became a leader. Radloff said she remembered Powell fondly and that his insights and visions were still being used in the county's schools today.

"He loved kids, all kids," she said. "He had high expectations for them to succeed."

Powell was understanding, Radloff said, would always make eye contact and speak to her and wore a warm smile.

Layson said Powell watched Gwinnett as it grew.

"His role was one of the leaders of the school district as it moved from a rural district into suburbia," she said. "He was here when it was small."

Powell was also a World War II veteran and participated in the Battle of the Bulge, the Rhineland conquest and campaigns in Normandy and central Europe during his four and a half years in the army. He won a Purple Heart during the war.