Grayson grad Jack Britt worthy of football field dedication

Jack Britt is a proud Grayson High School graduate.

Not the Grayson filled with 3,000-plus students who like to frequent MySpace.com. His Grayson High is the one he attended in the 1930s and 1940s, all the way from first to 12th grade. The one with less than 100 students, including only eight in his 1946 graduating class.

But that doesn't mean the 81-year-old isn't enamored with the new Grayson High School. He loves it, and the surrounding community, more than many Gwinnett newcomers can understand.

That's why Grayson's decision to name its football field Britt-Moody Stadium on Friday - to honor Britt and the school's first principal Mike Moody - is perfectly fitting. Few have done more for the new Grayson since it opened in 2000 (the old school consolidated with Snellville High to form South Gwinnett High in 1957) than Britt, also a longtime coach and educator in the county.

"He's been a tremendous asset to the school and the community," Grayson athletic and activities director Mike Phillips said. "Obviously all the tangible items are there, you can see what he's done. ... But just the fact that you know someone like Mr. Britt is in the community, who really cares about the school and is there for everybody, just knowing that steady person is there is great.

"Whether you have a new school or an established school, you need someone like Jack Britt. You need a person to step up when he's called to duty."

Duty is what initially pulled Britt away from Grayson. He dropped out of high school at age 15 and lied about his age to join the Navy for World War II. One of the youngest men in his fleet, he was a gunner's mate on a destroyer escort's 20-millimeter weapon.

After serving his country, he returned to Grayson to finish high school. The place was his home and growing up he never lived more than a quarter of a mile from the two-story brick building.

"I could leave my house and get to school before the bell stopped ringing," quipped Britt, who played basketball and baseball for Grayson.

A University of Georgia grad, Britt went into the education field after college. He coached Lawrenceville High's first football team in 1952 and also coached at South Gwinnett from 1958 to 1971 before finishing his teaching career at Parkview and Bethesda Elementary.

He probably would have made his way to Grayson at some point during that span, but his school didn't exist. When the school returned in 2000 with the same colors and mascot, nobody was more excited. He wanted to help, so he donated countless amounts of time and effort to Grayson.

Fittingly, he used skills he learned at the old Grayson to help the new one. Back then the school had programs that offered students what Britt called "on-the-job training." It had an operating canning plant, saw mill, blacksmith shop and welding shop among other activities used for teaching.

One of those offered was woodworking and he was hooked.

"We had a little cabinet shop at school," said Britt, who has four children, 12 grandchildren and one great-grandson with his wife Peggy. "I would always be good at those things. Even when I was teaching and coaching, I used to build four or five houses a year."

That experience helped when the new school opened. Britt oversaw the supervision of the stadium's concession stand and coaches office - Phillips said he would always see Britt out there doing the work himself - and he continued to build. And build. And build.

He's handmade roughly 30 trophy cases for Grayson as well as one nostalgia case, which holds memorabilia from the original school. He's also built close to 100 beautiful wood lockers for the baseball, softball and volleyball/soccer locker rooms. His next project, when the Rams' new fieldhouse is complete, is the construction of 120 lockers for the football team.

For his efforts, the school gave him a Grayson letter jacket with '46, his graduating year, on it. On Friday, the community will give him much more when his name will adorn the football field. He accepted that honor after he was assured that the stadium will still be called Grayson Community Stadium, because he said it belongs to the Grayson community.

The recognition was given to him because of what he's done for the new school, but he's just as happy to tell you what the modern Grayson High as done for its old alumni.

"It's a close-knit community so we'd see each other," Britt said of his former classmates. "But when we got (the new Grayson High), it gave us a focus, an interest to come back to. We love it here."

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.