SNELLVILLE - This year, Britt Elementary School is celebrating four decades of teaching and learning.
The school, located in the South Gwinnett cluster, opened in August 1969 with 26 classrooms, according to the school's history. Serving students in grades one through five, the school opened slightly over capacity with 673 students.
The school was named for William Clifford Britt, an educator who died two years before the school opened. Britt began his teaching career in 1909 in a one-room schoolhouse, said his youngest son, Clark Britt.
"Back in those days, no one graduated from high school," Clark Britt said. "But he had the most education of anyone around."
W.C. Britt got his degree from the University of Georgia in the 1920s, Clark Britt said. The longtime educator was also a respected community leader.
"He was not only an educator; he was a real staunch citizen of the entire city and the First Baptist Church," longtime Gwinnett resident Glyndia Norton said. "Much business was carried on in the rocking chairs of his front porch."
Clark Britt said his family was the only one in the area that had a telephone.
"People would come from the country in the middle of the night wanting to call the doctor," he said.
Politicians also sought out W.C. Britt, thinking he had influence that could help them get votes, Clark Britt said. Although his father was passionate about politics, he had one more treasured hobby.
"My dad had two passions outside of the school business, and No. 1 was bird hunting, quail hunting," Clark Britt said.
Clark Britt recalled a time when his father took him quail hunting while he was learning to drive. W.C. Britt said he wanted to kill enough quail to feed every principal in Gwinnett County. While Clark Britt was driving, a flock flew up in front of the vehicle, and three birds were killed. Clark Britt said he told his father that he was done with the hunt, but W.C. Britt achieved his goal and fed every principal (there were 15 or 20 of them) a couple of quail.
W.C. Britt was employed by the state Department of Education from 1956 to 1962, when he retired, according to the school's history.
Snellville was becoming the fastest growing city in Gwinnett County, and Britt Elementary was built to replace Snellville Elementary School, which housed grades one to eight. Snellville Elementary became the first middle school in the county
Sally Corbitt, Britt Elementary's first student-teacher, said the size of the Britt Elementary "mushroomed" during the 30 years she taught. During the school's first year, construction on a four-room addition began.
"At one time, we had 21 trailers," she said.
The school housed double sessions. Corbitt said Britt's classes were in session from 7:30 a.m. to noon, while the Centerville school met there from 1 to 5 p.m.
It wasn't uncommon for Britt's first principal, Troy Thomason, to find several new students in his office on Monday morning waiting to be enrolled, the school's history states.
Thomason had a reputation for keeping an immaculate school. When he was principal of Snellville Elementary, he would cut the grass of the school grounds at 5 a.m. During the Christmas holidays, he would tackle projects such as oiling the wood floors or refinishing the gym floors.
"He would always greet the children at the door and ask them to wipe their feet," said Ruby Jordan, the school's first library clerk.
The children loved Thomason, who they called Mr. Troy, Jordan said. When he retired in 1972, one of the students paid the new principal, Don Phillips, the "highest compliment" by asking, "Are you the new Mr. Troy?" she said.
Britt Elementary had five other principals before the current lead administrator, Doris Jones, began in 2008.
Jones said the school will celebrate its 40th anniversary at 2 p.m. Sunday at the school.
SideBar: If you go
· What: Britt Elementary School's 40th anniversary celebration
· When: 2 p.m. Sunday
· Where: Britt Elementary School, 2503 Skyland Drive, Snellville