Lawrenceville honors former Central Gwinnett principal

LAWRENCEVILLE -- The daughter of a former principal at Central Gwinnett High School received a surprise at her 50th reunion.

Central Gwinnett's class of 1960 gathered Saturday evening at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse for a reception, dinner and dance. In celebrating this milestone, the class members asked Lawrenceville Mayor Rex Millsaps to declare today Boyd Q. Baggett Day in the city of Lawrenceville.

Baggett's only daughter, Betty Baggett Bowling of Johns Creek, is a member of the class, and she was surprised with the posthumous award, said Doug Edwards, a member of the reunion committee. Bowling has one brother, James E. "Jeb" Baggett of Lilburn.

"The planning committee for this reunion felt it only appropriate that we should pay tribute to Mr. Baggett, a true educator in every sense of the word, on this, our 50th anniversary of graduating Central Gwinnett High School," Edwards said.

Baggett first came to Gwinnett County in 1948 to be the new principal at the Bethesda School. He served there until 1953, when he went to the "Lawrenceville School on the Hill," Edwards said. He was principal there until the fall of 1957, when he became the first principal of the new Central Gwinnett High School.

The year 1957 was momentous in that it was the first postwar consolidation of schools in Gwinnett County. Four new high schools opened about that time: Central Gwinnett, North Gwinnett, South Gwinnett and West Gwinnett.

The original plan was for Bethesda, Dacula, Lawrenceville and Lilburn High Schools to go to Central, retaining their then-eight elementary grades, Edwards said. Lilburn and Dacula opted to retain their high schools, so the Lawrenceville and Bethesda students were almost alone in this large new plant. A number of students from the Dacula and Lilburn areas, however, did choose to transfer to Central.

To relieve crowding at the "School on the Hill," Lawrenceville's seventh and eighth grades occupied most of the original lower wing at Central. Later, the middle school concept was introduced, and Central again became a true four-year high school.

With the opening of Berkmar High in Lilburn, Central was renamed Central Gwinnett-Lawrenceville High School. Berkmar's name came from militia districts, Berkshire (Lilburn) and Martins (Bethesda).

"Looking back, Mr. Baggett had to be the logical choice to be the first principal of Central Gwinnett," Edwards said. "His association with the Lawrenceville and Bethesda students, teachers and parents, as well as recognition in he county for being a knowledgeable, fair and just administrator, gave credibility to his selection.

"He was apparently a good choice, for it was a very smooth transition of students and teachers from these different schools to Central," Edwards added. "Friendships were soon the norm for students from these four schools, and many of these friendships have remained constant over the past 50 years."

Baggett was principal at Central Gwinnett until 1964, when he left to be an assistant to the county school superintendent, primarily recruiting teachers for Gwinnett's rapidly growing educational system.

The native of Barrow County retired from the school system in 1966.

In 1986, Baggett was named Senior Citizen of the Year by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. He died in 1988 from complications of chronic lung disease.