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New RCHS gym named after Stroud
Cleveland Stroud and School Board IMG 9476
Coach and city Councilman Cleveland Stroud, third from left, and Rockdale school board members Katrina Young, Wales Barksdale, Stroud, Don McKinney, Darlene Hotchkiss, Jean Yontz, Jim McBrayer, and Superintendent Rich Autry - photo by Michelle Kim

 The Rockdale County School Board voted unanimously Thursday night to name Rockdale County High School's new gymnasium after former RCHS basketball coach and athletic director and current city Councilman Cleveland Stroud.

Board members gave heartfelt testimonials and thanks to Stroud, 76, a long-serving educator, coach and community leader who helped Rockdale navigate school integration and taught generations of Rockdale students, many who are leaders today.

Board member Jean Yontz thanked Stroud for making her feel personally welcome from the beginning.  “Your example of Christian leadership, of moral and ethical statements that you have stood by have made a tremendous impact,” she said. “I thank you so much for standing in the gap for those that could not stand.”

Board member Katrina Young recalled Stroud would keep an eye out on the children in the community. “He used to ‘babysit’ all of us at the JP Carr gym in the summers. He gave us somewhere to go, something to do, kept us off all off the street with positive activity.”

“Coach Stroud was a great friend and mentor to me," said board chairman Wales Barksdale was a senior in high school when integration was brought about. "When we were getting ready to consolidate the system, I never will forget that all of us were invited to the JP Carr gym in the summers so everybody could start playing together. That made a difference when we did come together my senior year,” said Barksdale. “Coach Stroud had been influential in bringing all this about and was a leader always.”

Board member Darlene Hotchkiss said, “Coach Stroud has not only been an influential person on the students of Rockdale but also the community and leadership. He’s always been someone you could look to, you could admire and respect. He has helped me understand where Rockdale stood and helped me with leadership decisions.”

Jim McBrayer, Salem High School’s former Athletic Director, quipped, “I’m just glad it’s not the Cleveland Stroud Memorial.” Stroud replied, “I am too.”

The RCPS guidelines advise withhold naming school buildings for a person in the community until five years after they’ve passed away. However, the board felt this exception was warranted. Hotchkiss pointed out the board has the authority to name RCPS facilities.

She said, “There have been times I have not supported naming a facility after an individual with concern that there could come a time that it would reflect badly on the system… But there is not a chance that could happen with coach Stroud. We could not have a better representative for the community and the system.”

Stroud thanked the school board. “If I had any doubts that I chose the wrong profession, it reinforces that I chose the right profession with these kids here tonight,” he said, indicating the school board and supporters in the audience from the Progressive Club. “That’s what it’s all about. I wouldn’t be standing before you if it wasn’t for the kids.”

 He also paid homage to his friend and on-court rival, former Heritage coach Curtis Bell, who died six years ago and for whom Heritage's gym is named. “We were the best of friends off the court and the worst of friends on the court. I wish he had survived long enough to see his name at Heritage and my name at Rockdale. I’m just as proud of his name at Heritage as I am of my name at Rockdale.”

Among Stroud's achievements are 1988 Rockdale County Teacher of the Year, being the first African-American Athletic Director and department head in Rockdale County Public Schools, being named a regional and state coach eight times, and being the first African American on the Conyers city council.

It was his actions surrounding the 1987 boys basketball state championship game that brought Stroud national and international accolades for his integrity. He coached the RCHS boys basketball team to state championship victory that year only to learn that an athlete who had played in a single qualifying game had actually been ineligible because of his grades. Stroud was the first to learn of the discrepancy and never questioned his decision to tell the truth — even if it meant forfeiting a hard-earned title.

Citizens Progressive Club President Aldren Sadler, Sr. said, “I’m excited about it that in the sense that it’s not a memorial, it’s not named after him after he’s dead and gone. He can actually see it. It’s well deserved. He’s an icon in this community. I couldn’t think of a better person.”

The new facility is deserving of its namesake, he added. “It is state of the art; it looks like a college coliseum.”



IN BRIEF: The Rockdale County School Board voted unanimously Thursday night to name Rockdale County High School's new gymnasium after former RCHS basketball coach and athletic director and current city Councilman Cleveland Stroud. Check back later to for the full story.