Tifton Gazette

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February 13, 2014

Do or Dye: Obstacles were opportunities for former coach, teacher

ASHBURN —

Turner County was a much different place in 1952.

For most travelers, Ashburn and Sycamore were not mere exit signs and a peanut statue on I-75. Mainly because I-75 did not exist. To see an Ashburn sign was to be on US 41 or GA 32. Downtown had a theater. Fast food chains were not available, but a variety of local places were.

In 1952, there were high schools in Ashburn and Sycamore and the one in Rebecca had recently closed. They would not unify to form Turner County High until 1957. Those were the major white schools.

Over on Lee Street, there was another building. It was small, wooden and painted white. It was also a school, one called Eureka. Schools operated in Georgia — and most of the south — under the law of "separate but equal" which enforced segregation. The Supreme Court outlawed it in 1954, but no major changes hit the area until the Civil Rights Act 10 years later, which forced school systems to act.

That is the building where John Dye started his teaching and coaching career. 

Eureka was also not a unified school when he began. There were county schools. "Sycamore and Rebecca," he remembered. They would also unify in 1957, the year that Eureka received a brand new brick building on Washington Street.

Dye is not a Turner native. He was raised in Brooks County and graduated from Fort Valley State. That's when he received an offer, he said, to go to Ashburn.

"Jobs at that time were hard to come by," he said. He accepted. That was in 1952. Dye stayed in Ashburn through the closure of Eureka and total integration of schools and became part of the coaching staff at Turner County High.

When he arrived, he found a bit of a sports program. "[They had] basketball, a little track and a little baseball they'd tried to play."

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