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Averette recognized with gym dedication

Georgiana resident W.R. Averette was recognized June 29 with the dedication of the J.F. Shields High School gymnasium in Beatrice.

The gym was named in honor of the educator and coach who taught physical education and coached four sports at J.F. Shields from 1957 to 1986. He coached the first Shield's state basketball championship team in 1972 and won more than 750 basketball games at J.F. Shields. Averette has won more games than any other Alabama high school coach.

Several individuals presented plaques and certificates of honor to Averette during the ceremony, and many of them spoke kind words and shared memories about the educator. He was portrayed as a father figure who listened to and cared about his students and players.

One of Averette's former players, Raymond Richardson, said that Averette was more than just a coach or teacher. "He was more than a coach, more than a teacher," Richardson said. "He was more like a father. He was more than all that."

Many individuals spoke about Averette's spiritual and religious characteristics and it was said that he "never started a game without a prayer."

Alabama State Representative Thad "T.C." McLaney said that he feels Averette was "one of the greatest coaches in America" and that he is proud that the State of Alabama saw fit to recognize the coach.

Georgiana Mayor Lynn Watson also recognized Averette for his outstanding career by proclaiming June 29, 2002, W.R. Averette Day in the City of Georgiana.

Averette also received recognition from President George W. Bush with a letter written to him by Bush. The letter commended Averette for his dedication and hard work in his career at J.F. Shields. Bush recognized education as one of the most important aspects of a young person's life.

"Helping children learn helps them achieve goals and dreams," Bush wrote.

During the ceremony, Averette's daughter Bernetta also announced the beginning of the J.F. Shields Scholarship Fund and donated $1,000 to the fund.

Averette said that he was overwhelmed by "a spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions" at the ceremony. He said that the ceremony brought back several memories of his career and different events such as the time he told the principal he wanted to teach his P.E. class square dancing.

Averette said that he has seen many changes over the years, especially with parenting and children's behavior. "Are you raising your children or are they raising you?"

He said that spirituality is an important part of life that should be emphasized. "Right now, you don't know the importance of you," he said. "Serving God is the greatest thing you can do."

He said that after listening to all those who honored him at the ceremony, "all I saw written on my chest was servant.'" Averette also said his "cup runneth over" and he thanked God for allowing him to touch the lives of so many students.

Averette concluded by thanking everyone for coming out to honor him at the ceremony.

He and his wife, Emma, were both recognized during the ceremony and the J.F. Shields gym will now be named the W.R. Averette Gymnasium.