WHAT’S IN A NAME: Gardner Newman Middle School
Published 4:30 pm Saturday, February 25, 2023
Since the creation of man, schools, streets and lakes have often been named after mayors. Gardner Newman Middle School is no exception as it was named after former LaGrange Mayor James Gardner Newman.
According to the Troup County Archives, the school was built in 1990 from the merger of West Side Girls Junior High and LaGrange Boys Junior High.
Nancy Durand, the oldest of Newman’s six children, remembers her father as being one of the sweetest, laidback people she’s ever known.
“There were six of us, and I never heard him raise his voice. He had a presence about him that if you did something he didn’t like, he didn’t have to say a word, you just knew,” Durand said. “He was kind and sweet. I always respected him, and he was certainly a good father figure for us to try to be like.”
When the school was named after Newman in 1990, Durand said she and the family were thrilled.
“My daughter was in the first sixth-grade class there when it opened, and I have a grandson named Gardner who’s in seventh grade there now,” Durand said. “It’s just always been neat to have anything named after him because of course, we thought he was the greatest dad and community leader in the world, and it was a well-deserved honor.”
Newman was the mayor of LaGrange for 26 years and city councilman before that for 12 years.
“For most of my growing years, he was on the city council or mayor and that was always an honor,” Durand said. “My mother would always say, always remember who your daddy is and don’t do anything too embarrassing. I always felt like he did a wonderful job as mayor, and I think his calmness and his gentleness helped him do it well.”
Durand said she never saw her father as a politician, just as a man who wanted to give back to his city.
“My dad was born in LaGrange and had been here all his life. He wanted to give back to the city and did so very calmly and gently. He knew what he was doing and was very good at it,” Durand said. “I think he made a great mayor, and I think most people would say that, not just me as his daughter.”
Eight of Newman’s grandchildren attended GNMS, 14 of his great-grandchildren attended GNMS and five are students there this year.