In 2017, Portal Middle High School staff and the Portal community wanted to establish a way to recognize and honor past graduates and others who have contributed to the success of both the school and the community. In order to do so, they created the first Hall of Fame committee in the fall of 2017. Those members would go on to adopt the set of bylaws that govern the Portal High School Hall of Fame. The group consisted of community members, teachers and administrators.
Jennifer Motes-Yates, Hall of Fame member and committee secretary said, “The Hall of Fame committee reviews the applications and selects individuals to be inducted. Applications that are not accepted for induction will roll over to the next induction period. The Hall Of Fame is not limited to sports.”
According to the by-laws, the purpose of the HOF is to “recognize and honor past high school graduates of Portal High School and Willow Hill School who have distinguished themselves in academics, athletics, and/or extracurricular activities and have continued, as adults, to be positive role models for the youth of today. These individuals will be inducted into the Portal High Hall of Fame.”
The HOF is also to recognize and honor teachers, coaches and others who have directly influenced students by impacting their educational or athletic development.
Motes-Yates said that the criteria for candidates are that they be graduates of Portal High School, and that they have been an alumnus for at least 10 years. She added that other areas of consideration include good citizenship while in high school, high school academic and/or athletic awards, records and recognitions, accomplishments after high school and/or college, contributions to the community, and leadership and character.
To be inducted as an honorary member of the Portal High School Hall of Fame, only one criterion must be met: The individual must have directly influenced students of Portal High School by impacting their educational and/or athletic development.
“The inaugural Portal High School Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was held on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. Alumni inducted included Arnold Ray Akins, Joe Brannen, Denver Lanier and Johnnie E. Motes Sr. Honorary nominees included Bill Brown and Jerry Brown,” said Motes-Yates.
Those inaugural inductees include Portal graduates, farmers, a former sheriff and business owners.
Hall-of-Famers are given a plaque and recognized on a permanent plaque located in the PMHS lobby that includes the names of all inductees.
If you know someone deserving of being a member of the Portal High School Hall of Fame, “Applications for HOF are posted on the school website, social media, and available at PMHS once the nomination window opens,” said Motes-Yates. “All applications are reviewed by the committee, which screens nominations to ensure that they meet all criteria necessary for induction into the HOF.”
Hall of Fame inductees range from former teachers and coaches to former sports players. It includes many current teachers at Portal Middle High School and even recognizes athletes and teachers who played or taught at Willow Hill School.
For those unfamiliar, Willow Hill, located outside of Portal, was a school for Black students built in 1954. In 1969, Bulloch County Schools integrated, but some parents and community members wanted it reopened. It was reopened in 1971 with integrated classes. At the end of the 1999-2000 school year, the school was closed permanently after the Bulloch County Board of Education built Portal Elementary School. Prior to the current Portal Elementary School being built, students in the Portal school system attended pre-K through third grade on the same campus as Portal High School, at the time considered grades 8-12. Students in grades 4-7 attended Willow Hill. Now, Portal Middle and High School share a campus.
Students with any history in the Portal-area will recognize many of the names on the list of inductees. Inductees from 2020 include former math teacher and coach, Franklin Coleman (honorary member); Dr. Lelia Daughtry Denmark, whose father was the first mayor of Portal and lived to be one of the world’s oldest persons at age 114; and Tendai Haggins (featured in a previous issue of Discovering Bulloch), who is a current coach and teacher at PMHS and was a huge part of many students lives during their time at Willow Hill School.
Randy Raymond Sr., played multiple sports and has coached many athletes through the Parks and Recreation Department. His three children were graduates of Portal High School as well.
Viola Stewart Brack was inducted in 2019. A graduate of PHS, Brack played basketball and also taught several different grades at PHS. After retirement, she served as a substitute teacher.
Former Portal Mayor Larry Motes was also inducted — he was a graduate of PHS but perhaps his greatest accomplishment was helping to secure a grant for over $400,000 to fund a sewer system in Portal — this sewer system was integral in the Board of Education’s decision to build the new school.
Harvey Williams Sr., the current president of the Hall of Fame committee, has helped to mold basketball players coaching alongside Coach Jeff Brannen. Williams’ athletic career was exceptional as well.
These members of the Hall of Fame are just a sampling of the variety of members who make up the group that has made an impact on the Portal community in a multitude of ways.