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Posted: Wednesday, May 15th 2013 at 3:36pm

GHS will confer three honorary diplomas

By Staff
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The Gainesville High School Broadcast Journalism class has teamed up with Benita Sanders of the school’s media center and with the system’s technology department to stream live coverage of the graduation ceremony.
GAINESVILLE - For the fifth year, Gainesville High School (GHS) will confer three honorary diplomas to local citizens who have, through their lives, "upheld the school’s mission." Dr. T. Richard Davis, Nathaniel Shelton and Lessie Smithgall will receive diplomas and become part of the Class of 2013.

Davis attended Atlanta Public Schools, served in the US Marine Corps and earned degrees in history and law. He also received a Master’s in Divinity and Doctorate of Ministry. He served as senior Baptist minister in churches in Kentucky, Georgia and South Carolina until his retirement in 1990 from First Baptist of Gainesville as associate pastor. Further, he chaired the executive committee of the Chattahoochee Baptist Association. For fifteen years, he was a substitute teacher at GHS including a stint as the substitute yearbook advisor. The school’s yearbook of 2003, The Radiator, is dedicated to him, reading “…cheered us up with his sweet smile, gave advice and provided us with a classroom figure we desperately needed during that stressful time…” Since his full retirement in 2007, he continues to teach Sunday school.

Shelton earned a bachelor’s degree in math from Rust College in Mississippi and a master’s degree in chemistry from Atlanta University. He joined Gainesville City Schools as a science teacher at E. E. Butler High in the mid-1960s and continued his teaching at Gainesville High School beginning in 1969. He also earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Georgia. He retired from the school system in 2005 earning the designation as the Georgia school social worker of the year, Trail Blazer award for Gainesville College, NAACP Drum Major award. He is the founder of the Gents Club and a mentor for Gainesville Middle and New Holland schools. He is active at St. John Baptist and a founding member of the Grady Young Foundation.

Smithgall graduated from Girls High of Atlanta in 1929 and the University of Georgia in 1933. She and her husband, Charles, founded The Daily Times of Gainesville in 1947. Throughout her life, she was a working journalist, business owner, philanthropist, civic leader, arts patron, environmentalist and the premier promoter of the Gainesville community. She is an original founder of the Peabody Awards presented nationally for excellence in journalism. She established the Arts Council, created the 5600-acre Smithgall Woods in White County and donated 180 acres of property for the Smithgall Woodland Gardens in Gainesville. A role model in business and life for countless spending her lifetime inspiring others to learn, to achieve, to excel as individuals and to contribute as members of a larger community.

GHS principal LaCrisia Larkin commented “these are exemplary citizens our students admire. We are thrilled to live among such people of exemplary character and whose very lives prove much about hard work, learning and responsibility. For the fifth year, it is our high honor to bestow diplomas to these individuals whose lives reflect and magnify Gainesville High School’s mission.”

Honorary graduates are selected by the high school’s Governance Council, a panel of faculty, parents and administrators. Nominees must not have graduated from a Gainesville city school, must be living and must support the mission. Begun in 2009 as a first-in-the-nation ceremony, the three conferees bring the total honorary diplomas to eighteen. Gainesville High is celebrating its 120th year.

Davis, Shelton and Smithgall will be honored at a reception Thursday evening at First Baptist Church then join the Class of 2013 for its commencement on Friday.

By the way, the Gainesville High School Broadcast Journalism class has teamed up with Benita Sanders of the school’s media center and with the system’s technology department to stream live coverage of the graduation ceremony. Viewers can watch it starting at 8:00 Friday by visiting the following link:

There will also be a link on the system’s main website at
Associated Categories: Business News, Local/State News

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Gainesville, GA 30501
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