Those from the community and beyond recently convened at Sam Davis Park for the unveiling of a plaque just within the gated entrance dedicated to longtime Bridgeforth High School football PA announcer Joe Rivers McClure.
Born in 1921, the Pulaski native left behind a legacy that those within the community and the Pulaski Board of Mayor and Aldermen wanted to be memorialized.
“This is the moment,” John Nelson, who had brought the original request before the city council, said before thanking everyone who had contributed to what was happening that day and those who came to be a part of it.
“We’ve installed a plaque here today that will live on right here at the entrance of Sam Davis Park forever honoring Mr. J.R. McClure,” Mayor Pat Ford said.
People gathered around for the momentous occasion as they reminisced of McClure’s legendary voice, and some even talked about him teaching them to swim.
“I just want to say ‘welcome,’” Ford said. “Welcome to this day, welcome to our beautiful park and welcome to what I would say is a historic day to dedicate a plaque in honor of somebody who deserved it.”
McClure, who received his masters from the Tennessee A & I State College, came back to Giles County to teach after serving in WWII.
Nelson said McClure came back to dedicate his life to the “environment that he left.”
“The first thing he did besides getting a job and start teaching was to take these young men, the Birdsong man was one of them, without hope at that point, not hope because they didn’t have the ability, not hope because their mothers and dads weren’t dedicated to them, but hope because of the world they were living in, and give them the hope to continue and grow, and never say no,” Nelson said.
“That he knew his path would come back here to spend the rest of his life,” Nelson added. “That’s McClure. That’s the man.”
Nelson said McClure was known for his “demand of excellence” from his students, “because he was preparing you to go out into the world.”
“We are grateful for the positive influence and impact that this man had, but also as the role model he set for each of us,” Alderman Ricky Keith prayed. “And the opportunity we have to leave the same mark, the same legacy.”
Ford said after the request was presented to the city council, they looked at “how do we do that.”
“We want to build up, not tear down,” Ford said was a recurring statement that has been heard in the past few years of discussions. “We want to find a way to honor those that deserve to be honored, that may have been overlooked, that may have not had an opportunity to be honored.
“So, today I think that is what this is exactly about.”
More than a WWII veteran, more than an educator in segregated schools, more than the coach of the Rinky Dinks and even more than an iconic announcer, but a memory, an impression and now a historical marker that will live on.