Honoring roots: Brownstown field rededicated in honor of former educator, coach


Standing on the track before Friday night’s football game at Blevins Memorial Stadium, family members of the stadium’s namesake were recognized.

Brownstown Central Community School Corp. officials presented them with a plaque that was attached to the original stadium when it was dedicated in the fall of 1974, and James T. Blevins’ surviving children each received a plaque with a picture of the new stadium.

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Everyone in the stands then was asked to stand up and honor the family with a big round of applause.

In that moment, a few tears were shed as the family members thought of their father, grandfather and great-grandfather and what he meant to the school and community.

After the rededication ceremony was over, the family expressed its appreciation to the corporation for keeping the Blevins name on the new stadium.

“For us, it was always very honoring that the community and the school system thought of him in that way,” said Blevins’ son, Brad Blevins, a 1982 Brownstown Central High School graduate who still lives in town. “Some people from the community may forget, but we never will. It will always mean a lot to us.”

James and Ruth Blevins’ only daughter, Lori Rawlings, said even though she now lives in Indianapolis, she occasionally meets people who knew her father, and they always talk about the type of person he was.

She said she was 11 when her father was shot by a 17-year-old student, David Fleetwood, on March 22, 1974, in the high school parking lot after he got out of his car around 8 a.m.

“He was just a good person,” said Rawlings, a 1979 Brownstown graduate. “He was a teacher, really involved in family life, really involved in church.”

She said it means a lot to her to know the stadium still bears her father’s name and will continue to do so in the years to come.

“It’s just a special thing to carry on his memory,” she said.

James graduated from Brownstown High School in 1944.

At the time of his death, he was 48 and was the assistant principal and athletic director. During his tenure, he also had served as basketball head coach and coached baseball and other sports.

Another one of his sons, Erich Blevins, said he used to play football on the field at the stadium later named for his father, and his class — 1968 — was the first one to go all four years in the current high school building.

Later on, during his 30-year coaching career in Sullivan, Erich said he ran into all kinds of people who knew his father, who he described as “tough but fair.”

“He was really concerned with other people and how they turned out,” Erich said.

Brad agreed.

“My dad was more than just a coach and a teacher,” he said. “So much coaching now is all about winning, and he was about maturing boys into men and developing them. It was more than just about winning at sports. When he coached and taught, it was about getting us ready for the world.”

Knowing his father’s name is still on the stadium is “quite a legacy,” Erich said.

“It’s his,” he said. “It’s not anything we did. We’re just tagalongs and grateful. We probably couldn’t have picked two better parents if we would have tried.”

Erich said he wasn’t able to attend the dedication ceremony in the fall of 1974, so it was special for him and several of his family members to be there Friday for the rededication.

“To several generations, that means a lot,” he said. “A lot of it is probably lost on people that don’t know, but as long as the story lives, the legacy lives.”

Brad said his father’s goal always was to better the community and school.

“That day and that action by one person fundamentally altered this community forever,” he said. “To have this tonight, it’s very honoring. He would have been very proud, very honored. I’m sure that he would be very proud of what this school system has continued to be, too, because you can still get a quality education here and feel safe. You don’t have that everywhere.”

James and Ruth’s other two sons, Vaughn and Kevin, died in 2002 and 2012, respectively. Vaughn’s son, Kyle, a 1998 Brownstown graduate, and Kevin’s son, Trent, a 1994 Brownstown graduate, and their families attended Friday’s ceremony.

Kyle lives in Scott County, while Trent lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Neither of them knew their grandfather since he died years before they were born, but their fathers talked about the man James was.

“The main thing I got from it was that he was stern, but he was fair,” Kyle said. “I know he was well-liked in the community and well-respected.”

Trent said he heard similar thoughts.

“He was a great person, a very good outdoorsman, a model for the rest of the students and for the community,” he said.

Kyle said his father would have really appreciated the school corporation for keeping the Blevins name on the stadium.

“It’s special to me,” he said. “I’m just glad I could be here, and I’m sure it’s something I’ll never forget.”

Trent said it was a nice opportunity for the family to get together. James and Ruth’s other child, Rex, wasn’t able to be at Friday’s ceremony. He lives near Charleston, South Carolina, which recently was affected by Hurricane Irma.

“It means a lot to be able to be here. It has been great,” Trent said. “It’s nice that they are continuing to have my grandfather’s name memorialized.”