James A. Hardy gymnasium receives new bleachers

Published 5:49 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2022

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Some of Lanett’s prominent leaders gathered inside James A. Hardy gymnasium on Saturday. It was a special moment for all those involved as they dedicated new bleachers in the gymnasium.

James A. Hardy was a towering figure in the Lanett community and the reverberations of his presence and the lessons he taught still resonate in the community. He was more than just a coach — he was a leader in of Lanett in a time of great struggle for the Black community.

“I didn’t know Mr. Hardy, but talking with other people he was a very important man in the community,” Lanett recreation director Trent McCants said. “You can’t go anywhere without people knowing of him or hearing stories about him.”

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This gymnasium has been a pillar in the community for African-Americans since before the Civil Rights act of 1965. When the community was segregated, Lanett was the school that was designated “Blacks only.”

“This is not so much about the building, but the fond memories and the good quality education that was taught from these segregated buildings,” Lanett city councilman Tony Malone said. “The colored school didn’t have much and the playing field was surely uneven.”

James A. Hardy passed away back in 2012, but his spirit lives on in his son, Anthony “Tony” Hardy, who was on hand to accept the plaque that was dedicated to his father.

“It means so much to me to see the building still being utilized, that’s what my dad would have wanted,” Hardy said.

The gymnasium is being used now more than ever. An adult rec basketball league was founded last year and proved to be more popular than anybody could have imagined.

“Last season, we started the adult rec basketball league and did not expect a large crowd,” McCants said. “We thought we would have 20, maybe 30 people, but sometimes we had 400 people and only had one side of the bleachers,” McCants said.

The single-sided bleachers were not in good shape and were not up to the city fire code standards. McCants met with the fire chief and realized this was a needed endeavor to undertake. The bleachers line both sides of the gymnasium now with plenty of room for spectators on both sides of the court. The adult rec basketball league tipped off its second season just a few weeks ago so this was perfectly timed.

At one time, the gymnasium was scheduled to be demolished, but now it’s full of life again.