by Nat Harwell
Chris Haymore brought his family name full circle when he was named principal at Mansfield Elementary School in 2016, exactly four decades after his dad was elevated to the same position.
It seems like only yesterday the United States of America held its Bicentennial celebration, but astonishingly, 1976 is now 44 years in the rearview mirror. It is equally hard to fathom that Perry Haymore, a homegrown scholar-athlete, was that same year named principal of Mansfield Elementary School, a tiny little educational establishment way out in what was then the bucolic boondocks of eastern Newton County.
“Believe me, the school was a whole lot smaller back in 1976,” the now-retired Perry said. “We had something on the order of 180 students, a librarian, a lunchroom staff and—if memory serves—eight teachers on staff.”
Life has certainly changed since America celebrated her 200th birthday. Modern Mansfield Elementary boasts 453 students in 2020, has a contemporary campus and offers cutting-edge educational programs. No longer considered “out in the boondocks,” the town of Mansfield is a growing community located in what many consider the prettiest country in Newton County.
One common denominator connects “old” Mansfield Elementary to “new” Mansfield Elementary. The principal’s name is still Haymore. True to the “We Are Family” motto of the school, the current principal is Chris Haymore, Perry’s son.
“There are a few things I remember from the days my dad was principal here,” Chris said. “I attended a fall festival out here once and put every last penny I could scrounge up into a raffle for a pony. I wanted that little horse so badly and just knew I was going to win it, but someone else won the pony, and I came home with my huge winnings: two big bags of green beans.”
“Believe me, the school was a whole lot smaller back in 1976. We had something on the order of 180 students, a librarian, a lunchroom staff and—if memory serves—eight teachers on staff.”Former Mansfield Elementary School Principal Perry Haymore
Some may wonder how two Haymores could find themselves as principal of the same elementary school, albeit in different centuries. Theirs is a fun story to tell.
Perry grew up in Newton County and played all sports during his formative years. He was a guard and linebacker for Newton High School, which at the time was located in the building on Newton Drive across from the current-day YMCA. Perry was a good athlete, and after graduating in 1959, he attended and played end on the football team at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, for two years. He then transferred to the University of Tennessee, and although he did not play sports there, he always wanted to coach.
After college, Perry began his teaching and coaching career at Evans High School, just north of Augusta, where he met his late wife, Pat. In 1967, the couple moved to Covington, where Perry taught, coached and eventually moved into administration at the old Newton High School, then at Sharp Middle, Porterdale Elementary and Mansfield Elementary schools.
Upon retiring after 36 years, Perry answered his original call to coach again at what was then the “new” Newton High School on Ram Drive, where the Newton College and Career Academy and the Porter Performing Arts Center now sit. For six years, he ran the In-School Suspension program while assisting as a coach on the gridiron.
Perry and Pat raised two boys, Chris and David, both of whom went into teaching and coaching. David recently retired and currently works as a local realtor. Chris inherited the gift of music from his mother, who established the award-winning chorus at Newton High. He actually went to Nashville, Tennessee, to audition at one point but eventually decided to become a full-time teacher and coach.
“I had played football at Newton High under coach Dan Spier and could always see the play unfolding before me,” Chris said, “but in terms of playing at a higher level, I remember what a good friend of mine who played nose guard once said about me. He said, ‘Chris, you’re not strong and you’re not fast, but you’re elusive.’”
After graduating from high school, Chris walked on at the University of Georgia, where he was a member of the junior varsity and scout teams for two years. He holds an ever-modest evaluation of his accomplishments as a Georgia Bulldog: “I did get to dress out and I wouldn’t give anything for the experience, but in the end, I practiced a lot.”
Once he completed his studies at Georgia, Chris’ first job in education was at Rutledge Academy, where he spent four years before joining the Newton County School System. He coached at Eastside High and later served as assistant principal at Alcovy High when it opened. Eight years ago, Chris was named assistant principal at Mansfield Elementary, and in 2016, he was elevated to principal, bringing the Haymore name full circle in that school. He is married to Kye, and they have a son, Warth, a junior at Eastside High.
Americans celebrated as one when the nation turned 200 in 1976—the same year that the first Haymore occupied the principal’s office at little Mansfield Elementary School. More than four decades later, his son carries on the tradition.