Gaston High School paid tribute to the memory of one of the most prominent and active members of its community Friday by naming its football field after "Cap'n Bill" Boyd.
Boyd served as an assistant coach from 1958 until 2005, and dozens of former players took part in a pre-game ceremony before the game against Sand Rock.
Boyd was instrumental in getting the Gaston football program restarted after an 18-year hiatus in the 1940s and '50s, and his relationship with the school spanned 13 different head coaches.
"He coached my dad, he coached me and then he coached with me," said current Gaston head coach Swane Morris. "His influence in this community, you can see it when this many people show up to remember him. You just can't say enough about how selfless he was in this community and what a job he did all those years."
Boyd died in April at the age of 84, and his wife Shirley said the naming of the field was something her husband had resisted for years, but she and the family are honored by the decision.
"It means it all to me," Boyd said. "They wanted to do this long ago, but he wouldn't give into it. He said there's other people that had done more than he had done."
Despite his humbleness, Boyd's list of contributions to the school and the community are lengthy.
He graduated from Gadsden High School in 1952 and earned a football scholarship to play for Auburn University. He and Shirley got married while he was at Auburn, and he returned home to work and farm.
Gaston had stopped playing football in 1940, and in 1958, Boyd and Ted Wallace worked to get the program up and running again.
“That first year, there were only two of us,” Boyd told The Gadsden Times in 2004. “It was me and the basketball coach. Then they hired John McCabe the next year as a head coach.”
They raised money to buy equipment and played the 1958 season, but then disaster struck.
Jeff Sauls, who has researched the history of Gaston football, said that the school burned in Nov. 1958, and the football team's equipment went up in flames with it.
Undeterred, they continued raising money and played again the next season while working on a playing field.
“We played one home game that first year,” he said in The Times' 2004 interview. “Because there were no lights. But by the second season, the people in the community had dug holes and put up light poles.”
The early facilities were rough, and the team even practiced in Boyd's nearby cow pasture.
Boyd worked for 40 years at Republic Steel, but throughout his life, his other passions included farming and raising cattle.
"There's three things he loved, and I hope I was the first one," Shirley laughed. "And then he loved his cows and his football."
The sign at Gaston's field bears his nickname, Cap'n, which has its origins not on the open sea but in the fields.
Son Murray, a man who was raised by Boyd's parents and family, worked for Boyd on the farm and referred to Boyd as "Cap'n."
Shirley said other members of the Gaston community and football team heard the nickname and it took hold.
She was as deeply involved with the school as her husband was, serving as the lunchroom manager, and the family's community work didn't stop when the school bell rang — Shirley cooked for the team on a regular basis at home.
Throughout it all, she said the goal was to teach generations of Gaston football players about more than football.
"He's a man of legend," said Jeff Bellew, a former player who presented Shirley with a bouquet of roses during the field dedication ceremony. "He taught all these people out here, and he taught them something about life."