Sports complex named for former mayor

By Staff
Nathan Strickland
The Lee Sports complex took on a new name Sunday as the late, former mayor John Blackwell was honored.
The ceremony consisted of three guest speakers including Russellville Mayor Troy Oliver, former Lee company plant manager Don Garrard and former Parks and Recreation director Jackie Bradford.
Each speaker praised Blackwell for his leadership, endurance and prestige.
"He gave me a lot of good wisdom," Oliver said. "He's been a great inspiration to me and it's an honor for me to name this complex after John. He deserves a lot more."
In 1993, Blackwell approached Garrard with an idea. The city's younger sports programs were over flowing with participants and Blackwell wanted to make sure they had a place to play ball.
The Lee Company owned an empty 11.6 acres of land, so Blackwell asked Garrard to call his company executives and see if they wanted to sell it.
"I told him it was going to be a difficult task, but his response was 'Ok Don, you can do it,'" Garrard said.
The city invested $600,000 and $100,000 was made with grants from the state, along with other donations that were acquired. The complex opened with the little league jamborees on March 30, 1996.
In a FCT article dated March 31, 1996, Blackwell was quoted as saying "This is a great idea and I am glad that we could do something like this for the kids, because so many people's kids play youth sports in the summer.
"This is also one of the last places the entire family can go and spend the entire day together. It is a very safe environment and will be very convenient for parents who have kids playing in different age groups. They will only have to come to one place."
Blackwell's daughter, Denisha, showed gratitude as her father was honored.
"I just want to thank the Parks and Recreation department, the city council and Gault Signs who made the wonderful sign, we really appreciate it."
A reception at City Hall immediately followed the ceremony.