Aquatic center named for boy who gave his life

By Greg Gelpi

Galloping away and not responding to its reins, the horse sped away with Judy Ann Cash on top, her screams for help only spurring the horse to gallop more vigorously.

Hopping on his horse, Jim Huie, 14, rode up alongside her, seized the bridle and subdued the horse, saving his friend.

Huie's horse, though, continued on into the roadway and into the path of a car that struck and killed both him and his horse, Blaze King.

Almost 40 years later, officials from Clayton County and the Clayton County Board of Education will break ground on the Jim Huie Aquatic Center near where the accident occurred. A groundbreaking ceremony is set for 4 this afternoon next to the Harold R. Banke Justice Center and is open to the public.

Jim Huie's mother, Lucy Huie, donated about 50 acres to the county, the land on which the Justice Center stands and where the aquatic center soon will.

When giving the land to the county five years ago, she asked that the county erect a park to honor and memorialize her son.

"I just feel that people should try to give back to others," Huie said. "My dad was a Methodist preacher, and I guess I was just taught it is more blessed to give than to receive."

After the accident, a representative from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission interviewed the family, and the commission awarded a Carnegie Medal for Jim Huie's heroism.

"For a while after I didn't want to talk about it," Huie said. "The fact that he was considered a hero didn't help much."

Bill Hodges, who grew up with Jim Huie, said his heroism didn't surprise him, since he had a "firefighter mentality" and it was in his nature to risk injury to help others.

"Although I wasn't there when it happened, I can see it in my mind," Hodges said. "It was a very natural response."

The two would spend "hours and hours" swimming at the Jonesboro public swimming pool across from Lee Street Elementary School, he said.

Hodges said he often thinks about what Jim Huie would be like today. The two entered into new "adventures" each day, including a number of business ventures. The two even started breeding chickens and printed their own neighborhood newspaper.

"I think it's appropriate for him to be honored," Hodges said. "I think it's appropriate for the facility to be named for him."

The aquatic center is a joint venture between Clayton County and Clayton County Public Schools using funding from both entities' Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

The venue will include a competition size swimming pool, warm-up pool and diving well, along with all of the amenities of an aquatic center, such as locker rooms and spectator seating.

Jim Huie was the son of Lucy and Arthur Huie. His siblings were John Patrick, Mary and Henry.