On Thursday, December 13, during the regular monthly meeting of the Coffee County Board of Education, the school board unanimously voted to name the new performing arts center after long time Coffee High administrator Clayton Mathis. The auditorium of the center will be named after John M. Maley, who served as the band director from 1964-1985.
Dr. Morris Leis, Superintendent paid tribute to both gentlemen for the impact they made while serving in their respective roles within the school system. “Mr. Mathis was and still is to so many one of the best administrators a student could have had in their life. He not only cared about the educational success of the boys and girls he touched but their well-being as a person,” stated Dr. Leis.
Clayton Mathis began his teaching career on the campus of Coffee High School in 1966 as a history teacher. Upon his retirement in 1998, he had dedicated his entire educational career to the Coffee County School System -- teaching, coaching, central office administration, principal of Coffee Junior High for 12 years, principal of Coffee High for eight years and retiring as the principal of Ambrose Elementary after four years. Mr. Mathis passed away May 7, 2016, after a total of 32 years of service in education.
John Maley’s first teaching job was in Warrior, Alabama, where he organized the first marching band at Warrior High School. After two years he was offered a teaching position at nearby Oneonta High School. During this time, he was also a founding member of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. In 1958, he went to Appling County High School in Baxley for several years before coming to Douglas for the 1964-1965 school year. The Coffee High Comet Band was built into one of the largest bands around, bringing innovative ideas to half-time shows with music of the day, from the Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, and James Brown, to name a few.
Mr. Maley was a passionate football fan and there was no sitting around during the game. He could see a touchdown developing and had the band ready with the fight song the moment the referees signaled. Coach Billy Carrolton once came on one of the band busses after a hard fought Dodge County game and told Mr. Maley that the band, with its spirited music and cheers, played a definitive part in the win. After seven years of directing the high school and junior high bands, another music teacher was added -- John O’Brien. Given the choice, Mr. Maley chose to take the junior high and various elementary schools, as he always loved to teach beginning students and have them develop before moving to the upper grades. Mr. Maley retired from teaching in 1985, but continued to perform with friends and family. He passed away October 4, 2004.
Mrs. Nedra Mathis, came to the podium following the announcement and emotionally shared with the school board and audience how much it means to her and their daughter Elizabeth that the school district has chosen Mr. Mathis for this honor. “Mr. Mathis loved this school district and every day it was about the students -- doing what was best for them.” Mrs. Mathis publically thanked Leola Johnson, school board member for District 1, who made the motion for the naming of the facility for Mr. Mathis and Mr. Maley. Ms. Johnson had worked many years with both gentlemen.
John and Charlotte Maley had 11 children, all of whom graduated from Coffee High School. Danny Maley, who everyone knows from Danny’s Pizza, expressed how special this recognition was to his entire family. Growing up in a musical family, Danny elaborated on the excitement of having a true performing arts center in the community and how happy his father would be. The Coffee High Performing Arts Center is due to open in the fall of 2019. It will seat 900 with 600 on the first floor and 300 in the balcony. “It will be a state of the art facility that will house every avenue of the arts – drama, dance, theater, art, choral and instrumental music,” stated Dr. Leis. “It will be a facility that our community can be proud of.”
With the cost of the center totally funded through SPLOST IV funds, Dr. Leis thanked the community for their overwhelming support of E-SPLOST. “Here forward, I am proud to say the Clayton W. Mathis Performing Arts Center and the John M. Maley Auditorium is due to open fall of 2019. At that time, we will continue our celebration with both families, the school district and our community,” he said.