Byrd Learning Center DSC_1247 (copy)

Graniteville Elementary will be the name of the new school in Area 3. The building formerly was the Byrd Learning Center and originally was Byrd Elementary School, built in the 1950s.

Graniteville Elementary will be the name of the new school in Area 3.

The Aiken County School Board unanimously approved the name Tuesday at its regular meeting at Aiken High.

The Board also unanimously approved naming the music room in Graniteville Elementary in honor of James Russell Gunter, a longtime music educator and administrator in Aiken and Edgefield county schools.

Dr. Sean Alford, the superintendent of Aiken County Public Schools, said naming the school for the town of Graniteville is “probably long overdue.”

“The community of Graniteville will certainly appreciate that for sure,” he said.

Alford said school officials have contacted representatives of the former Graniteville Company about using its corporate logo, a capital “G,” in association with the new school.

If approved, the logo would recognize the company for which the town is named and its founder William Gregg.

Russell Gunter mug

Russell Gunter

Alford said the district received an “astronomical response” – more than 400 votes – in favor of naming the new school in honor of Gunter from its request for feedback and input from the public to choose a name.

However, the Board has a “clear” policy defining three years as the length of time individuals must have been deceased before they are eligible to have a facility named for them, Alford said.

Gunter, 56, died May 15, according to his obituary.

“He had a tremendous impact on the community, not only as a school administrator, a teacher and a music teacher but also through his music ministry at his church,” Alford said. “He's touched tons and tons of people. For him to have such an amazing representation from the community and folks who wanted to honor him, I think it's pretty impressive.”

A Graniteville native, Gunter attended Byrd Elementary and graduated from Leavelle McCampbell High School. He was the band director and an administrator at Langley-Bath-Clearwater Middle School and an assistant band director at Midland Valley High. He later was the principal of Byrd Elementary.

He also was the minister of music at Calvary Baptist Church in Graniteville, which is near the new school.

“He gave to his community,” said Pamela Grandy, who worked for Gunter at Byrd and helped lead the effort to name the new school in his honor. “He was born here, raised here and then brought his talents back to the community. He was a very personable person. He cared about everybody. He cared about his kids as if they were his own.

Grandy said Gunter would be the first to say “don't put my name on anything.”

“He was very humble. He worked for his community. He worked for his employees. We thought of him not as a boss but almost like a father," she said. "He was there for us whether it was school-related or personal. He wasn't just a principal. He was a wonderful human being.”

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.

A native of Aiken, Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.