Walton High School opened its doors in September of 1975 drawing students and many teachers from two rival schools, Sprayberry and Wheeler. Some of the members of the first faculty of Walton had memories of its first year uniquely recalled this past December with the passing of Mrs. Sara Pope, 89, a great teacher at Sprayberry for many years.
A bond of genuine love and respect quickly formed at the new school among the staff, students and community that first year. That bond supported its successful opening. However, the spirit of the people of the new school was unspeakably tested when on Thanksgiving weekend of 1975 the beloved basketball coach Alan Pope, his wife and their toddler age son were killed in an automobile accident. Many of the teachers who were in the school remember the following Monday as the most difficult day of their careers.
But Mrs. Sara Pope and her family lost a son, a daughter-in-law and a precious grandson on that weekend, an even more unspeakable test of spirit. Her loss was a tragedy to be lived with every day for years to come. As time passed, both Walton and the Pope family recovered as best they could and went on to serve as they were called to do.
Those on that first Walton staff remember the compassion and care of Dr. Nelson Price in that hurtful time. He was a great supporter of Walton as he was of all area high schools. At the request of the school’s administration, he conducted a memorial service for the staff and students a day before the funeral in the gym where Coach Pope began building his basketball program and, more importantly to him, the character of his players. Rev. Price did all asked of him and much more to see the school through the event.
Roswell Street Baptist Church was the home church of the Pope family. Rev Price, its pastor, embraced the family and conducted what was a beautiful but certainly very difficult and massive funeral for Coach Pope, his wife and son. Thirty-eight years later last December, Rev. Price conducted another funeral for the Pope family. This one was a simple graveside service for Mrs. Sara Pope, Allen’s mom. Rev. Price later said of her, “She was a special lady. ... Conducting her funeral service was easy and simple because of the way she lived and served.” Maybe we should all live like Sara just to make it easier on the preachers.
Twelve years after the first funeral, the Cobb County School Board opened a new high school in east Cobb. Ironically, Kelly Henson, then the Walton principal, was moved to open the new school. Several Walton teachers went to the new school as well. The Board of Education named the new school Allen C. Pope High School. Today and each day for many years to come, Coach Pope will be honored by students who attend and learn in the great school which bears his name and certainly so will Mrs. Sara Pope. The school is one of a few named for a Cobb County teachers.
Walton High principal