Morgan, who displayed his love and commitment to local sports and the community for more than 50 years, died at home Wednesday, Jan 5. He was 75.
“It’s a sad day for our community,” Effingham County school district Superintendent Yancy Ford said. “He was a fixture in local sports from his days at Central Junior High School, Effingham Middle School and Effingham County High School, all the way to his work with the recreation department.”
In this rural community, Morgan’s impact on Ford was typical. Morgan was Ford’s middle school football coach. Morgan coached Ford’s wife Deidre in softball. Ford’s son Matthew played on the recreation department’s state championship football team.
For Morgan, working around sports was a labor of love that started in his teenage years and grew to include his namesake — the multi-million dollar, 120-acre Clarence E. Morgan Central Recreation Complex.
His involvement with youth sports began at 17 playing with the Shawnee Baptist softball team. Two years later, he helped start a church basketball league.
Morgan was just 21 years old when he helped run the Effingham County Youth Athletic Association, which offered organized sports to county children.
Credit: DONALD HEATH/FOR EFFINGHAM NOW
At 24, he started coaching basketball and football at Central and eventually moved up to athletic director.
He moved up to Effingham County High School and coached baseball, but remained at the hub of community sports — working with ECYAA until the Effingham County Recreation Department started in 1975.
In 1980, Morgan began working part-time as the recreation department’s director. And the man known as “Big C” made a big impression on his employees.
“He was a great guy to work for. He was all about Effingham County and helping people,” said Jeffrey Lonon, who has worked with Morgan at the recreation department for 21 years.
They spent time traveling in Georgia, looking at parks and gyms for new ideas to better Effingham’s facilities. During their travels, they talked about everything under the sun. Turns out Morgan picked cotton and peas on a farm with Lonon’s wife Vanessa.
Lonon said Morgan’s compassion shined brightest in people’s time of need. Morgan and his staff held a kickball tournament to raise money for a longtime recreation umpire who had cancer. Another time, they sold chicken dinners for a part-time worker recovering from a car accident.
Credit: Effingham County Board of Commissioners
And when Lonon’s father died, Morgan made it clear he was available if anything was needed.
“People see the rec stuff, but Clarence was more than just that,” Lonon said. “He was concerned about people. He wanted to be a true servant of the people. It was people first, him second.”
In the small gym on that June night in 2019, Morgan shook hands and presented plaques. He was the first to arrive and last to eat.
And he stood on the gym’s wooden stage and shared heart-felt words to the inductees.
“Thank you for being part of somebody’s life,” he said.
Visitation will be held from 1 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8, at the Clarence E. Morgan Gym at the Clarence E. Morgan Central Recreation Complex, followed by a funeral service at 3 p.m.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Clarence Morgan leaves a legacy of compassion in Effingham County