Reynolds School plans are an all-around winner

Feb 18, 2014

The town of Canton got national attention last week when word got out that a celebrity with roots in the mill town plans to give back in a big and unique way.

William “Billy” McDowell, the husband of legendary songstress Gladys Knight, purchased the old Reynolds School, a segregation era school in Canton, in December.

Though McDowell went on to bigger and better things after he graduated from Pisgah High School in 1976, he is proud of his Canton roots and seems genuinely excited to get started on a project that will make the community a better place.

McDowell envisions a community center that offers a little bit of everything to cater to everyone. He and his wife plan to create a walking track, restore the old football field and spruce up the landscaping around the buildings.

Gladys Knight, who is a known humanitarian dedicated to several causes, including the American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society, wants to play a role in the project as well. McDowell said his wife wants to create a school of music and etiquette there, as well as food and nutrition classes.

He also wants to have a computer lab for people who don’t have access to a computer or the Internet and even a food pantry for those in need. But it’s not just the school he intends to improve. He wants the entire community where he grew up to get a little makeover as well, including the road leading up to the school.

McDowell expects the entire project to cost around $2 million and hopes to even plan a concert featuring Gladys Knight to raise money. We hope that concert can take place right here in Haywood County so money raised here can stay here and attract tourists to see what our county has to offer.

McDowell is a wonderful ambassador for our community and isn’t afraid to tell others about his life growing up in segregation era Haywood County. He wants to make that rich history come back to life and to remind locals of days gone by.

McDowell is passionate and excited about this project but he doesn’t want to do it alone. He plans to get input from the community about their ideas for the center and he hopes to get community members to pitch in their time and talents to make the project happen.

We are excited about what this project could mean for Canton and the entire county. The fact that McDowell is so proud of his hometown should be a reminder of how lucky we all are to live in such a wonderful community with a rich history. We hope that everyone rallies in support of this project to help see it to fruition.

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