Rocky Top blared over the speakers. Kids sang loudly. Adults tried to talk to each other over the noise.

Those were the sounds heard before the beginning of the annual Russellville Elementary School basketball pep rally on Monday afternoon. While all of this was going on, Principal Sammie Taylor III watched as his students enjoyed themselves.

However, minutes later, the kids watched on with smiles as Taylor was given a bit of surprising news.

On Monday at the pep rally, it was announced by the Hamblen County board of education that the Russellville Elementary School gym would be named the Samuel K. Taylor III Gymnasium.

“This is thanksgiving week, and you don’t know how thankful I am to have landed in Russellville 50 years ago,” Taylor said. “I would have never dreamed that I would still be here and still love it as much as I do. But I have been very blessed to have wonderful students and parents. It’s a great community.”

Taylor was presented with a plaque that will go outside of the gym in his honor. It reads; “The Samuel K. Taylor Gymnasium. Dedicated in appreciation for his years of loyal, dedicated and committed service to the students and staff of Russellville Elementary School.”

A member of the staff for 51 years at Russellville, Taylor has served as a teacher, coach and principal for the school for the last 45 years.

Taylor has coached the elementary school basketball team since 1969. In December of 2013, Taylor surpassed the 1,000-win mark as coach of Russellville. He is still adding to that win total as the basketball coach today.

“I think it goes without saying that coach Taylor has had an incredible career,” Taylor’s son, Sammie Taylor IV, said on Monday. “It’s a career that has lasted over half a century, and I will wager that it will never be duplicated. Neither in longevity nor success as long as Hamblen County basketball is played.”

With the dedication of the gym, Taylor IV joked that the gym would now be called “the house that Sammie built.” Currently, Taylor has won over 1,200 games in his career and coached over 700 boys and almost 500 girls.

“I think the building should be named for someone more famous than I am,” Taylor said. “I thank the school board members that were here and Dr. (Jeffrey) Perry. You have no idea how much I really appreciate this. I have been very very blessed and still am.”

The dedication of the gym was made possible by the Hamblen County Board of Education, who gave the Russellville school board the ability to make the resolution. It stated that the gym would be named Taylor’s honor for his dedication and service throughout his life.

“Mr. Taylor has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment and dedication to Russellville Elementary school,” the resolution said. “He has consistently demonstrated a high personal and professional standard at all times. He has dedicated countless hours coaching, mentoring and guiding students in the athletic programs.”