Lee County Community Remembers Hall of Fame Coach Paul B. Gay with Endowed Scholarship

Coach Paul B. Gay, longtime Sanford resident and beloved high school teacher, was head football coach at Sanford Central High School (now Lee County High School) for 24 years.

Coach Paul B. Gay

Under Coach Gay’s leadership the school won 177 games, including three consecutive Eastern Regional titles and the 1973 state championship. Even late in life, he could still be found watching high school football games from a spot at the stadium named after him.

When Gay passed away at age 90 in March 2022, Lee County High School Athletic Booster Club member Betsie Wilkinson led a fundraising campaign to establish the Paul B. Gay Student Athlete Endowed Scholarship at the North Carolina Community Foundation to support graduating Lee County High School athletes.

“Our Booster Club’s board decided to do something so kids would remember Paul and what he did for the community,” says Wilkinson.  “This is something that will keep his memory alive.”

Wilkinson contacted alumni from Gay’s teams to contribute to the fund. Players gave her additional names and from there, the campaign took off. The Booster Club raised $15,000 from former players and community members, including Steve Jones, a former Duke University ACC Player of the Year and six-season NFL veteran.

“The Booster Club contributed the additional $10,000 to get to the $25,000 needed to establish the endowment. It was a joint effort,” says Wilkinson. 

Thanks to the leadership of the Lee County High School Athletic Booster Club, Lee County High School students will learn about Coach Gay when those who personally knew him are no longer around to tell his story.