Clayton “Sonny” Hawkins, 87, was many things in his life – a teacher, coach, soldier, role model and mentor. Talking to the people who knew Mr. Hawkins, he was all of these things and more.
He was a husband and father too. He was an insurance man and he even sold encyclopedias. Some things he did to provide for his family, but most of his life was devoted to caring about people and certainly enjoying being among them.
If there is such a thing as a “people person,” Sonny Hawkins was surely that. If he met you, he wanted to know all about you – where you lived and who your people were. He was interested in people, and if he could help them, so much the better.
“I’m an extrovert. I like knowing about people,” he said, speaking in an interview he did for the Alpharetta Historical Society. “I got to know just about everyone in town – until they started moving in by the thousands. But most of them, I knew their parents and their grandparents.”
After his family, first and foremost for Mr. Hawkins were his students and players. He taught high school science and coached boys and girls. He liked driving boys home after football practice because he wanted to see where they lived and meet their families.
And just about everybody knew Sonny Hawkins. For a quarter century he was the voice of the Milton Eagles starting in 1980. Friday nights in the fall, just about everybody was at Milton Stadium, and in the press box Mr. Hawkins called the game.
One of the great sources of pride in his life came when the people dedicated the old Milton football field to be Clayton “Sonny” Hawkins Stadium.
It was a very personal experience for him. He coached those boys – later he would call the numbers of their sons making a tackle. He loved having that connection with his boys.
Speaking for a video made by the Alpharetta Historical Society, his eyes light up talking about those days.
“There were always some boys who finally got in at the end of the game and heard their number called. They practiced just as hard and sweated just as much. They deserved that,” he said.
Alpharetta historian Connie Mashburn added a bit to that.
“If there was a big pile up, even a kid just running up at the end would get his name called as being in on the tackle. He wanted every one of his players to get recognition,” Mashburn recalled.
In October of 2016, he was inducted into the first class of the Milton High School Hall of Fame.
Mr. Hawkins never wanted to be anything else other than a teacher. He came to the decision in the eighth grade and never strayed from that goal.
Born in Canton, after graduating Canton High School he attended Gordon Military Junior College then North Georgia College. He got his commission as a second lieutenant and was soon shipped out to fight in Korea.
Of the 24 months he spent in the Army, 14 of those months were in combat. Short of officers in the field, he was promoted to first lieutenant and made a company commander. For his service he was awarded the Bronze Star.
He returned to his hometown of Canton to begin teaching, and in 1959 he moved to Alpharetta, a town he grew to love and claim as his own.
He taught classes, coached junior varsity football and girls’ basketball. It was with some regret he left Milton in 1967, but the opportunity to become head of the Science Department at Roswell High School was too great to pass up. He taught physics and physical science there for 10 years.
During his teaching career, he climbed the educational ladder earning his Masters of Physical Education at the University of Georgia as well as a Masters and Six-Year Degree in Science and finally a Masters and Six-Year Degree in counseling.
This last degree allowed Hawkins to come back home to Milton High School in 1977 where he served as a counselor until he retired. He also found time to coach some basketball.
“He was a role model for our teenage years,” recalled Babbie Green Wolf. “He always had a smile for us and laughed at our outrageous antics during high school. Coach Hawkins taught us much more than science and basketball, and we will always remember him with love.”
Katherine Worley Coleman echoed those thoughts.
“He cared deeply for his players and students and guided us to be the very best always. He was a role model for all of us in every aspect of life. Coach Hawkins will be remembered as one of the best,” Coleman said.
A community leader, Hawkins was a deacon for many years at the First Baptist Church of Alpharetta where he served on various committees and taught Sunday school classes. He also published a book on the lives of the pastors of the church from 1905 to present. For his service he was made deacon emeritus.
Perhaps the best epitaph came from Mr. Hawkins’ own lips from the video he made for the Historical Society.
“Alpharetta is a great little town. You have to be careful what you say about people, because you don’t know who might be listening. It is still a great place to live your whole life. I believe God sent me here. He always looked after me. Thank God for Alpharetta, Georgia.”