GRPA names Baker Volunteer of the Year

COVINGTON - Luther Baker has devoted his life to promoting and improving recreation in Newton County. This year, the Georgia Recreation and Park Association took notice, naming Baker 2008 Volunteer of the Year for District 6.

Baker was nominated by the Newton County Recreation Commission for his many years of dedicated service. He said he was surprised by the news that he was selected, with 26 counties represented in District 6.

"I'm just proud to do what I've done," he said.

What he's done is quite a lot. Baker played for recreation leagues as a child and moved on to coaching in adulthood. Baker supposes he got his passion for recreation from his father, Buddy Baker, who helped start Little League in Newton County and for whom Baker Field was named.

A former police officer, Baker was known for steering troubled youth to the recreation department.

"I like to see the youth play ball and that cuts down on crime," he said.

He has served on the Recreation Commission Board for more than 20 years and twice served as interim director for the commission when the post was vacant. Baker was instrumental in getting the local American Legion Baseball program reinstated in 1989. He helped obtain a $750,000 grant to develop the award-winning City Pond Complex and helped secure winning bids for four Dixie Boys World Series tournaments.

He also recruited current Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey.

"Luther has spent the majority of his adult life promoting recreation in our county," Hailey said. "When you talk to Luther about recreation you can see the passion and pride he has. He helped work through the struggles they had in the '80s to help lead us where we are today. Luther is one of the main reasons I chose to move back home to take this job. He has always been supportive of me as well as our staff. It was a privilege to nominate Luther for the award and I applaud the selection committee for recognizing what Luther has given back to this community to better the quality of life we all can enjoy."

Despite all he's accomplished, Baker's not through dreaming of ways to make Newton County recreation better.

"I just hope I can live to see more some more ballfields and walking trails. I'm real proud of the Miracle Field that's coming on," he said, referring to a field that will be designed for special needs children.

A former three-term Covington City Council member, Baker is employed with the Newton County Housing Authority. He is a long-time member of American Legion Post 32 and of Trinity Methodist Church.

He and his wife of more than 30 years, Sue, have two children and two grandchildren.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.