Milton Community Center to again be named after former mayor
This story has been updated to correct mistakes that appeared in the original version. Guy Thompson was sentenced to 51 months in prison for wire fraud and tax evasion. Also, Clyde Lee Gracey passed away on Feb. 2, 2021.
The Milton City Council voted Thursday night to rename the Milton Community Center after one of its former mayors, Clyde Lee Gracey, a longtime public servant who passed away at the beginning of February at the age of 99.
The council's move comes less than two years after it removed the name of another former mayor, Guy Thompson, from the same building following Thompson's arrest and sentencing for wire fraud and tax evasion.
Following a long career in the U.S. Navy, Gracey settled in Milton with his wife and children and served the city in various capacities, including on the Milton Housing Authority Board, the first Board of Adjustments and the Elections Commission, as well as president of both the Milton High School PTA and the Quarterback Club.
He served on the Milton City Council for six years and then became mayor in 1980, a seat he held for 14 years. Thompson succeeded him as mayor in 1994.
“Mr. Gracey contributed greatly to our city growth in the community, and I have nothing but the greatest respect for Mr. Gracey and the service he gave to our community,” Councilman George Jordan said. “I have no objection to us naming this community center after him.”
The vote was unanimous, but not final. It will go before the City Council again in early March.
“This is a wonderful way to honor former Mayor Gracey,” said Milton Mayor Heather Lindsay. “His children and grandchildren will be very grateful for your consideration.”
The Milton Community Center was named the Guy Thompson Community Center from 2015 until 2019, when Thompson's name was taken down after the serious charges against the city's longest-serving mayor came to light.
Thompson was once heralded as a pillar of the Milton community and the building was named after him in 2015 as a tribute to his longtime service.
But Thompson, now 67, pleaded guilty in May 2019 to 20 counts of wire fraud and three counts of tax evasion. The charges stemmed from an FBI investigation that discovered Thompson used his position as executive director of the now-defunct United Way of Santa Rosa County to funnel at least $650,000 in donation checks into his personal bank account from 2011 to 2018. Investigators believe the total was likely much higher.
Due to statute of limitations on financial records, investigators couldn't recover evidence from before 2011, although Thompson served at the charity's helm for 40 years. He easily could have embezzled millions that investigators couldn't prove, federal prosecutors have said.
Thompson was sentenced to 51 months in prison. He reported to Federal Correctional Institution Butner Low in eastern North Carolina, a low security facility, on March 2, 2020.
Thompson served Milton as a city councilman from 1978 to 1994, and as mayor from 1994 to 2014.
Annie Blanks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8632.
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