Remembering Vince Dooley
Sam Burnham; Curator
It took me a few days to gather my thoughts on this one. I know a lot of publications have canned tributes written ahead of time just waiting for someone to die. That just seems kind of macabre. And if a guy who regularly takes his lunch at the cemetery thinks it’s macabre…
No, I think Vince Dooley is worth the time to sit down and do it right. That seems to have been his approach. When I learned of his death, it stung. He was a fixture in this state well before I was born. His proper place is among the likes of Zell Miller, James Oglethorpe, and Stone Mountain. When you see him, your first thought is “Georgia.” His death means a piece of Georgia died.
He is, of course, best known for the 25 years he spent as the head football coach of the Georgia Bulldogs and winning the 1980 National Championship. But he also served as the athletic director, contributing to the success of all UGA’s teams. He has been a booster and ambassador for the school.
But Vince Dooley was also a master gardener who wrote books about that particular craft. He was a historian who published well-researched works on the people, places, and events that shaped the present.
But I can’t let this post go without sharing my favorite story about him. A few years ago, he had a book signing at our local Kroger. My oldest son and I went by to get a football autographed. He agreed to sign the ball on the condition that we waited until no one was waiting to get a book signed. So we waited. That basically consisted of hanging out with the Dooleys while he signed books and told stories. Both Vince and his wife, Barbara, were delightful. Listening to them banter back and forth brought constant laughter. And then at the end of the event he signed the football and posed for photos.
About that time, Barbara remarked about the late hour and said it was about time to close things down. Vince suggested that they not get in a hurry and wait to see if any last-minute stragglers came by. She responded with an assertive “Vincent.” He turned to us and smiled, “I guess I better wrap this up.”
While I’ll always remember his accomplishments on the field, I’ll never forget his kindness and his hospitality for a young man who came to a book signing with a football and a love for Georgia Bulldog football.
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Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire