A grateful son’s tales of a lifelong Dawg

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Lifelong Georgia Bulldogs fan William D. King watches a Dawgs football telecast at age 87.

My father was one of those lifelong Dawgs fans who never actually attended UGA.

Not that it mattered. While he attended a small business college in Athens, rather than the university, he grew up pulling for the Bulldogs, sent three sons to the University of Georgia, attended UGA games for most of his life, and was a member of the local booster club.

He wasn’t just a DGD, he was the best damn Dawg I ever knew.

Frank Sinkwich runs the ball against Alabama at Grant Field in Atlanta. (Hargrett Library)

Many of my favorite memories of my father involve the Georgia Bulldogs in some way.

One of them is from way before I was around, but it’s a story I always loved hearing Dad tell, and which I’ve shared here before.

It’s from the Oct. 31, 1942, battle between Wally Butts’ Bulldogs, who had an 11-game winning streak going, and Alabama, who’d won eight in a row.

It was one of those “neutral” site games at Grant Field in Atlanta, and the Crimson Tide led 10-0 with 10 minutes remaining, but the Dogs, featuring the celebrated backfield duo of Frankie Sinkwich and Charley Trippi, came from behind to win 21-10, with Sinkwich throwing two TD passes and Andy Dudish intercepting a fumble in midair and running it back for another.

Georgia went on to win the Rose Bowl and a consensus national championship. After he retired many years later, Butts picked that game against Alabama as his greatest single day in football.

Bill King’s father, also known as Bill King, in his younger days. (Family photo)

That game also was the only time my father was on the Georgia sideline.

It was during World War II, and Dad, who was 19, had traveled to Atlanta for the game with a friend from their hometown of Colbert, just outside Athens. They didn’t have tickets, but they hung around outside the stadium, and one of the UGA coaches took pity on them and gave them sideline passes.

“We’ll call you high school prospects,” he said. It might have been just for one game, but that allowed me to say my father had been a UGA “recruit.” Three and a half months later, he would be inducted into the U.S. Army, winding up serving in the U.K. (where he met my mother) in the run up to D-Day, and in France.

After the war, my Mom came to the U.S. as a war bride, and my parents settled in Athens, where Dad became a banker. Eventually, they had three sons. And, the Bulldogs always were a presence in our lives, thanks to Dad.

My earliest Bulldogs memories involve Dad tossing a little Bulldog-emblazoned football with me in the front yard of our house (and him “calling” the action like a sportscaster as we played). He always listened to them on the radio (back in the days before the Dawgs were on TV), if he didn’t attend a game.

I particularly remember the 1959 game against Auburn, in which the Bulldogs, led by hometown boy Fran Tarkenton, won the SEC championship. Dad sat in our living room on the aptly named Hope Avenue, nervously devouring almost an entire bag of oranges while he listened to Ed Thilenius call that game.

Staff Sgt. William D. King in Paris in 1945. (Family photo)

Even in later years, when the Dawgs’ games frequently were televised, my daughter Olivia recalls her grandfather watching Georgia games on TV with the sound muted, so he could listen to Thilenius’ successor, Larry Munson, call the action on the radio.

Of course, Dad took me to my first Georgia games at Sanford Stadium, before I started getting into them by selling game programs (which Dad set up with one of his First Baptist Church buddies, Stu McGarity Sr., father of current UGA athletic director Greg).

Tickets weren’t that hard to come by in those days, and Pop always had a knack for getting into games. As an Athens High School classmate later said at one of our reunions, “Hell, everybody in town knows Bill King Sr.” I remember, in one of Vince Dooley’s first seasons, an Athens cop who knew my father was working the main gate, and he let us through without any tickets.

As Georgia football became a bigger deal, that gambit didn’t work any longer, so my parents spent several seasons escorting some of Dad’s customers at C&S Bank to games, using tickets provided by the bank. He also spent a few seasons as a first-aid volunteer, which luckily got Mom and Dad situated in the club section.

Sanford Stadium in 1976, the year Bill King’s dad had to watch the Alabama game from the bridge. (UGA Alumni Association)

However, Dad had decided to strike out on his own again in 1976, so he didn’t have a ticket to that season’s much anticipated game against Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide. He thought he’d be able to score one from a scalper, but that didn’t happen, so he ended up watching the game (which Georgia won 21-0) from the Sanford Drive bridge, along with “the drunks and the hippies,” as he later put it.

Dad got season tickets of his own the next year.

And, for many years, my father and my youngest brother, Tim, sat in Dad’s seats in Section 334 of Sanford Stadium. Last year, when I wrote about fans’ favorite Bulldog memories, I asked Tim his. His answer was perfect: “Going to football games with Pop.”

Mostly, our father just attended home games, though I do recall a couple of times when I was young that he drove over to see the Bulldogs play at Clemson with a friend. In our adult years, we used to take him to Georgia basketball and baseball games, as well. I remember in the Diamond Dawgs’ terrific 2001 season under Ron Polk there was a midweek game that none of his sons was available to attend. Dad later told me, “I realized, there was no reason I couldn’t go to a game without one of my sons,” so he went on to Foley Field by himself, at age 78.

From 1997 to 2002, my son and I usually were joined by Pop and my brothers Jonathan and Tim for tailgating at a church on Lumpkin Street before we all headed down to the stadium. Then, Dad’s health declined, and he didn’t attend any games in person after 2002.

William D. King surrounded by his sons (from left) Tim, Bill and Jonathan. (Family photo)

That didn’t stop him from pulling for his Dawgs, however. And, even after Mom died in late 2008 and Dad was living in Mulberry Grove Senior Living in Statham, he still watched the games on TV. (I remember all three of his sons joining him to watch one Vandy road game in his room.) He also had a UGA football calendar up on the wall there, and was known by Mulberry’s staff and residents for the wide array of UGA caps he always wore.

After Pop died at age 89 in early 2012, he had a burial befitting a lifelong Bulldog, and not just because of the beautiful plant bedecked with a red and black ribbon, sent by the UGA gymnastics program, on whose booster club board my brother Jon sat. We also left the Georgia “G” pin in its longtime spot in the lapel of the gray suit Pop was buried in, and, at Tim’s suggestion, a red Georgia cap was placed by Pop’s side — in recognition of his trademark during the last three years of his life.

Dad was a Bulldog to the very end, and he raised three sons who are die-hard Dawgs fans, as are his grandkids and great-grandkids.

Back in 2009, I wrote a Blawg about my father’s devotion to UGA, and I read it aloud to him during one of our weekly visits with him at Mulberry. Always a man of few words, Dad didn’t say much, but the big grin on his face spoke volumes.

He may not have gone to UGA, but there never was a truer Georgia Bulldog than William D. King, who I am very proud to say was my father.

I know many, if not most, of the Blawg’s readers have Georgia Bulldog dads, too. If your father is still around, take a moment to tell him how much you appreciate being brought up the right way — as one of the Red & Black faithful.

Happy Father’s Day! Go Dawgs!

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