I’m heading down to Augusta this evening to attend the Bulldog Club meeting there at Julian Smith Casino. Driving by car from Athens, I’ll be taking roughly the same route Dan Magill took to do the same thing 60 years ago.
Lest we forget, Magill was the founder of the Georgia Bulldog Clubs of America. He made it his personal goal to start a Bulldog Club in all 159 counties in Georgia back in 1951. And he did it.
“Took me three summers to do it,” Magill, who turned 90 back in January, told me this week. “I didn’t have time to work on it any other time because I was Sports Information Director for all the sports in those days. George Woodruff and Judge Frank Foley, two of our most generous donors, they bought me a red and black station wagon to drive and I drove to every single county in the state.”
Of course, there was no interstate system in those days and the going could be pretty rough in the dog days of a Georgia summer.
“Most of the roads were Georgia red clay,” Magill said. “I didn’t have air conditioning but I’d just put the windows down. It was a lot of fun. Sometimes I’d hit two or three towns in a day, one at breakfast, another at lunch. I’d save the big towns for the evenings.”
Augusta, Magill recalled, was one of the big towns. “Oh, yeah, big Bulldog following down there.”
“I’d appoint a leader in every town,” he said. “Usually there would be an athlete that I knew. But sometimes I didn’t know anybody. If I didn’t, I’d ask the alumni society for some names. Every county had at least one alumnus. I got to know a lot of alumni that way.”
It was a spartan group early on. They’d usually hold annual meetings in the summer. Coach Magill would make it to as many as he could and he’d bring coaches along to some of the bigger stops.
He said club dues then were “something like $5 to $10 dollars” and members could buy official Georgia red sports that they’d wear to meetings. Magill still owns a few with stripes on the sleeve that displayed his lofty rank of executive secretary.
Today, many of the smaller clubs have been absorbed by the large ones in Augusta, Columbus, Macon and Atlanta and there are Bulldog Clubs in major cities in every state in the Union.
The basic format Magill created is generally the same, which is for the Bulldog Nation to gather together in fellowship, to fuss and extol over their beloved alma mater’s prospects for the coming season and to listen to their Saturday heroes speak.
Magill doesn’t get out to many of the meetings any more, but they remain a point of pride for him.
I asked him why he felt compelled to found them in the first place.
“Back in those days [Georgia] Tech got most of the publicity in the Atlanta newspapers,” Magill said. “But we had more alumni living in Atlanta and everywhere else. I told them, ‘we’re the Majority Party of the Empire State of South.’ And we’re still the Majority Party.”
Thanks in no small part to Dan Magill.
P.S. I’ll be talking to head coach Mark Richt and assistant basketball coach Philip Pearson in Augusta this evening. So let me know if there are some questions in particular you’d like me to ask. I’ll do my best to get them in.