The Father of the SEC
Now that the Southeastern Conference football champion for 2010 has been crowned and is headed to the national championship game, let me take a few minutes to introduce to you, Dr. H. Boyd McWhorter, who has been called "The Father of the modern day SEC."
Boyd McWhorter, a native of Cochran, Georgia, was another member of one of the royal families of the University of Georgia athletic programs. Kinsman Bob McWhorter was the first. Bob was the university's first All-American and a four-term mayor of Athens, Georgia. Born on May 8, 1923, Boyd McWhorter graduated from North Georgia College in 1942. McWhorter attended the United States Naval Academy during World War II. During the Korean War, Captain Boyd McWhorter, United States Naval Reserve, was given a leave from his teaching duties to return to the service of his country.
After earning his master's degree in English from the University of Georgia in 1949, McWhorter received his doctorate from the University of Texas in 1960. McWhorter then joined the faculty of the English department at the University of Georgia, where he taught for 22 years. Known more for his work in athletics, McWhorter was known by many of his students as a outstanding teacher. "He enjoyed teaching English in the classroom as much as anything he'd done," said son Hamilton McWhorter.
McWorther served on the university's athletic board from 1963 to 1972. For seven years, he served as faculty chairman. During his tenure at Georgia, McWhorter served as Assistant to the President in 1965 and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1968.
In 1967, McWhorter was elected Secretary of the Southeastern Conference. He was elected by the universities and colleges of the NCAA as the organization's Vice-President for two terms.
The members of the Southeastern Conference named McWhorter as the fifth head of the Conference in 1972. Upon taking office just before the 1972 football season, McWhorter said, "I consider the Southeastern Conference the best and it will be my determination to keep it that way." The new commissioner made it his goal to prevent the abuse of athletics standards by relaxing academic ones. "That's why we call them student-athletes," McWhorter frequently said.
Determined to keep the conference strong, McWhorter was disturbed that most of the attacks on the institutions were a result of those on the inside who were there to protect the conference contributing to the problems.
Commissioner McWhorter retired in 1986 as the second longest serving commissioner in conference history.
Following his retirement due to health reasons in 1986, McWhorter returned to his alma mater as a consultant to the President on issues of academic and athletic affairs following the turmoil created when English professor Jan Kemp was fired for criticizing the university for its favoritism toward athletes and the subsequent trial demanding her reinstatement.
McWhorter was elected to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1979, along with Tommy Aaron, Zeke Bratkowski and Maxie Baughn.
Boyd McWhorter died on July 23, 1994 and is buried in the Oconee Hill Cemetery in his beloved Athens.
Friend, colleague and sportswriter Loran Smith wrote that one of McWhorter's most distinguishing characteristics was his infectious laughter which would literally turn a dreary mood into one of uplifting gaiety. Of his love of English and the Bulldogs, Smith said, "He could quote the poets, but he could quote from the Georgia media guide - a learned man who appreciated both intellect and smooth athletic talent."
"Boyd McWhorter took his job seriously, but never himself," said Smith, a native of Wrightsville. Smith knew his friend as a bright person who never looked down on another by illustrating the point that McWhorter, who preferred his first name and not doctor, maintained that a PhD was on campus to serve the institution and not the other way around.
"He believed strongly in the value of intercollegiate athletics, but with an underscoring of honesty and integrity. He didn't find fault, he looked for solutions. He carried his own bag, he fixed his own drink. When the joke was on him, he laughed the loudest," Smith concluded in his eulogy to his dear, dear friend.
In his illustrious career, Boyd McWhorter brought the SEC through the first years of integration and into serious contention for national championships in many sports. McWhorter negotiated the conference's first major television contract and rejuvenated the post-season conference basketball championship.
So, when you cheer for your favorite Southeastern Conference team in any sport, remember that the man who brought the universities together and helped to transform them into one of the nation's greatest collegiate athletic conferences, once called Bleckley County, Georgia home.