Bulldogs of the 4th Estate – Dan Magill

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Bulldogs of the 4th Estate – Dan Magill

Bulldawg Illustrated is starting a new series, featuring long-time UGA personalities of the Fourth Estate. There are many who are published authors along with network television superstars. Our first installment pays tribute to one of the most colorful characters ever to walk the campus—Daniel Hamilton Magill.

Eight years ago, the University of Georgia and its partisans lost an iconic figure who truly was legendary. Today, with time reminding us that its alacrity will forever be intact and foreboding, the mere mention of Dan Magill’s name and his colorful personality continues to make somebody’s





He was likable, lovable and entertaining. Versatile and accomplished. Most of all Dan Magill was unforgettable. For years, Reader’s Digest published a series, “The Most Unforgettable Character I Ever Met.” A Georgia graduate and football letterman, Gene Methvin, became an editor with the Digest, and, in retrospect, I have always wondered why Gene, the Vienna Viscount never authored a piece for the magazine on his stouthearted friend. For sure he held Magill in the highest regard.

As late as yesterday, I let a recurring thought enter my consciousness. When such contemplations gain traction, I realize that it is not too late to find a way to bring to print a collection of his insights, wit and humor.

The title has been incubating for years: “The Book of Magill.” There are multiple soothsayers and contributors who would participate—either a piece reflecting on his times and his influence or an unabridged essay.





I have always proclaimed that I have two degrees: One from the Henry Grady School of Journalism and the other in Bulldog loyalty and sage ruminations from drinking beer with Dan at Harry’s Restaurant in Five Points.

When Harry’s became a spirit’s shop, we moved three first downs to the northwest and continued our weekly “beer and banter,” at the Light House, which segued into the Five and Ten. Today, it is “The Butcher and Vine,” a fine restaurant. The last time I was there for a pleasant meal, I felt that Magill’s spirit was hovering overhead.

With all due respect to the dean at Grady, John E. Drewry, an unforgettable character himself, I learned more at the foot of Magill than I did on campus. It was pure fun to enter Magill’s realm whether at his office, the tennis courts, where the competitor in him always rose to the occasion or at Harry’s—the centerpieces of his weekly routine.

His stimulating repartee never waned. His quick and sharp wit never experienced any backsliding as plying his trade had him toiling with creative excellence as the UGA sports information director, tennis coach and secretary of the Bulldog Clubs.

This indelible scene will never leave my mind’s eye. On Sunday mornings after Bulldog games, he would arrive at his office in his Marine fatigues to update the statistics from Saturday’s competition, prepare a couple of news releases for the press (media was not yet in vogue) and put together the one-page paper, “The Georgia Bulldog.” It was chock full of notes and vignettes that made it a must for the subscribers and members of the Bulldog Club. Like his personality, his verbiage was insightful, colorful and stimulating. He was the best.

As the era of Wallace Butts subsided, times, except for 1959, were not good. Dan was the one who kept the faith and reminded everybody that the UGA alumni made up the majority party in the state. If more of the University hierarchy had cupped an ear to his preachments, Georgia could have avoided a pitfall or two.

Late one afternoon on a lazy summer day, our imbibing lasted longer than usual. In a rare moment, he reflected about his life and career. He believed he could have succeeded as an athletic director but only if it were his alma mater. With his wealth of knowledge, energy and contacts, he thought high office might have been within reach. He could have matched wits with anyone when taking the stump. For sure, he believed he could have been a national sports columnist.

Then he said, “I never wanted any of that. I just wanted to live in Athens and promote the University of Georgia and the Bulldogs.” In his last years as tennis coach, he saw that competing schools, not only modeled their programs after Georgia’s, but they also coveted his No. 1 assistant, Manuel Diaz. Magill had brought, with his own hands, the Bulldog tennis program to national prominence which included multiple national championships. Athens became the mecca of intercollegiate tennis, which is why he was able to get the Intercollegiate Tennis Hall of Fame located on the UGA campus.

The overtures focusing on Diaz turned the maestro’s head. What did he do? He retired with plenty left in the tank. His conclusion was that Manuel was the best young tennis coach in the country and was ready to be a head coach. “I didn’t want him to coach at another school. I wanted him to coach at Georgia,” Magill said.

You can count on one hand the coaches in this country, any sport, to make such an unselfish decision.

When a person gives of himself, he becomes especial. There has never been a more especial Georgia personality than Daniel Hamilton Magill, my beer-drinking friend who loved his alma mater like no other.





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