ATHENS—— Former University of Georgia four-year football letterman and assistant coach John Donaldson died Tuesday in Jesup at the age of 92.
Donaldson coached at Jesup High School and Wayne County High at different times in his career around assistant coaching positions at both Florida and Georgia. During his tenures, Jesup won state AA championships in 1954 and 59 and Georgia won the 1966 and ’68 Southeastern Conference titles.
As a player, Donaldson was a mainspring at halfback on Georgia’s four straight bowl teams of 1945-46-47-48. A native of Jesup where he was All-State in high school, Donaldson came to Georgia in 1945 after starring with the Jacksonville Navy in 1944. In the Georgia-Tulsa Oil Bowl game on New Year’s Day, 1946, he caught a 65-yard TD pass from Charley Trippi. He played with the old Chicago Hornets of the All-American Conference in 1949, then began a coaching career at Jesup High. In eight seasons there his teams won the division title each year and in 1954 they ended a 44-game winning streak by the Valdosta Wildcats. Jesup won the state AA championship in 1954 and 1959.
Donaldson joined head coach Ray Graves’ Florida staff as defensive backfield coach in 1960 and served in that capacity for three years. He was head freshman coach in 1963 and his Baby Gators were 3-1. Donaldson left Florida in 1964 to coach at the University of Georgia under new head coach Vince Dooley. He coached the offensive backfield for five years (1964-1968) at UGA and also coordinated Georgia’s running game from 1967-1968. The Bulldogs were second in the SEC in rushing in 1967 and in 1968, Georgia led the SEC in rushing and scoring en route to the SEC championship.
He also was the coordinator of Georgia’s off-season weight and running programs. In addition, Donaldson served as the main recruiter for South Georgia and the Jacksonville areas.
Donaldson retired from coaching and entered private business in Jesup until 1971 when he rejoined the Georgia coaching staff as head freshman coach. In 1973, Donaldson became head coach at Wayne County High before retiring in 1982.
He was married to the former Ann Coppelman of Jesup. Visitation will be 5-7 p.m. Saturday at the Howard-Jones Funeral Home in Jesup, 777 South First Street. Funeral services will be Sunday at 3 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 745 South Palm Street.