Former University of Georgia multi-sport athlete and legendary high school coach Billy Henderson died Wednesday at the age of 89.
Henderson, a two-sport standout for the Bulldogs in the late 1940s, earned a total of eight letters. He played on the 1946 and 1948 SEC Championship football teams and was a three-time MVP in baseball. Following graduation, he was drafted and signed by the Chicago Cubs. He spent two years in their organization before deciding on a teaching and coaching career.
His illustrious coaching career included stints at Jefferson High School (1951-53), Athens High (1953-55), Furman University (1956), University of South Carolina (1956-57), Willingham High (1958-70) and Mount DeSales High (1970-73) in Macon before returning to Athens and Clarke Central High School in 1973. He became an icon for the Gladiators, compiling a record of 222-65 and three state championships over 23 seasons. His overall head coaching record was 285-107-16.
Over the years, the success of his teams were not limited to football, owning three state championships in baseball, one in swimming and numerous region titles in all three sports. Also, well over 125 of his players earned college scholarships.
He was named the recipient of the 1995 Bill Hartman Award —the highest honor a former UGA student-athlete can attain. Named for Georgia’s long-time kicking coach and chairman of the Georgia Student Educational Fund, the award recognizes former Bulldog student-athletes who have distinguished themselves as alumni. At the time, Henderson was the sixth recipient, joining former NFL quarterback and Atlanta businessman Fran Tarkenton, Atlanta Olympic Committee CEO Billy Payne, former Gov. Carl Sanders, Atlanta developer Tom Cousins and the Bulldogs’ legendary assistant athletic director Dan Magill.
For his lifetime of contributions to young people, Henderson was honored in March of 1993 by more than 800 people who came together at Clarke Central in “A Tribute to Billy” and in celebration of Billy Henderson Day in Athens. Then Gov. Zell Miller, Sen. Paul Broun and Rep. Louise McBee were among those who sent congratulatory letters and resolutions honoring him.
He also founded the Athens Hall of Fame and conducted youth football camps at the YMCA.