There can be no question about Vince Dooley’s place in history. A living legend, Dooley sealed his legacy as a head football coach when he led the University of Georgia Bulldogs to a National Championship to round out the 1980 season. During his 25-year coaching career at Georgia (1964 to 1988), Dooley won six SEC championships, the National Championship, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
At the time of his retirement, he was second only to Alabama’s Paul “Bear” Bryant as the “winningest coach” in SEC college football.
While his coaching career understandably overshadows the work he did as UGA’s Athletic Director from 1979 to 2004, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that across the board, UGA’s athletics beyond football have also been successful, and as AD, Dooley helped build the foundation for that success.
But what may come as a surprise to many is Dooley’s role in preserving history.
The former football coach has always had a passion for history, putting his Masters Degree from Auburn to work on various research and writing projects, and serving on important boards for historical preservation, including his current position as Chairman of the Georgia Historical Society. In recent years, this passion has been hyper-focused on preserving a local piece of history, the story of one Bulldog from days gone by. Earlier this year, Mercer University Press published “The Legion’s Fighting Bulldog,” a book Dooley co-edited with Samuel Norman Thomas Jr.
“Winston Churchill said that writing a book starts as an adventure,” Dooley says from the living room of his Athens home where he is surrounded by memorabilia – rings and trophies, paintings done with lots of red and black, awards of all kinds, and his own Marine Corps saber. “When it first starts, he said, it’s like a lover and you embrace it. But then it becomes like a tyrant, and you wonder, ‘Why did I take this on.’ But when it is over, it’s a joy.”
His face opening to that familiar, friendly smile, Dooley concludes, “I’ve gotten to the joy part.”
The book is a collection of letters written between William Gaston Delony and his wife Rosa. The letters begin in 1853, even before the couple was married, and continue through to 1863. The bulk of the letters are the correspondence between the Delonys while Will was serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in T.R.R. Cobb’s Georgia Legion Cavalry.
Read about Coach Vince Dooley and more “tailgating topics” in the Fall issue of Lake Oconee Living, on newsstands now. Pick up a copy at the offices of the Morgan County Citizen, Ingles, Publix, your local wine shop, or closest clubhouse.