Wally Butts

James Wallace Butts Jr. (February 7, 1905 – December 17, 1973) was an American football player, coach, and college athletics administrator. He served as the head coach at the University of Georgia from 1939 to 1960, compiling a record of 140–86–9. His Georgia Bulldogs football teams won a national championships in 1942 and four Southeastern Conference titles (1942, 1946, 1948, 1959). Butts was also the athletic director at Georgia from 1939 to 1963. He was inducted posthumously into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1997.

Biographical details
Born(1905-02-07)February 7, 1905
Milledgeville, Georgia
DiedDecember 17, 1973(1973-12-17) (aged 68)
Athens, Georgia
Playing career
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1938Georgia (assistant)
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
Head coaching record
Accomplishments and honors
1 National (1942)
4 SEC (1942, 1946, 1948, 1959)
3x SEC Coach of the Year (1942, 1946, 1959)
Florida–Georgia Hall of Fame
College Football Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1997 (profile)

Playing career

Butts was a 1929 graduate of Mercer University where he played college football under coach Bernie Moore,[1] as well as baseball and basketball. He was an alumnus of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.

Coaching career

Butts never failed to turn out an undefeated championship team at the three high schools he coached before arriving at the University of Georgia in 1938. He coached at Madison (Ga.) A&M from 1928–31; Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, 1932–34; and Male High in Louisville, 1935-37. Butts lost only ten games in ten years of high school coaching. Butts came to the University of Georgia as an assistant to Joel Hunt in 1938. Hunt left after a 5–4–1 season to take over at the University of Wyoming and Butts was elevated to the position of head coach, which he held for 22 seasons through 1960.

Butts' assistants in his first year as head coach were Bill Hartman, Howell Hollis, Quinton Lumpkin, Jules V. Sikes, Forrest Towns, and Jennings B. Whitworth. During his tenure as head coach, Georgia won its first consensus national championship in 1942 and claimed another national title in 1946.[2] Ralph Jordan, future head football coach at Auburn University, joined the Georgia coaching staff in October 1946 as an assistant line coach. Butts was a proponent of the passing game in an era of "three yards and a cloud of dust". He developed innovative, intricate pass routes that were studied by other coaches. He was often called "the little round man" as he was five feet, six inches tall and had a squat body.

Butts coached 1942 Heisman Trophy winner Frank Sinkwich and 1946 Maxwell Award winner Charley Trippi. The 1942 Georgia team won the Rose Bowl over UCLA, finished #2 in the AP Poll, and was named a national championship by a number of selectors. Butts' teams also won four Southeastern Conference championships (1942, 1946, 1948 and 1959).[3] As head coach, Butts posted a 140–86–9 record (.615 winning percentage), including a bowl record of 5–2–1.[4] Johnny Griffith, a former player and assistant coach to Butts, succeeded him as head coach from 1961-63.

Later life and honors

Butts resigned as UGA's head football coach in December 1960. He remained as athletic director until February 1963, when he resigned after a fictitious scandal erupted.

In 1963, Butts filed a libel lawsuit against the Saturday Evening Post after it ran "The Story of a College Football Fix" in its March 23, 1963, issue alleging that he and Alabama head coach Bear Bryant had conspired to fix an upcoming Georgia-Alabama game. The University of Georgia and Georgia Attorney General Eugene Cook conducted separate investigations. Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, as it ultimately became when it reached the Supreme Court, was a landmark case that expanded the definition of "public figures" in libel cases. The court ruled in his favor in 1967, and the Saturday Evening Post was ordered to pay $3.06 million to the Butts family in damages, the largest settlement awarded at its time in history.

This settlement was seen as a contributing factor among many others in the demise of the venerable Saturday Evening Post six years later.[5] Both Butts and Bryant had sued for $10 million each. Bryant settled for $300,000. In 1986, Professor James Kirby of the University of Tennessee School of Law published Fumble: Bear Bryant, Wally Butts and the Great College Football Scandal, which argued that the courts had made the wrong decision. Kirby had been the Southeastern Conference's official observer at the trial.

Butts was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1966 and posthumously into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.[6] Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, athletic administration offices and sports museum at the University of Georgia, was built in honor of Butts and his predecessor as coach, Harry Mehre.

After ending his football career, Butts established a credit insurance business in Athens and Atlanta, where he became very successful. Butts died of a heart attack after returning from a walk in 1973.[7] He was buried in Oconee Hill Cemetery in Athens, Georgia.[5]


Butts was the son of James Wallace Butts, Sr. (July 9, 1881 – January 2, 1959) and wife Annie (1881 – ?). Wally married Winifred Faye Taylor (July 12, 1907 – June 27, 1990) on February 19, 1929. They had three daughters, Faye, Jean and Nancy. Butts had numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren two of there great grandchildren are named Harper Jones and Benjamin Jones there parents are Ben Jones and Rachel Jones. Members of the Butts family have gone on to support the University of Georgia.

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall ConferenceStanding Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Georgia Bulldogs (Southeastern Conference) (1939–1960)
1939 Georgia 5–61–38th
1940 Georgia 5–4–12–3–17th
1941 Georgia 9–1–13–1–14thW Orange14
1942 Georgia 11–15–11stW Rose2
1943 Georgia 6–40–34th
1944 Georgia 7–34–2T–3rd
1945 Georgia 9–24–24thW Oil18
1946 Georgia 11–05–0T–1stW Sugar3
1947 Georgia 7–4–13–3T–4thT Gator
1948 Georgia 9–26–01stL Orange8
1949 Georgia 4–6–11–4–1T–10th
1950 Georgia 6–3–33–2–16thL Presidential Cup
1951 Georgia 5–52–4T–9th
1952 Georgia 7–44–35th
1953 Georgia 3–81–5T–10th
1954 Georgia 6–3–13–2–15th
1955 Georgia 4–62–511th
1956 Georgia 3–6–11–612th
1957 Georgia 3–73–49th
1958 Georgia 4–62–410th
1959 Georgia 10–17–01stW Orange55
1960 Georgia 6–44–36th
Georgia: 140–86–966–60–5
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth


  1. Thilenius, Ed; Koger, Jim (1960). No Ifs, No Ands, a Lot of Butts: Twenty-one Years of Georgia Football. Atlanta, Georgia: Foote & Davies Company. p. 8. LCCN 60015266.
  2. Georgia Football National Championships
  3. All-Time Winningest Division 1-A Teams
  4. Official 2006 NCAA Divisions I-A and II-A Football Records Book, page 331
  5. "Wally Butts, Ex-Georgia Coach, Dies; Won Large Libel Suit Coached Noted Players". The New York Times. December 18, 1973. p. 46.
  6. Wally Butts at the College Football Hall of Fame
  7. "Wally Butts; Dropped by university, mentor was not forgotten by Bulldog fans". European Stars and Stripes. December 21, 1973. p. 21.

Further reading

Kirby smart head football coach from 2016 to now he made it to the SEC championship game three years in a row

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