Locals view history with UGA athletics exhibit at Dalton-Whitfield library

May 26—Steed Hill pointed to a collection of University of Georgia coins from the 1970s and '80s that list the Bulldogs' football schedules.

"I've got these same ones," Hill, who graduated from UGA's pharmacy school in 1966 and was a pharmacist in Dalton for 48 years before retiring, said. "It brings me back."

The coins along with numerous other pieces of Georgia Bulldogs memorabilia were on display inside the Dalton-Whitfield County Public Library Tuesday, May 21, as part of the university's Athletics in Your Town tour, which travels across the state and showcases important artifacts from the institution's history in athletics.

"It's a one-day exhibit," said UGA Athletics History Specialist Jason Hasty, who has been a part of the tour since its inception seven years ago. "We were in Cedartown yesterday and we'll have six more stops this summer. This is actually our first time in Northwest Georgia, so I'm very glad to be here."

The library hosted around 60 artifacts ranging from the 1910s to modern day.

"All the artifacts are from the UGA Athletic Association archives, which is held in the Hargrett Library at UGA," Hasty said. "That archive is publicly accessible and anybody can come in and see it, but I like to bring things out and take them around the state and kind of connect with communities."

Among the items on display were two tickets from the first football game played at UGA's Sanford Stadium as well as an old leather football helmet worn by Gene Ellenson in the early 1940s and a playbook from the 1950s.

"All of this is original material, no reproductions," Hasty said. "We've got sheet music for the 'Red and Black March,' which was our first fight song in the 1910s and '20s. It didn't last very long."

Also on display was an advertisement for a 1905 game between Georgia and Auburn University.

"I love that it says 'Reduced Rates on Railroads,' because how else were you going to get there unless by railroad back in those days?" Hasty said.

Eight-year-old Luke Evans said the football helmet worn by Ellenson immediately caught his eye as he was checking out books at the library.

"I liked both the helmet and the (play)book," he said. "The helmet was cool because it was made out of leather."

Also on display was an early 20th century solid metal nose guard, which Hasty said was one of the only protective equipment players would originally wear, and a piece of Bob McWhorter's letterman jacket from 1913.

"McWhorter was our first great athlete," Hasty said. "He was a football star and a baseball star from 1910 to 1913."

One display case was centered solely around the university's bulldog mascot, including original drawings from UGA alumnus and Mad magazine co-founder Jack Davis, and a 1920s felt banner displaying some of the earliest depictions of the mascot, which Hasty said was "one of my favorite pieces in the archive."

Hasty said one display case contained material mostly from the 1980s, including a game-worn helmet by Heisman Trophy-winning running back Herschel Walker and the football that placekicker Kevin Butler kicked 60 yards to topple Clemson in the closing seconds of a famed 1984 game.

"A lot of Georgia fans look back fondly on the 1980s," Hasty said, pointing out the football team's 1980 championship victory. "But we also have more modern day artifacts from (current head coach) Kirby Smart's era."

That included one of Smart's trademark visor caps, a game-worn jersey donated by former kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, cleats worn by former running back Nick Chubb and the football that former running back Sony Michel scored the winning touchdown with during the 2018 Rose Bowl.

"We've also got two national championship rings on display, one from 1980 and one from 2022," said Hasty. "They've gotten a little bigger over the years."

Noticeably absent from the modern collection was any memorabilia representing former Georgia Bulldog and North Murray High School graduate Ladd McConkey.

"We've put out some calls to try and maybe get some things from Ladd, so hopefully we can have something in the future from him," Hasty said. "So many communities around Georgia have an athlete that they're so proud of and guys like Ladd McConkey and Nick Chubb, they're not only great athletes but they seem like really good guys."

While football may have been the main attraction of the exhibit, Hasty said he wanted to make sure other UGA sports were represented in the library as well.

"Football is a lot of what people want to see, but Georgia has such a rich history in athletics," he said. "Tennis, swim and dive, gymnastics, women's basketball. We just have so many great athletes and championship teams."

Items included a tennis racket from 1972, which was the first year UGA hosted the NCAA tennis championships, and worn or signed memorabilia from former UGA tennis player John Isner and UGA Olympians, such as basketball player Teresa Edwards and swimmer Allison Schmitt.

Hill said he jumped at the opportunity to visit the exhibit.

"I've had season tickets for years, so I just thought I'd come and check out the memorabilia," he said. "I've got a lot of this same stuff at home myself that I've collected since the '60s. There's just several things I can relate to here. I was there for the game where (Kevin) Butler kicked that football 60 yards. This is amazing."

Dalton resident Sandra Derrick said she loves "all things Athens and all things Georgia."

"I'm a 'Double Dawg,'" Derrick said. "I have two degrees there from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. My family is in Athens all the time and I've been to their library, but there's always more to see and something new you didn't see last time."

That includes items on display in Dalton from the 1970s and 1980s, she said.

"That's when I was there," she said. "It's funny because now those things are considered historic, I guess. and I liked seeing the stuff from Nick Chubb and from Kirby (Smart), the modern stuff, because I was at some of those games. It's just a great exhibit."

Hasty said he's had several coin collectors and ring aficionados stop by to see the exhibits over the years.

"This tour is obviously geared towards Georgia fans, but it's something that you can walk in and see some cool stuff you've never thought you'd see before or something that's 100 years old," he said. "It's state history."