News of the death of Vince Dooley came at particularly tough time, as fans were beginning preparations for the big Georgia-Florida game weekend. Coach Dooley was revered for leading the Bulldogs to their legendary National Championship season in 1980 and transforming the program into a powerhouse, and there is plenty of information to be found about that online and in print. But he was much more than a sports personality and this a personal appreciation.
When I met him, by chance, at the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame ceremony in Athens in 2015, he was talking with some of that year’s inductees about their work. His genuine interest in arts and culture came as somewhat of a surprise to me but it was easy to see that this was just a part of who he was. Though he was often the center of attention when on the UGA campus, he came to events like this to celebrate others. He had no air of self-importance about him whatsoever. I was honored to be able to meet and photograph him.
After a tour in the Marines, while coaching at his alma mater, Auburn, Dooley obtained a master’s degree in history. This all happened before he began his storied career at Georgia, in 1964. His interest in history never wavered and in 2011 he was named a Trustee of the Georgia Historical Society, serving as chairman of the board from 2016-2018. In addition to this work, and tireless fundraising for a wide variety of causes, he found the time to be a master gardener.
He will be greatly missed but he leaves an amazing legacy.