A half century ago the 1968 Georgia Bulldogs captured the Southeastern Conference championship during the most tumultuous year of the 20th century. As we approach the 50th anniversary of that “Sock it to Me” season, here is a remembrance of an extraordinary team and time.
Late on the evening of April 9, the day Martin Luther King Jr. was laid to rest in Atlanta, a thousand girls flooded out of Brumby Hall on the University of Georgia campus when two boiler room explosions rocked the dorm. Nothing nefarious was at play, simply a couple of overheated steam pipes and a blown electrical transformer.
Seeing a thousand young women in pajamas and varying stages of undress steamed up the boys in neighboring Russell Hall, and soon a few hundred of them added to the chaos by meandering down to the crowd, while others catcalled amorous invitations from dorm windows. It took campus and local authorities a couple of hours to clean up the confusion and find the girls temporary accommodations.
The next day, in a previously planned demonstration unrelated to the explosions, several hundred students took over the administration building on north campus to protest the treatment of females at the university. The unrest lasted three days as protesters complained of curfews imposed on female students, a prohibition against alcohol use even for women of legal age, and other rules not applied equally to men. A month later, when a few leaders of the rally were suspended, protesters returned for a weekend and erected a tent proclaiming the site “Persecution City.”
It was only April.
A long, hot summer of discontent lay ahead for America.
1968 was full of chaos, confusion, and turmoil.
In Athens that spring, Bobbie Gentry came to town and sang her Grammy-winning “Ode to Billy Joe” in a concert at the Coliseum on March 5. Three weeks later, another Bobby made local news when course registration crowds at the Coliseum caused newly announced Democrat presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy to cancel a campaign stop in the Classic City. He rescheduled the appearance for late spring or early summer.
Kennedy never made it to Athens, falling to an assassin’s bullet on June 4, the evening he won the California Democrat primary, exactly two months after King was killed in Memphis.
The same week of the King funeral, the Brumby explosions, and the takeover of the administration building, the Georgia Bulldog football team began spring practice in preparation for the coming fall season. It was Vince Dooley’s fifth season as head coach and the 1968 squad brimmed with the talent that would deliver an unbeaten regular season and Dooley’s first unshared SEC championship.
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