Remembering Jack Bush, ‘a damn good Dog’
At the conclusion of the graveside service at Oconee Hill cemetery, where many Georgia football lettermen are interred, Jack Bush’s son-in-law John Parker stood up and invited all those in attendance to a reception, noting that it would be “Jack Bush’s last tailgate party.”
When friends gathered at the Sexton House at the entrance to the cemetery, there was a sign, noting that it was a tailgate party in memory of one of Georgia’s most loyal friends who best could be described as a Damn Good Dog.
Jack represented, with deep affection, many of our traditional institutions: church, family, military, and alma mater. He was a member of “The Greatest Generation,” a Marine who saw action in the Pacific in World War II. Nothing warmed his heart like hearing “The Halls of Montezuma,” unless it was “Glory, Glory to ‘ol Georgia.” Jack was proud to have been a Marine, and he was proud to have scrimmaged for his supper on Ag Hill.
A big man with a big heart, Jack was an All-SEC tackle on Georgia’s 1946 undefeated national championship team. Growing up on a South Georgia farm near Ocilla, Jack’s father was in the produce business and moved the family around once settling in Brunswick, where Jack actually began playing football. He was a teammate with Lamar Davis who was to become a great player on Georgia’s national championship team of 1942. All along Jack wanted to play football for the Bulldogs, but by the time he finished high school, the family had moved to Jacksonville.
Florida alumni put pressure on him to enroll at Florida. “I was dating the daughter of one of the men involved and gave in, although I had reservations because of my Georgia background,” Jack said. The situation soured for him in Gainesville when he was told that he would not be eligible for football after lettering in basketball.
The rest of the story Jack always told with humility and gratefulness. “I walked off the practice field and called Coach Butts. He told me there would be a ticket at the bus station by 10 p.m., and I headed to Athens, one of the happiest moments of my life. I’ll always appreciate what Coach Butts did. He could have told me he didn’t need me at that point. After all, he tried to get me to sign in the first place, and I turned Georgia down.”
From that point forward, Jack became a Bulldog loyalist nonpareil. After his successful playing career, he became a most valuable supporter. One of the players he helped recruit, Bill McKenny, who played on the 1959 SEC championship team, was at Jack’s service. Jack was always touting his alma mater and sent many capable players to Athens.
Jack lived a life best described by the Latin phrase acta non verba — deeds not words. When he and his wife, Sue, settled down in Athens, they bought season tickets to men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics, and baseball.
Best I recall he began buying season tickets to football in the sixties, making the drive from Jacksonville to Athens every home game weekend. He eventually bought a second home at Sky Valley so he could be closer to Athens.
“That wasn’t bad, but not as good as living in Athens,” he once said. He and Sue moved to Milledge Circle and became the consummate Bulldog supporters. If an event took place, they were there. Jack’s motto was to treat your fellow man with respect, dignity, and charity. Find the silver lining, not fault. Cheer, don’t complain. Be proud you are an American. Give thanks for your daily bread. If it is not a sunny day, a sunny attitude will make it one.
A difference-maker on the field, Jack made a difference in the lives of those around him with his warm, easygoing, and generous lifestyle. Tailgate parties for him were not to indulge but to enjoy fellowship with his friends. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he has already formed a Celestial Bulldog Club.
[For 36 years the sideline radio reporter for the Georgia Bulldogs, Loran Smith now covers a bigger sideline of sports personalities and everyday life in his weekly newspaper columns.]