Friday, May 11, 2018

The House of Payne

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When One Old Dawg received the invitation to attend the Naming Event of the William Porter Payne and Porter Otis Payne Indoor Athletic Facility at UGA, we were especially excited. Jerry and Billy played together on the 1966 SEC Championship football team at Georgia. As One Old Dawg says, “I didn’t know Billy Payne would become famous, but I’m not surprised.” Even then, Billy showed such strength of character that those who knew him imagined he might reach any goal he set. Of course, perhaps beyond imagining would be the huge role he played in bringing the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta, Georgia.
One of the presenters at the event was none other than legendary golfer, Jack Nicklaus. When One Old Dawg met Nicklaus, he introduced himself by saying, “Mr. Nicklaus, you don’t know me from Adam’s housecat, but I sure have enjoyed watching you play golf through the years.” When asked if he minded posing for a picture, Nicklaus responded, “I’ve always wanted to have my picture taken with Adam’s housecat.”
We ran into one of One Old Dawg's former teammates, Georgia great, George Patton, here with One Old Dawg, and their former coach, Vince Dooley.

When One Old Dawg came to Georgia as a young recruit, the athletic department arranged for members of the Georgia Girls to show recruits around campus. Jerry’s escort for that weekend was Marianne Gordon, a young woman who later became television personality, Marianne Rogers. Meeting again here after many years.

 Mark Kubiak interviewed one Old Dawg for the SEC network on his memories of Billy Payne. The show will air in July on SEC. We’ll see if One Old Dawg makes the cut.

Here another legend at Georgia, 1943 Rose Bowl Champ, Charley Trippi and his wife, Peggy. Trippi played with Porter Payne, Billy’s father.

A tent was actually erected inside the Indoor Facility and provided a lovely backdrop for the event.


CBS announcer and Masters anchor for many years, Jim Nantz, was Master of Ceremonies. Also in attendance was long time sportscaster Verne Lundquist as well as golfers Bubba Watson and Kevin Kisner.

President of UGA, Jere Morehead, Athletic Director, Greg McGarity, and Georgia Football Coach Kirby Smart all gave fitting tributes.

Former U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and the first woman member at Augusta National under Payne’s tenure as Chairman, sent her lovely message via video.  

Former Coach, Vince Dooly, also offered a moving testimonial.

Former Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor, Andrew Young, covered the challenges in bringing the Olympics to Atlanta. He and Billy Payne traveled to over 100 countries, a black man, and a white man with such love for each other, it gave the world a new picture of the American South. Young praised Payne and credited the hand of God  for their successes. One Old Dawg and his wife pose with Ambassador Young.

Following the accolades of Augusta National Golf Club chairman, Fred Ridley and golfer, Jack Nicklaus, the Payne children, Elizabeth Sikes and Porter Payne, introduced their father.

Finally, Billy Payne spoke, the former chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, the man in the forefront of bringing the Olympics to Atlanta, and later president and chief executive officer of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. Loran Smith wrote in the program for the evening, “If Billy Payne is anything, he is far-sighted and audacious as the winning of the centennial Olympic bid underscores. Who could have fathomed that the games could take place in the state capital of Georgia-except William Porter Payne, the stout-hearted dreamer?”

Billy Payne and Jerry Varnado

The Naming Event was a much deserved honor for Billy Payne and it was a joy for all of us in attendance.

Other  Old Dawgs present  that evening:

Jerry Varnado, Harold Tarrer, Nelson Bowers

Jerry Varnado, Steve Greer, Charley Whittemore
Jerry Varnado, Rusty Epperson, Ed Allen


  1. Delighted to find this, having recently become acquainted with your teammates Charley Wittemore and Steve Greer. I moved to GA in 1966 at age 9 and immediately became a Dawg. Graduated UGA with a BBA in 1979. Blessed to see stories of Bulldog legends who I watched on the family RCA Victrola!


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