Sept. 2, 2022

Sanford man is hero in classic 1920 Alabama-Georgia game

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It was the game football fans had anticipated for weeks. Two powerhouses were set to meet in Atlanta. The crown for Southern football supremacy awaited the winner. (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association)

The University of Alabama Crimson Tide was undefeated, led by a salty defense that had allowed only 7 points through the first 8 games of the year.

Their opponent: The University of Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia, too, was undefeated, and had crushed the Florida Gators the week before by a score of 56-0.

Hugh Whelchel was the hero of the game, and that’s the Sanford connection.

Whechel’s 2 blocked kicks in the Alabama game were crucial to the Bulldogs winning the game. The second one that resulted in the winning touchdown is ranked 4th in Patrick Garbin’s book “The 50 Greatest Plays In Georgia Bulldogs Football History.

Garbin also notes that Whelchel would ultimately block 19 kicks during his career at Georgia.

Whelchel was born Lumpkin County in Northeast Georgia. After graduating from the Univerity of Georgia, he moved to Sanford in 1925.

According to his obituary in the April 25, 1968 issue of the Sanford Herald, Whelchel coached the Seminole High School football team in 1926 and 27.

Red Barber, the subject of last week’s Celery City Story, was one of the better players on Whelchel’s 1926 team.

The quarterback of those teams was Jim Spencer. Long-time Sanford residents will remember Jim Spencer’s, which was a very popular restaurant here in town during the 150s, 60s an 70s. I guarantee there will be 2 or 3 Celery City Stories that feature Jim Spencer and his family.

For all of his accomplishments on the gridiron, Hugh Whelchel spent most of his time as a successful farmer here in Sanford.

When the State Farmer’s Market opened in 1930 at French Avenue and Historic Goldsboro Avenue, Mr. Whechel was the second person to set up a stall in the facility. Harold Kastner, who’s family has deep farming roots in Sanford, was the first.

I don’t think many people today what a big economic engine the State Farmer’s Market was in Sanford for a long time.

I probably need t o do a story on the market at some point.

Hugh would never really stop farming, but from 1950 to 1954 he operated the Mayfair Country Club.

He worked for Chase & Co. for a few years, and Hugh was also the fertilizer inspector for the state of Florida Department of Agriculture.