The Red and Black has been the University of Georgia’s student newspaper since 1893. It has been the vehicle that launched the careers of innumerable journalists, several of them to the loftiest heights of the profession.
It also has been the chronicler of the university’s history and evolving student life.
Carrol Dadisman, a Jefferson product, cut his journalistic teeth on the Red and Black, rose rapidly through the publishing ranks, and, now retired, has told the university’s story through the student newspaper’s pages in a book, “Dear Old U-G-A, Student Life at the University of Georgia, 1893-2013.”
The Red and Black reported on the rigorous rules of old when women weren’t admitted to the university, chapel attendance was compulsory, and students weren’t allowed to marry. The first woman enrolled in 1911, yet it was 1940 before female cheerleaders were allowed.
The student paper told the story of such revered literary organizations as the Demosthenian Society and its rival Phi Kappa, from which such prominent politicians as the Talmadges rose. It also delved into the origins of other campus organizations, fraternities and sororities.
Dadisman lifts from the pages of the Red and Black such stories as the saga of the Iron Horse, a controversial sculpture that in the 1950s became a target of student scorn and vandalism on campus. The newspaper scolded students for their derisive actions, but the university administration exiled the sculpture from campus.
The Iron Horse ended up hidden behind a barn on a Madison County farm, later removed to another farm and stands today visible from Ga. 15 in a field between Watkinsville and Greensboro, its rear end defiantly facing Athens.
The university’s sacred arch, erected as an entrance to the campus on Athens’ Broad Street in 1858, is the source of one of the school’s oldest traditions. Daniel H. Redfearn enrolled in the early 1900s with only a suitcase and $156. When he approached the arch, he promised not to walk through it until he had a diploma.
His English professor, R.E. Park, Gainesville’s first school superintendent, told that story to his class, and the tradition was born. Freshmen weren’t allowed to walk through the arch under threat of upperclassmen applying paddles to their backsides.
The Redcoat Band, which entertains at Georgia football games and other venues, had its origins with a military band in 1905. The band inspired athletic teams down through the years, but paled in comparison to other schools’ musicians. Roger and Phyllis Dancz arrived in Athens in the 1950s to turn the band around. It became “the Dixie Redcoats,” but apparently out of political correctness, the “Dixie” later was deleted.
There’s the story of the old chapel bell, which from the 1890s signaled a change of classes. It also served as an air raid signal for Athens during World War II. Ringing of the bell after athletic victories began in 1903 after Georgia defeated Georgia Tech in baseball.
And, no, the Red and Black didn’t turn a blind eye to Athens’s seamier side. In recounting the city’s “off-campus attractions,” Dadisman writes about “the red-light district,” houses of ill repute commonly known as “Effie’s.” The newspaper traced its origins to Effie Matthews, who hung a red lantern outside her door as far back as 1919. The Red and Black campaigned to close the houses, which the city did, only to have them reopen and close again, until finally for good in 1974, the city eventually burning the establishments.
Dadisman, who worked briefly in Gainesville, was editor of the Red and Black in 1954-55. He retired as publisher of the Tallahassee, Fla., Democrat. His two siblings, Dean Dadisman and Anne Dadisman Collier, live in Gainesville.
Other notables who worked on the student newspaper include Lamar Trotti, Hollywood movie executive, former White Countian C.P. (Scoop) Scruggs, former Gainesville journalist Gus Shaddix, Gainesville civic leader S.O. Smith Sr., former Gainesville publisher Charles Hardy, Tom Johnson, who became president of CNN, and political writer Bill Shipp. Deborah Blum, whose first newspaper job was at The Times, was editor of the Red and Black and won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting with the Sacramento Bee. Numerous other former Times newspeople worked on the Red and Black.
The book is available at amazon.com, the Red and Black office or University Book Store in Athens.
Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pinetree Circle NE, Gainesville, GA 30501; phone, 770-532-2326. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com/johnny.