James Wallace “Wally” Butts (1905-1973) gained fame for his twenty-year career as a football coach at the University of Georgia. His 140 wins makes him one of the University’s most successful head football coaches, second only to Vince Dooley in total wins. His teams won four Southeastern Conference championships. In 1997, the College Football Hall of Fame honored him with induction as a member.
Born February 7, 1905, near Milledgeville, Georgia, James Wallace “Wally” Butts, Jr. served as the University of Georgia’s football coach from 1939 to 1960. After completing high school, he attended Mercer University, which had offered him scholarships in football, basketball, and baseball. He coached for ten seasons at Madison A&M, Georgia Military College, and Male High in Louisville, Georgia after college. As a high school coach, Butts compiled an impressive record, leading his teams to victory in all but ten games. The University of Georgia offered him a position as assistant coach in 1938 and the following year the school named him both head coach and athletic director. During his tenure at UGA, his teams compiled as 140-86-9 record, making Butts second only to Vince Dooley in total wins as a head coach. His accomplishments as head coach also included four Southeastern Conference championships and six bowl games. His Bulldogs shared a claim to the national championship in 1942 when various polls split their votes evenly between UGA and Ohio State. He also coached College Hall of Fame players Charlie Trippi and Frank Sinkwich. Sinkwich won the Heisman Award in 1942.
Butts’ coaching career ended under a shadow. After a 6-4 season in 1960 which left both fans and school boosters seething with frustration, Butts resigned as head coach. He continued to serve as the University’s athletic director until a 1963 claim by the Saturday Evening Post that Butts had colluded with Alabama head coach Bear Bryant to fix the 1962 match-up between the two schools. -- a game UGA lost 35-0. Butts and Bryant successfully sued the magazine for libel, but the damage to Butts’ reputation proved so devastating that he resigned as athletic director in 1963. He died December 17, 1973. In 1997, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.