When football was football and Peppy Blount the official
On a flight from Baltimore to Dallas, seated next to me was Ralph Eugene Blount, better known as Peppy, Southwest Conference official and Texas Judge. This was Sept. 22, 1962. He was returning to Texas after refereeing the Southern Methodist University–University of Maryland football game.
I had just ended a conference led by Frank Laubach, famous for his literacy work and the Each One Teach One program that later was added as a program of the United Nations. (An unexpected treat of the week, besides meeting Laubach, was watching my first Major League baseball game between the New York Yankees and the old Washington Senators. More on that in coming weeks.)
Having always been a fan of the Southwest Conference it was special to get to know Peppy and a feel for the games from the inside. Game announcers like Jim Wiggins and
Kern Tips kept us glued to the radio in those days.
Peppy Blount was a direct descendant of William Blount, one of the signers of the United States Constitution. I learned that bit of history from his obituary in the San Antonio Express-News. He died June 22 at his home. He played football for Big Spring High School; at age 19 the youngest pilot of B-25 bombers in the Pacific during WWII. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with three clusters and two Presidential Unit citations.
He went on to star in football at the University of Texas as well as being elected the youngest House of Representatives from the 91st District of Texas. As far as I know he is the only elective politician to spend his Saturdays playing football.
His life seemed to be filled with “firsts.” He was elected Gregg County Judge, on a write-in ballot. The highest office ever reached in Texas with a write-in ballot. That event happened in 1962, the year I met the “legend.”
He was a Sunday school teacher. He wrote four books and with his wife, Eva Jean Finch, had three sons.
The football game score was Maryland 7, SMU 0. It was Hayden Fry’s first season as SMU coach. The former Baylor quarterback, and a West Texas whiz won only two games that fall, over Rice and Texas Tech. USC was the only team to embarrass them. Texas beat SMU by six; A&M 12-7; Arkansas 9, SMU 7; TCU 14-9. Baylor won over Fry’s Ponies 17-13. Football Hall of Famer Fry was born in Odessa, Texas, went on to upgrade Univ. of Iowa for years. He turned 81 last February. (I hope he feels better in his 80s than I do!)
Hayden Fry’s sense of humor and realism is shown in the many quotes attributed to him: “Welcome to the Salvation Army. I've never been associated with an offense so nice about giving the ball away.”
And Baylor he made Baylor proud with this quote: “The preparation I had in college was the most valuable.”
While on the subject of SMU football, on August 12, 1977, I had the pleasure of performing the wedding ceremony for Virginia Flack and W.T. “Tug” Sanders. Tug was on the 1935 SMU team that lost to Stanford 7-0 in the Rose Bowl.
The undefeated Ponies got to the Rose Bowl after defeating TCU and quarterback “Slingin” Sammy Baugh (another famous West Texan). That came to be known as the Game of the First Half Century. The game was tied with SMU on the TCU 37-yard line. From punt formation, SMU quarterback Bob Finley instead threw a deep pass to Wilson, who caught the ball at the four-yard line and waltzed in for the game-winning score.
At the time the pass was dubbed “the $85,000 touchdown” (The SMU payout for appearing in the Rose Bowl). SMU was still named national champion, outscoring opponents 288 to 39.
Glad of a chance meeting with Peppy and the friendship of Tug.