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118 years ago, Georgia football almost died

The visiting Virginia Cavaliers' 17-4 win over the Georgia Bulldogs on Oct. 30, 1897, was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Bulldogs fullback and Rome, Ga., native Von Gammon, 19, died from head injuries as a result of a missed tackle and was sent to Grady Hospital with a concussion.

Soon after his death, a bill outlawing football at all state institutions passed the state legislature, but needed Gov. William Atkinson's signature to become law.

Gammon's mother, Rosalind, wrote a letter to Floyd County Representative James B. Nevin and argued for the game to continue in universities. Atkinson didn't sign the bill and college football lived on in Georgia.

Today, Georgia, Mercer, Georgia State and Georgia Tech still field football teams and college football is among the state's most popular sports.

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Here's how the story progressed in the Constitution in the days after the tragedy:

The excerpt below comes from a story that originally appeared in The Atlanta Constitution on Oct. 31, 1897. All text is copied as it was presented in the Constitution.

From The Atlanta Constitution on Oct. 31, 1897

The excerpt below comes from a story that originally appeared in The Atlanta Constitution on Nov. 1, 1897. All text is copied as it was presented in the Constitution.

Athens People are Aroused: They Cry Out Against Football and Mourn Gammon's Death

Athens, Ga., October 31 -- (Special) -- Yesterday morning the game of football had hundreds of enthusiastic supporters in Athens; this morning the almost universal cry of the people of Athens is for its immediate abolishment, so far as the University of Georgia is concerned. ...

Several members of the university faculty have expressed themselves as favorable to immediate action forbidding the students entering any more football games. It is more than likely that a meeting of the faculty will be called tomorrow to take action on this subject.

The excerpt below comes from a story that originally appeared in The Atlanta Constitution on Nov. 1, 1897. All text is copied as it was presented in the Constitution.

From The Atlanta Constitution on Nov. 1, 1897

The excerpt below originally appeared in The Atlanta Constitution on Nov. 5, 1897. All text is copied as it was presented in the Constitution.

From The Atlanta Constitution on Nov. 5, 1897
From The Atlanta Constitution on Dec. 8, 1897

Following Mrs. Gammon's letter, members of the legislature who voted in favor of the anti-football bill felt they had made a mistake. Athens, too, petitioned the governor to return the bill without his approval.

In December 1897, Gov. Atkinson vetoed the bill.

Mandi Albright contributed to this package.

About the Author

Fiza Pirani is a web producer and writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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