“It has been an unbelievable ride and I have heard a lot of national anthems!,” Felton said in a text message to the AJC on Tuesday afternoon. “One of the things I have always told our students when it comes to a career – be sure you do something that you enjoy. If you do, it won’t seem like work. And I sometimes feel like I have not worked a day in my life (and seldom had to buy a ticket either)! I have been blessed with the greatest group of full-time staff members, grad assistants, and undergrads I could have imagined who have always somehow made me look good!”
Believe it or not, Felton had a professional life before becoming the Bulldogs’ SID. He was director of public relations at Georgia Southern before he was lured back to UGA by Magill in 1979. Magill, who doubled as Georgia’s men’s tennis coach and director of the Georgia Bulldog Clubs of America, was especially thankful for Felton’s presence. In only his second year in the job, Felton spearheaded publicity for a football program that would win a national championship and attract coast-to-coast media coverage of a young running back named Herschel Walker.
Eventually, Felton would become one of the more trusted advisers to College Football Hall of Fame coach and Athletic Director Vince Dooley. He helped the Bulldogs navigate difficult times such as the Jan Kemp academic scandal of the mid-1980s and the grandest of times such as the football team’s back-to-back national championships in 2021-22.
Felton made it a point to be physically present every day at his cluttered, archive-filled office at the Butts-Mehre complex. Rarely was there an on-campus competition conducted at which Felton did not make a personal appearance.
“I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to Claude Felton for his unwavering commitment spanning four decades to the University of Georgia and our Athletic Association,” UGA President Jere W. Morehead said in a statement. “Claude, through his dedication and passion, has not only conveyed the triumphs of our student-athletes and coaches but has also intricately woven the narrative of the rich sports history of the University of Georgia.”
In the end, Felton worked alongside five Georgia football coaches (Dooley, Ray Goff, Jim Donnan, Mark Richt and Kirby Smart) and four athletic directors (Dooley, Damon Evans, Greg McGarity and Josh Brooks). While Felton was the football team’s primary spokesman, the Bulldogs won 415 games, seven SEC championships and three national championships.
“Claude Felton is one of the most influential figures in the history of Georgia athletics,” Brooks said Tuesday. “His honesty, humility, attention to detail and congenial spirit have elevated all of our athletic programs throughout his 45-year association with the Bulldogs. I know his mentors Dan Magill and Vince Dooley would say ‘job well done’ as they look back on Claude’s outstanding career. He has meant so much to me and so many others, and we wish him all the best during this next phase of his life.”
Already a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America’s Hall of Fame, Felton will be enshrined in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon on Feb. 24.