Reverend Claude McBride is remembered for his ministry, optimism and his love for the Georgia Bulldogs. However, this one man has not been given the true credit he deserves. As an esteemed alumnus and supporter of the University of Georgia, Rev. McBride’s services should not go unnoticed.
He served as the senior pastor for Milledge Baptist Church for 19 years before becoming the football team’s chaplain and later the associate director of alumni relations. Friends and family of Rev. McBride recognize these many achievements, but few know what stemmed from his creative mind.
The pastor himself created UGA’s most well known cheer, “Calling the Dawgs.”
Rev. McBride realized Georgia’s fans needed a cheer to boost the energy in Sanford Stadium. He took inspiration from the University of Arkansas’ “Calling the Hogs” cheer and made it into his own.
“He decided we needed a call like Sooie pig,” said Walt McBride, Rev. McBride’s son.
Walt is also an alumnus of UGA and now works for the Carl Vinson Institute of Government as the senior public service associate. Walt remembers his father as a man of creativity and humor.
“He was remarkably creative,” Walt said. “He just found ways to connect with people.”
Rev. McBride graduated from UGA in 1954 with journalism degree. During his time on campus, Rev. McBride was a member of the Redcoats Band as well as a varsity cheerleader and member of the men’s Glee Club.
“He was a cheerleader [while] at UGA, but never grew out of it,” Walt said.
Finding his way back to Athens
Rev. McBride was born in Columbus, where he returned after graduation from the University.
As a young man, Rev. McBride took a job for The Columbus Ledger, where he worked for two years.
During his time at The Ledger, Rev. McBride achieved one his most notable accomplishments — Rev. McBride and three other reporters covered a neighboring city’s corrupt officials. In 1954, the Alabama National Guard took over Phenix City, Ala., where officials were arrested and tried for corruption. Rev. McBride and his team covered the events and were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Community Service 1955.
“[The] Columbus paper is the only paper in the state for winning that Pulitzer Prize and won twice,” Walt said.
During his time in Columbus, Rev. McBride also worked for a small Baptist church in Stewart County. There, he met his wife, Gayle, who attended a neighboring church. Gayle also works for UGA in the athletics department.
Rev. McBride realized the ministry’s calling and left Columbus for seminary. He left Columbus in 1957 and attended Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Upon graduation, Rev. McBride moved to Jacksonville Beach, Fla. in 1959 and moved to Calhoun in 1961 to work in multiple churches.
“The happiest day in his life was when he accepted the call at Milledge Baptist Church,” Walt said.
Rev. McBride and Gayle returned to Athens to stay in 1964.
During his time as Milledge Baptist Church’s senior pastor, he started a student outreach program and Baptist Student Union. Rev. McBride’s programs drew university students and even athletes to the church.
“He loved the University and reaching out to people,” Walt said.
“The Old Faithful Dog”
According to his family, Rev. McBride formed many close relationship with students from campus. In the late ’60s, Vince Dooley caught wind of Rev. McBride’s services and invited him to become the chaplain for the football team.
“He really became the chaplain because so many football players went to his church,” said Bruce Yawn, former Georgia football.
Yawn played for the Georgia Bulldogs from 1965 to 1968 as an offensive guard. Yawn claims no one loved the Georgia Bulldogs as much as Rev. McBride did.
Rev. McBride served as the team’s chaplain for at least 32 years, according to his wife Gayle.
“He was such a big fan. He supported the team in ways we didn’t even know about,” said Wynter McBride, Rev. McBride’s daughter and a UGA alumna.
Wynter said her father made sure every player had a piece of the hedges to take with them to away games.
During his time as chaplain, Rev. McBride was able to mentor UGA’s finest players and teams. He was known to be at every practice and always traveled with the team to the away games. He stood alongside UGA’s finest coach, Vince Dooley, and players such as Tim Callaway, Bruce Yawn, Herschel Walker and Frank Ross.
“Close relationships with so many generations, that is what was neat about it,” Walt said.
Wynter remembers her childhood home always filled with UGA football players.
“The players would come over and watch TV on weeknights,” Wynter said.
Rev. McBride and Gayle opened their home to the athletes and provided more than a place to hang out.
“He would fold up a card with a saying in it for every football player every away game,” Wynter said. “He would go into the stadium and clip pieces of the hedges to put in the cards.”
Rev. McBride went so far as to take two potted hedges to Jacksonville for the famous Georgia-Florida game so the players could run between the hedges.
“I think one of the best (memories) was him after the National Championship in 1980,” Wynter said. “They let the families in the locker room. We walked in and saw Daddy holding the trophy with a huge grin.”
Walt remembers his father’s delight during Homecoming weeks as well. Rev. McBride dressed up every Homecoming game and proceeded to cheer alongside the alumni on the field.
“Watching him with the alumni cheerleaders having a ball… [It was] just fun watching him have a good time and not taking everything seriously,” Walt said.
In 1983, Rev. McBride continued his work for the University when appointed associate director for alumni relations. He retired from his pastoral duties after nearly 20 years of service, but continued to contribute to the University’s alumni.
“He was leaving the pulpit, but not the ministry,” Walt said.
Rev. McBride’s family considers him UGA’s biggest fan.
He traveled to nearly every away game and never missed an opportunity to counsel a player.
“He was always optimistic in happy or sad situations, wins or loses,” said Claudia Skinner, Rev. McBride’s granddaughter and a sophomore from Athens majoring in dietetics.
Her grandfather was revered as a man of humility and positivity.
“The most optimistic person I’ve ever been around,” Vince Dooley said in a recent article from the Athens Banner-Herald.
Friends of Rev. McBride say he was never pessimistic and always had fun.
Rev. McBride passed away on Aug. 23. His family accepted “The Old Faithful Dog” award on his behalf at the North Texas Game. He is remembered for his many achievements, but shall never be forgotten for “Calling the Dawgs.”