Officiating runs in the family

Published 11:07 pm Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas.

If anybody resents my saying or writing that, they’ll just have to get over it. I have no recollection of when I first became aware that Santa Claus was not who I thought he was, and have no memory of when my children first knew that I was really that big, jolly elf disguised as a human. Of course, when I was officiating, some of those coaches accused me of being the other team’s Santa Claus.

Last week I did not have enough space to write all I wanted to about the late George Morris. I did mention that George was the speaker at the first annual banquet of the Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation. Most know that George grew up in Vicksburg, and therefore regularly played football and basketball against Natchez High School.

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In his speech that night, Morris spoke kind words about the late Natchez coach A. I. Rexinger. Vicksburg regularly handled Coach Rexinger’s football (then) Rebels, but basketball was another thing. One other person George mentioned that night was Gene McGehee. McGehee starred for both the football and basketball teams at Natchez High, and was one of the toughest 135 pounders to ever play either sport.

The sad event of Morris’ funeral service in Vicksburg a couple of weeks ago led to a pleasant get-together. Ed Cassidy, Bobby Caldwell, my brother Chick and I met for lunch before the service.

Cassidy, who had been a starting guard on Paul Deitzel’s first LSU team, spent a number of years as an umpire officiating SEC games. Caldwell, whose late father had been an SEC head linesman, played at Georgia Tech for Coach Bobby Dodd, and played a couple of years at Tech with Chick.

Bobby Caldwell was a long-time line judge in the SEC. Cassidy, Caldwell and I officiated many SEC freshman games together early in our careers. Cassidy is retired and lives on the golf course in Mandeville, La. Caldwell retired from officiating several years after my career ended and is said to spend his days on his porch watching his wife garden. I say that with impunity, since Bobby won’t read this column.

Caldwell and his father are just one of several father-son combinations to have officiated in the SEC. The late Butch Lambert, Sr. and son Butch Junior actually officiated several games together.

I officiated with both Lamberts, but never in the same game with both. Morris’ son, Gus, is now a highly ranked head linesman in the SEC officiating ranks, but they did not officiate together as George retired after 1989, while Gus joined the ranks in 1992.

Another pair I knew well were Bobby Aillet Sr. and Jr. I officiated often with Bobby Sr. but only worked LSU scrimmages with the younger Aillet. Another contemporary of mine, Ted Thomas, is now retired. Both of Ted’s sons, Lane and Greg, are active SEC officials.

Replay official Bob Patrick and I officiated many games together when he was a line judge. His son, Steve Patrick, is now an active back judge in the SEC. There are probably several other father-son officials whom I have overlooked here. I also know of several sets of brothers who have officiated in the SEC.

And, That’s Official

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. He can be reached by e-mail at