Officiating family uses two members

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Time marches on. The last couple of weeks have brought sad news of the passing of a pair of my former officiating colleagues. Both of the gentlemen had lived in Nashville.

Boyce Smith had been a referee in the Southeastern Conference before becoming a down-field official in the National Football League for the rest of his career.

Boyce was a Vanderbilt grad, and started at quarterback for the Commodores in the 1950s after starting his college football days as a walk-on.

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Dave Scobey, who was a long-time head linesman in the SEC, also served several years as an observer for the Conference after his active officiating days.

Dave and I had in common that we, at the same time, served as Vice Mayors of our towns (I was actually Mayor Pro-Tem). Natchez and Nashville were, of course, the anchor cities of both ends of the Natchez Trace.

I did have the pleasure of officiating games with both Dave Scobey and Boyce Smith. However, I do not recall if we were ever all three in the same game.

A few years ago Carol Crocker, who had been the secretary of football officiating for the Southeastern Conference, wrote a book, History of Football Officiating in the Southeastern Conference.

Carol’s father, Frank Lowrey, had been a pioneer college football official, serving in both the old Southern Conference, then in the Southeastern Conference after it split form the Southern Conference in 1932. Prior to that split, and up until at least 1942, there had been as many as 314 football officials listed on the roster. They hailed from all of the Southern states plus Kentucky (including Ohio and Illinois), Maryland (including New York and the District of Columbia) and Virginia/West Virginia.

Those areas were hold overs from the old Southern Conference which covered all of those geographical areas. In 1945 the first ranking list of purely SEC officials was published. It included 35 names.

On that list were George Gardner, E. D. (Red) Cavette and Cliff Norvell, who were all on the original list of 314 officials. All three of those man were still active (Gardner had become the Secretary of the SEC Football Officials Association by then, and no longer could officiate on the field).

When I began officiating in the SEC in 1967. Cavette retired during that 1967 season, and Norvell followed a season or two later. Gardner remained Secretary of the Officials Association through 1974, when he was replaced by Cliff Harper and the officials were pulled under the direct control of the Conference office.

Among those early officials was Robert Caldwell of Columbus, whose son Bobby retired from active SEC officiating in 2000. Bobby and my brother Chick were teammates at Georgia Tech. J. S. Vaughn from Ponchatoula, Louisiana, was an early official.

I can’t be sure, but the elder Vaughn might have been the father of my former officiating colleague, Jackey Vaughn, who was also from Ponchatoula and had also finished at Mississippi State.

Jackey went on to officiate several years in the NFL, and counted a number of Super Bowl assignments among his accomplishments.

The elder Vaughn was not listed on later SEC rosters. Jackey Vaughn’s son, Scott, is now on the SEC football official’s roster.

I apologize for letting this eulogy for two former officiating friends morph into a convoluted history lesson, but at my age history is about all there is.

And, That’s Official.

Al Graning writes a weekly column for The Democrat.