Pressgrove, long-time college football official, dies at 87

Published 5:09 pm Thursday, November 30, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

NATCHEZ — Long-time Natchez resident and college football referee Andy Pressgrove has died.

Pressgrove died Wednesday morning at approximately at 9 a.m. at his home in Natchez of the “old age,” said his youngest son, Bill Pressgrove. He was 87.

Pressgrove was born in Grenada and graduated from Grenada High School and went on to college at Mississippi State University.

Email newsletter signup

It was at Mississippi State that he and Tony Byrne of Natchez met each other and became friends.

Pressgrove began officiating football when he was still in high school and continued officiating high school football games while in college.

After graduating from Mississippi State, he entered the military, finishing up as a first lieutenant in the Army.

“It was about that time that my grandfather started Natchez Culvert. At that point, my dad got out of the army and he and my mother (the late Sissy Pressgrove) moved to Natchez to help my grandfather with that business,” Bill Pressgrove said.

When Pressgrove moved to Natchez, he was officiating junior college games and then began a short stent in the SEC. However, he spent the bulk of his time officiating for independent schools like Florida State, Miami and Southern Mississippi.

“In about 1991, when those school started joining conference, he officiated again in the SEC, and retired doing that,” Bill Pressgrove said.

Natchez Culvert became American United Products, which closed in 1988.

“We used to make drainage culverts and drainage products. After the plant, which was located on Liberty Road, closes, my dad started selling those products to his long-time customers and continued to do that until he died,” Bill said.

Byrne said he and Pressgrove continued their friendship when Pressgrove moved to Natchez.

“Andy and Al Graning, who also officiated college football, became pretty good friends. Andy was an excellent football official,” Byrne said. “He used to have a clinic where he would bring in professional officials and have them work with local officials who were working games here. He wanted to make sure they knew the rules and how to call the games. He did a good job at that.”

Byrne said Pressgrove had many fascinating stories.

“He loved Tommy Tuberville, the now U.S. senator, and he would call him, then call me and tell me about it. He told me stories about their relationship, and he and Tuberville stayed very close all those years,” Byrne said. “Andy was just a real good down-to-earth person and was always so friendly to everyone.”

Pressgrove, along with the late Joe Fortunato, the late Alan Brown and the late Al Graning, as well as Byrne and Jack Benson, were the founding members of the Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.

Jay Yates played high school football at South Natchez in the early 1980s and was a member of the 1981 state championship team with Bill Pressgrove. He became close to Andy Pressgrove, as did fellow team member and friend Charles Hill.

“Our little group was me, Bill Pressgrove and Charles Hill when we were in high school. It was not long after my parents divorced, and Charles’s father had dies, so it kind of fell to Andy Pressgrove to keep us in line,” Yates said.

After returning to Natchez several years ago, Yates began visiting with Pressgrove.

“I didn’t spent a lot of time with my people when they were older, and I am so glad I spent time with Andy. He was kind of the Forest Gump of southern football. He knew so many people, including every coach you’ve ever heard of from the late 1960s to the present. He had a thousand stories.

“He is one of those guys that I looked to in Natchez. I just loved him,” Yates said.

Funeral services for Pressgrove are Monday at 11 a.m. at Laird Funeral Home. Burial will follow in the Natchez City Cemetery.

Survivors include his sons, Cap Pressgrove and Bill Pressgrove and stepdaughters Ginger Fore and Missy Fore.