For the 104 years of Georgia State’s existence, there has never been a dedicated source to detail the history of its’ athletics. That’s not the case at other major schools boasting athletic programs. Attorney Edward W. Gadrix Jr. just changed that.
Gadrix Jr. completed over 30 years of research this past summer before publishing “Panthers Pride: The story of sports at Georgia State University…and the heroes and heroines who forged a great tradition.”
A rebel and father of Panther football
Gadrix Jr. is a huge part of Georgia State’s athletic history. He served on the Georgia State Athletics Board for eight consecutive years until 2001, when he was asked to resign due to his adamance about bringing NCAA-level football to Georgia State.
Not long after, Mark Lawson, a university staff member and Gadrix Jr. began club football in 2002, the first football team in Georgia State history. Gadrix Jr., Lawson and ten student-athletes met at the cafeteria inside Student Center West, and discussed how to pull off a full season for the Club Football team.
Gadrix Jr. and the then-newly hired Head Coach, Ted Bahhur needed equipment. They had to pull all funds out of pocket, since the university was not paying for anything. They called universities in the southeast such as Wake Forest University and the University of Kentucky, and asked for equipment that wouldn’t be needed.
“Everybody was saying ‘You’re gonna get sued using those used helmets’. [I said] ‘We’re gonna play football’,” chuckled Gadrix Jr.
The Club Football team drew more fans than the men’s basketball team did according to Gadrix Jr. The team’s success caused a demand from students for a NCAA-level team, and the administration granted the request years later, albeit a rise in student fees.
Inside his book, Gadrix Jr. takes Panther fans from the humble beginnings of Georgia State not being able to support their own teams, to the 2016 purchase of Turner Field (now Georgia State Stadium), and every era in between.
“This is the only book that goes back to the history of how sports started. It goes back to 1913, when people realized we didn’t even have any sports,” said Gadrix Jr.
Hard work pays off
Gadrix Jr. used athletics’ records, archives from Georgia State and The Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), the Georgia State University Library and old issues of source you’re reading at this moment– The Signal.
“I went through the archives at the library and got all of those old Signals,” said an appreciative Gadrix Jr. “All of those writers just like yourself are the reason I could get a lot of this information.”
Gadrix Jr. did enough research to develop a timeline on a scroll, dating important landmarks for Georgia State sports. On the long side of the scroll are the years since 1913, and on the short side is a list of the sports played at Georgia State. The timeline is visually organized and easy to understand.
The Panthers came a long way
Similar to the task of finding information for Panther Pride, Georgia State experienced plenty of challenges to own the athletics program it does today.
In its first years of being a school, Georgia State University was just the department of commerce for Georgia Tech. Georgia State students who wanted to play sports, had to play on Georgia Tech’s teams.
It would take a few decades until Georgia State’s athletics completely removed themselves from Georgia Tech, and eventually the University of Georgia as well. However, Gadrix Jr. believes Georgia State is already on the right track to reach the heights Georgia Tech and Georgia teams have attained.
“We’re competitive with Georgia Tech right now,” said Gadrix Jr. “I look for Georgia State to be fully competitive with Georgia in all sports within 10 years,” said Gadrix Jr.
The first step to reach those goals was for Georgia State to find a president who loves athletics. Since President, Mark Becker took the role at in 2009, Georgia State has been aggressive regarding sports. A couple of accomplishments in the Becker era are an NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament appearance and the opening of a brand-new football stadium.
“We’ve always had opposition from the administration on sports until Dr. Becker quite frankly. Dr. Becker is the best president we’ve ever had concerning sports,” said Gadrix Jr. “He has just been a breath of fresh air for sports.”
Despite major success coming recently, a mainstay has been Gadrix Jr.’s love and passion for his alma mater.
Gadrix Jr.’s role in history
In the early 1960s while studying, Gadrix Jr. along with a handful of others began the Panther Club, now the Panther Athletic Club. The Panther Club sold Coca-Cola and candy to basketball attendees. Today, Gadrix Jr. still has his membership and serves on the Hall of Fame Induction Committee. Others who represented the same blue and white are reaping the benefits today.
“Two people that I’ve nominated are now in the Hall of Fame because of this book and my research,” said Gadrix Jr.
In the future, Gadrix Jr. will most likely nominate former men’s basketball star, R.J. Hunter.
A sit down with Coach Ron Hunter
”In fact, I interviewed Ron Hunter about a week ago,” said Gadrix Jr. “Which is a great interview incidentally. He was talking about the Baylor game, and his son is the one that scored “The Shot’.”
‘The Shot’ is a play during the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament where Hunter sank a three-pointer, leading to an upset over the 3-seed, Baylor. Hunter passed the ball to forward, T.J. Shipes before he took the shot. A flustered Shipes handed the ball right back to Hunter. Head Coach, Ron Hunter was nervous to say the least.
“Ron Hunter said in the interview, ‘I almost had a heart attack ‘cause he wasn’t supposed to do that (pass the ball to Shipes)’,” said an animated Gadrix Jr.
As the story goes, Hunter made the shot, instantly making himself the face of Georgia State’s most popular moment in athletics history.
“I’m watching it on TV. I cried,” said Gadrix Jr. “I literally cried. And I told Ron Hunter that.”
Next challenge for Gadrix Jr.
Gadrix Jr. only has one regret about writing Panther Pride– he could not mention every athlete he felt Panther Nation should know about.
“You feel like they ought to be included, but you can’t [include them] because they’re limitations. So you gotta put just the top,” said Gadrix Jr.
That research will not go to waste. Gadrix Jr. is already in the process of writing another book about Georgia State athletics. The currently-untitled book will focus on the men’s and women’s basketball programs, historically the most successful teams at Georgia State.
Writing is a priority in Gadrix Jr.’s near future, and he is investing into it. He is studying creative writing in graduate school at Kennesaw State University.
“I want to write more. I’m writing a screenplay in one of my classes right now, and then I’ll be writing more books. And I want to do more creative writing, not just journalistic writing in the sense of reporting statistics, but a little more of the flowery language,” said Gadrix Jr.
As for “Panther Pride”, copies can be purchased by searching ‘Panther Pride’ online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Outskirts Press. Outskirts Press is the cheapest way of getting your hands on the first-of-a-kind book.
Gadrix Jr. says “Panther Pride” and its information will be a revelation to Georgia State fans, students, faculty, staff and alumni.