Auburn Man: The Life & Times of George Petrie
“The character and traditions of every institution are largely determined by a few stalwarts who give their all to it. Your years of distinguished service to Auburn...constitute one of its greatest assets. Your name will always be associated with its success and its best traditions.”
—A.B. Moore to George Petrie, May, 1943
“Every Auburn person recognizes George Petrie as the author of ‘The Auburn Creed,’ but fewer know he was also the coach of Auburn’s first football team, the one that defeated the University of Georgia in 1892 in the very first college football game played in the Deep South. Petrie also served on the Auburn faculty for almost 55 years, first as a professor and later as dean of the graduate school. Jernigan relays the story of a small A&M college that slowly built an academic and an athletic program and of the Auburn men and women influenced by Petrie who took his vision and dreams for Auburn to another generation and another level. For anyone who loves Auburn or southern football, this is a must read.”
– Leah Rawls Atkins, Director Emerita
Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities, Auburn University
“Our student athletes are reminded of the Auburn Creed each and every time they enter our building. Auburn men and women are still shaped by the words George Petrie first penned in 1943, and we are thank-ful to build on his legacy each and every day.”
– Jay Jacobs, Director, Auburn University Athletics
Whether in his role as one of the nation’s foremost historians or as the first Auburn Tiger football coach, George Petrie played a critical part in both Auburn’s evolution as a modern academic institution and in the founding of its athletics program. Not only did Petrie observe and record many of the important decisions that shaped the modern Auburn University, he made them. As the Tigers’ first football coach, Petrie assembled Auburn’s initial team in 1892 and literally taught the eager, but totally inexperienced cadets how to play the game. He selected burnt orange and navy blue as the team’s colors, then borrowed enough money to supplement his own meager funds and buy its uniforms. Along with fellow Johns Hopkins alumnus Charles Herty of the University of Georgia, Petrie then arranged the first true intercollegiate football game ever played in the Deep South, leading Auburn to a 10-0 victory over Georgia in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. Before the amazing year of 1892 was over, Auburn would also play its first intercollegiate baseball game as well as three more football contests—all arranged, promoted, and coached by Petrie. Auburn Man: The Life and Times of George Petrie recounts these formative years in the history of Tiger athletics with loving attention to detail, but it is also an account of the people and events behind Auburn’s academic evolution from a struggling agricultural and mechanical college to a modern, comprehensive university. Indeed, the story of Petrie’s remarkable Auburn career, which spanned more than a half-century and culminated with his writing of “The Auburn Creed,” is the very story of the college itself. By bringing such Auburn giants as Petrie, William Broun, Luther Duncan, Cliff Hare, and Ralph “Shug” Jordan to life, Auburn Man tells that remarkable story—one which every Auburn person needs to know.
Mike Jernigan is founding editor and editor emeritus of Auburn Magazine, the alumni periodical of Auburn University and a two-time Auburn alumnus with a master’s degree in history. After retiring from the Auburn Alumni Association in 2004, he lived in the Cayman Islands before returning to Auburn, where he teaches history at Lee-Scott Academy and has been a freelance contributor to numerous periodicals including Coastal Living, World War II Magazine, American Eagle Latitudes, Airways, and Cayman Airways Skies. He is also co-author of a second book, After the Arena, with former Auburn football coach Pat Dye.
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Last Updated: April 11, 2019