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This Day in Georgia History

October 30, 1897

Von Gammon Fatally Injured

In a football game played between the University of Georgia and the University of Virginia in Atlanta, Georgia standout Richard Vonalbade (“Von”) Gammon was fatally injured in a play. His death stunned the state, and Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Mercer disbanded their football teams. Headlines in the Atlanta Journal proclaimed “Death Knell of Football.” Nationwide, newspapers and clergy had joined to call for the abolishment of football. At the time, the Georgia General Assembly was in session and quickly passed a bill to outlaw football at state institutions. The bill only awaited Gov. William Y. Atkinson’s approval. At this point, a letter that Von Gammon’s mother had written her state representative was made public. in the letter Rosalind Gammon wrote:

“It would be the greatest favor to the family of Von Gammon if your influence could prevent his death being used for an argument detrimental to the athletic cause and its advancement at the university. His love for his college and his interest in all manly sports, without which he deemed the highest type of manhood impossible, is well known by his classmates and friends, and it would be inexpressibly sad to have the cause he held so dear injured by his sacrifice. Grant me the right to request that my boy’s death should not be used to defeat the most cherished object of his life.”

When Gov. Atkinson saw the letter, he decided that he would not approve the legislation - and the movement to ban football died.