Loran Smith’s Sports Column: Claude Felton

Published 3:36 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2024

I knew this day was coming, but before we lament the inevitable

which the passing of time often brings about, we will maintain dry eyes and

sing, “Thanks for the Memories.”

Claude Felton, a humble, forthright and principled man has done his

utmost to serve the University of Georgia with passion, commitment,

faithfulness, and integrity for over four decades. Georgia has had only two

Sports Information Directors in its history—Claude and his predecessor,

Dan Magill, whose title in yesteryear was “Publicity Director.”

Magill, who grew up in Athens and was immersed into the UGA

fabric, had a deep and abiding love for UGA that made him something of a

pioneer who went all out to see that Georgia was the best at anything and

everything which is why he had so many varied interests.

Felton functioned in similar fashion, the consummate professional

who had few outside interests—except for an occasional fishing outing. In

an earlier day, he was an above average tennis player but for the most part

he has spent his life at the office.

 

I remember inviting him to go trout fishing one afternoon in the spring

which would have meant that he would need to leave the office around 2:00

p.m. He declined, saying there was a softball game underway at that time,

and that he needed to “stick around.”

It didn’t matter the sport; Claude gave every program his fullest

attention. He loves football and men’s basketball the two biggest sports on

campus, but he has shown up for gymnastics, softball, swimming, golf,

soccer. Each of Georgia’s 21 sports got his respect and best effort.

His organizational skills and his discipline were impeccable. He

arrived at his office early every day, which included weekends, even in

summer. Lunch usually was a sandwich at his desk as he multi-tasked

past dusk.

His Saturdays were spent at a competition somewhere on campus.

Sunday morning has always been for church, but Sunday afternoon

belonged to the office.

For years he has driven to the Florida game on Thursday as the

advance man for anything media related in the city of Jacksonville, such as

being available for the TV networks whose personnel usually arrived before

the teams did.

 

This necessitated his driving home after the game, which meant that

he would lay his head on a pillow well past midnight when he returned to

Athens. He was not going to miss church Sunday morning, and it was very

important to him to be at the office early Sunday afternoon.

He has always had a listed phone number and media reps have

always been free to call him at home after hours. No Sports Information

Director has ever been more accommodating. While he has a warm,

gentle nature, he has the character and mettle to protest to any purveyor of

unfair criticism of the University of Georgia.

However, I doubt that any SID across our land is more respected than

Claude. His peers hold him in the highest esteem, and he has been a

member of the staff of the Final Four for years, also Olympic games which

have taken place in the United States. He was elected to the College

Sports Information Directors Hall of Fame in 2001.

Everybody from the seasoned announcers to the rookie interns of the

TV networks hold him in the highest regard. However, nobody gives him

higher marks than his own staff. That would include student trainees

seeking to gain experience, as they all know how many UGA grads are

happily ensconced in high places in the college and professional ranks.

 

While he is an excellent conversationalist, Claude is not anti-social

but gets his work done and then goes home to rest up for another day at

the office.

Few employees of the Georgia Athletic Association have given more

of themselves for the Red and Black than Claude, who is diligent, forthright,

moral, ethical, and given to quiet but deep-seated passion for his work and

the University of Georgia.

The last person to pat himself on the back, Claude has never called

attention to himself, yet he has promoted and lionized Bulldog coaches and

athletes with the greatest of aplomb—a good man and a Damn Good Dawg.