Paul Westerdawg broke the sad news in the Bulldog blogosphere: Bill Hartman passed away earlier today, one day prior to what would have been his 91st birthday.
Hartman, the father and namesake of Atlanta sportscaster Bill Hartman, was a three-year football letterman at Georgia, playing fullback and linebacker for the Red and Black. In 1937, he served as team captain and was named both all-American and first team all-conference.
Paul Westerdawg mentioned the fact that Hartman set the record for the longest punt in school history. It also is noteworthy that Hartman holds the Georgia record for the most punts in a single game, having booted 14 of them against Auburn in 1937.
Although that sounds like a dubious distinction, Hartman's heroics on special teams against the Plainsmen during his senior season helped to preserve a scoreless tie with a Tiger team that defeated Florida, Georgia Tech, and Tennessee by a combined margin of 55-7 before beating Michigan State in the Orange Bowl.
Although Hartman's career included stints with the Washington Redskins, in the insurance business, and with the U.S. Army's counterintelligence corps during the Second World War, he remained true to his school throughout his life.
Hartman served on Wally Butts' staff as a backfield coach from 1939 until 1956 and chaired the Georgia Student Educational Fund (G.S.E.F.) from 1960 forward.
Beginning in the early 1970s, he served as the Bulldogs' kicking coach, consistently turning out exceptional punters and placekickers. When an arbitrary and asinine rule forced his retirement, Hartman enrolled in graduate school, which allowed him to serve as a graduate assistant on Ray Goff's coaching staff during the mid-1990s.
Hartman, who was born in Thomaston, was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1981, the National College Football Hall of Fame in 1984, and the University of Georgia Circle of Honor in 1999. The Bill Hartman Award was established in his honor by the Georgia Athletic Association in 1992.
Bill Hartman's wife and three children all received baccalaureate degrees from the Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication: his wife Ruth in 1938, his daughter Laura in 1967, his son Bill in 1970, and his daughter Barbara in 1973.
I remember attending a home game in Sanford Stadium with Dad at which Bill Hartman was among the honorees at midfield during the halftime festivities. Uga, who was on a leash, walked up behind Hartman and the lifelong Bulldog stalwart tripped over his alma mater's canine mascot.
Fortunately, neither was hurt, but Hartman's place in Georgia lore is attested to by the fact that over 80,000 onlookers were as concerned for Hartman's well-being as for Uga's.
Bill Hartman was a good man and his loyalty to the University of Georgia knew no bounds. The Bulldog Nation is a poorer place today for his passing.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to the entire Hartman family.