On Saturday night, we lost a member of our Dawg Sports community (and the Athens community at large), Thomas Hinson. He was just 35.
The first time that I recall meeting him, Thomas wasn't wearing sports apparel. He was, instead, immaculately dressed in a sharp suit and running for Youth Governor at the State YMCA of Georgia's "Youth Assembly," which is an annual multi-day high school mock legislature staged by the YMCA in Atlanta. Of course, Thomas won. Why wouldn't he? He knew everyone, everyone loved him. Even then, he was outgoing, gregarious, and eminently likeable.
That was Thomas in a nutshell. His personality was enormous, and the person behind it was large enough to fill those shoes with charm, grace, and warmth. He was always nattily dressed, even when decked out his UGA gear or the apparel of his beloved Chicago Cubs. I took him to his first Cubs game at Wrigley Field back when I lived in Chicago for a short time, and he always said he was hooked on the place from that first game on.
His first sports love, however, was the University of Georgia. He grew up in an Auburn family, but changed his allegiances once he made his college choice, and he never looked back. He also had a talent for meeting people, and I swear that Thomas knew 99% of the entire population of the state of Georgia (or, at least, the Georgia fans). He graduated from UGA and spent most of the rest of his young life living in and near Athens, first as a law enforcement officer, and later as the proprietor of George Gibson's Men's Clothing Store after Mr. Gibson passed away. If you walked around campus long enough on any given gameday, you'd run into Thomas. He was always here; always eager to cheer on his beloved Dawgs.
And it wasn't just the football team. Thomas attended virtually every baseball game for a while, and followed the Diamond Dogs to the 2008 College World Series in Omaha. He regularly posted baseball coverage at Dawg Sports under the name "downindixie." Not to mention his attendance at basketball, swimming and diving, and gymnastics events, just to name a few. He was always up for any UGA event. He bled red and black, and I smile when I picture him and Lewis Grizzard hanging out by the pearly gates with Catfish (Lewis' dog), Larry Munson, and Erk Russell, just talking about Georgia athletics like old chums. Thomas' final post at Dawg Sports was a FanPost wishing Charley Trippi a happy 92nd birthday. (Of course, Thomas knew Mr. Trippi. Thomas knew everybody.)
In addition to his fandom, Thomas worked as a referee for baseball, basketball, and football at the junior college, high school and recreational level. He was also involved in more civic institutions in Athens than you can probably mention. He seemed to be involved in everything.
More than all of that, though, Thomas was a good man with a big heart. He was always willing to help a friend in need. He enriched so many lives with his presence, and his example is one that we can all learn from. He has left us too soon, and he will be missed greatly by all those who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Thomas' family, including his brother, who is a member of the Dawg Sports editorial staff, and posts under the name "hailtogeorgia."
Rest in Peace, Thomas. You were a damn good man, and you'll always be a Damn Good Dawg.