Fred passed away on Thursday morning, June 7th in Austin. He was 85. So many Longhorns – UT fans, players, coaches, and athletic department staff, will miss him.
Mack and Hawk:
Most people knew him simply as “Hawk”. This Fred Edwards wasn’t the one that played for Coach Royal in the 70’s, but he might as well have been. Fred lived for University of Texas sports. If Texas was playing and he could get there, he’d be there. He didn’t make a big deal of it to others; he simply showed up and rooted for the Longhorns. They were his passion. He loved Coach Royal; he loved Mack and Sally Brown; and he loved Augie Garrido. Few knew it, but Fred and Augie discovered a few years ago that they were cousins.
If you knew Fred, you knew his dry sense of humor, how shy he really was, but how he loved to get attention with his million stories and his little song and dance routines. And he could tell a country joke like no other.
Fred came off a farm in Ladonia, Texas (just south of Bug Tussle and northwest of Jot Em Down, if that helps any) to play on the six-man Yellow Jackets’ football team and and then the baseball team. His high school football coach spotted him in a cotton field one summer in the late 1930’s and had him playing center on the football team the next September. Hawk’s father scraped together the $5 (big bucks in the Depression) so that Hawk could go to the summer football camp up in Oklahoma that year. Fred never went to college, but he loved his Longhorns.
Hawk saw his first UT football game at the Cotton Bowl on October 14, 1944 when he came back on leave from the Air Force (D. X. Bible was the coach then and Texas won, 20 – 0). He had joined up after high school in August 1941 before the attack on Pearl Harbor in December. He spent the war in Central America and India, on bases responsible for protecting the Panama Canal, and for flying over the Hump in Burma to supply the Chinese and attack the Japanese. Fred packed parachutes for the flyboys and made sure of their other safety equipment. He said he never lost a pilot or a crew due to the safety equipment he prepared for them. He retired from the Air Force twenty years later as a master sergeant.
He was such a good baseball player that he soon was the manager of the baseball team on his Air Force base, and other base commanders often tried to entice his own commander to let Hawk transfer so he could play on their teams. Hawk said that whole towns turned out in Panama and Honduras during the war to watch his teams play. After the war, Fred stayed in the Air Force for another fifteen years. He moved to Austin a few years later.
One year when Texas was in Omaha (I think it was either 2000 or 2002), we were sitting in the stands up behind legendary USC baseball coach, Rod Dedeaux. Coach Dedeaux walked up the aisle near us and we greeted him. Hawk said to him, “Coach Dedeaux, do you remember Tokyo in 1951?” Dedeaux smiled and said, “I sure do. Were you at that baseball camp where it snowed so much and was so cold that we had to move it indoors?” They proceeded to talk for 10 minutes about that camp a half a century ago, about the major leaguers that joined them there as instructors, and about how long it had been since they had seen each other. It was so enjoyable to watch those two elderly gentlemen in that conversation.
Years ago, Coach Royal would see Hawk at lots of games that relatively few other Longhorns attended. Coach Royal told us a story last year about Hawk, back several decades when people didn’t travel nearly as much or as far as they do today. He and Ms. Edith were sitting near the window of a restaurant in Seattle a day or so before the game on Saturday against the University of Washington. Coach Royal wasn’t expecting many Texas fans at the game. As he looked out the window and down the street, there strolled Fred and his wife. Coach Royal said that he just shook his head and thought, “There is one loyal fan. He comes to them all.” Years later, I got to listen to Coach Royal and Fred trade stories about picking cotton in southwest Oklahoma and northeast Texas. Texas, they concluded, had the better cotton.
Some years ago, Fred decided he wanted to go see the Texas men’s basketball team play UNC – in North Carolina. So one evening, he got in his car, drove the 20+ hours to Chapel Hill (all the while, fearing that he might be late for the tip-off), watched Texas lose to UNC, got back in the car and drove back to Austin. According to Hawk, there was nothing so unusual about that; he just wanted to see the game.
Everywhere Fred went in the U. S., Longhorn fans recognized and greeted him. Half of the time he didn’t know who they were, but they certainly knew him. Ex-players frequently recognized him too. I remember one day a few years ago when former football player, Doug English, was at Threadgills on North Lamar, recognized Hawk and rehashed some old times with him.
And just from the sheer number of events he had attended over the years, Fred knew lots of athletic department staff. Bill Little always greeted him as “The Hawk”. Mack Brown always had time to come over to the sidelines at practices and greet him, and Mack and Sally were kind enough to attend Hawk’s surprise 80th birthday. Mack even turned up the TV in the other room during dinner so that Hawk could listen to the UT/Kansas basketball game going on at the Erwin Center at the time.
DeLoss Dodds always had a kind word for Fred as well. And so did Mr. Frank Denius and Coach Royal. Their recognition of Hawk as a long and loyal Longhorn fan probably said as much as anything how respected my dear friend was in the Longhorn Nation.
With Fred’s passing, we lost one more American from that generation that gave so much for those of us who came after. He was so very special.
And like many other Longhorn fans, whose days Hawk made more pleasant and who had a smile and a story for them whenever he saw them, I’ll miss Hawk too.
But as a good friend said yesterday, the Eyes of Texas are upon Fred today.
A big to one of the best UT fans there will ever be.
Visitation: 4:00 p.m. Saturday, Wilkes-Clay-Fish funeral home in Austin. Services: 10:00 a.m. Sunday, Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Memorial Park.
He was a fixture at UT sporting events and for plenty of years at El Arroyo. Funny that after the fire they managed to recover the sign they had over the old corner booth and remount it by the bar. "HAWK'S CORNER" may have burned, but it seemed like he was always there in spirit anyway (and always will be for some of us).
I've had the honor and pleasure of knowing Hawk ("Mr. Edwards" to me back since I was a little kid in Austin many years ago). During my high school football years, I'd see him before or after UT games when I was performing my ballboy chores. He'd always comment about how well the Reagan Raiders were doing and tell me that he was looking forward to seeing me play for the Longhorns one day.
When that day finally arrived, Hawk was there, standing outside the locker room door under the west stands as we filed out to head onto the field. I remember being nervous as hell, but seeing him smiling, pointing at me and saying, "I knew you'd make it! I told you!" calmed me a bit, just knowing he was just about as proud of me as my Dad was. Hawk had known me almost all my life.
Like everyone else, after my UT playing days were done, I'd see him at just about every game we attended. The thing I'll always remember about Hawk is that he always complimented the players for their effort. He never said anything malicious or demeaning about a player that I ever heard. He knew that we were just kids and we were just trying to do the best we could for the school he loved.
The Longhorn world will miss the Hawk; there won't be another like him. That's a shame, because we certainly could use many more folks like Mr. Fred "Hawk" Edwards.
I'd forgotten about Hawk's Corner. It's still there today, and I assume Clay will leave it up there for some time.
Hawk did love The Ditch. It was his favorite place to go eat and he'd invariably order the chicken breast ala carte and a cup of coffee. He would make the rounds of the restaurant and talk to as many of the staff as he could. The owner, Clay, when he was around, would come over to Hawk's table and talk with him. They became good friends over the years.
Hawk had that effect on a lot of people. He always had a kind word, a smile, a story or a joke. The only time he ever showed any anger was when anybody said anything negative about his Longhorns. When that happened, in Texas vernacular, he was fit to be tied.
In addition to "saying something negative about his Longhorns," I recall one other way to reliably bring a show of anger from "Rip," (as he was also known). Simply utter either of two pairs of words: 1) "Barry Switzer;" 2) "Oklahoma Sooners." Hawk could rant all day about the Sooners' long history of cheating. At age 84 he couldn't quite recall the coach's name, but he liked to talk about a newspaper story he could not forget, one carried under a huge headline. The story predicted the new OU football coach wouldn't win...because he was a coach who would not cheat. Hawk said that prediction proved deadly accurate.
In addition to his prowess on the diamond, Hawk was an excellent bowler. He was quite proud of the "300" ring he earned for rolling a certified perfect game. And he was eternally grateful to the kind Austin gentleman who found that ring and returned it after it had been lost. The man not only refused to accept the advertised reward, he wouldn't even let Hawk pay for the breakfast they shared when they got together for the return of the ring. It was a long ago era, but Hawk never forgot that man. While he couldn't repay the man directly, he lavished him with praise to anyone and everyone who would listen, all the rest of his long years.
As TJ said, there will never be another one like Hawk. Condolences to his family for their heavy loss.
I have a question to ask in regards to this from a previous post:
"Back in the Penders basketball days, we'd (along with a handful of others) meet at the "Drum" in the afternoons and watch basketball practice."
Do any of you guys remember the name of the head basketball coach who was at UT before Coach Penders arrived? I can't right off think of his name. I think he came to UT after having coached at Mississippi State for a few years. If I remember correctly he was not too popular at UT. Well, I remember reading a newspaper story about 20 years or so ago about that coach that was not too flattering. If I remember correctly it seems like one of the first things that coach did after he arrived at UT was to yell at a certain individual who was watching the UT basketball players practice. Evidently, the unfortunate fan was supposedly a longtime fan who had regularly attended basketball practices for years and years. It seemed that the new UT basketball coach didn't want to anyone to attend the basketball practices anymore. That in itself was fine but from what I read that new coach was needlessly very rude and condescending to whoever it was he was yelling at. After reading about Fred "Hawk" Edwards, I am wondering if it was "Hawk" who was treated so badly that day. I hope not.
I never knew of Fred Edwards until today. From what I have read here it sounds like he was a very high quality person. I suppose that some of the more knowledgeable people who post here would know if "Hawk" was the unfortunate person who was so shabbily treated that day.
I know for a first-hand fact that Mackovic did not allow Hawk or any of the regular attendees at practices during his regime...Didn't matter if they were a prominent high school football coach, a former player and war hero (that had a practice facility later named in his honor), former Heisman Trophy winners (we had just one in those days), or the Hawk. John wanted 'em gone.
In fact, I'm the guy who had to tell Earl that he couldn't have a locker in the football facility any longer & he'd that have to move his stuff to Bellmont.
Hawk and I had a few discussions and laughs looking back about this little issue over the years...
Your right. It was Bob Weltlich. Now I remember. I was thinking to myself after I sumbitted my previous post, "I wonder who will know the answer to my question. I'll bet Tornjock knows." That assumption was based on the information that I have seen you present in previous posts, like the one about the late Danny Abbott. Well, sure enough, you apparently knew the answer. Thanks for the information.
Damn, I've been out of town and just saw this. This one hurts because I had the privilege of getting to know Hawk while using his spare season ticket for the last few years. He had a hard time seeing the game, and I often had to do a play by play to update him on what happened, but his passion for the Horns never ever diminished even as his body did. It was truly an honor to share that seat with him and get to know him. Marley, I will never be able to thank you enough for arranging that.
I had forgotten about Hawk's other nickname of "Rip". I think he confirmed at one point that it had to do with his swing at a baseball.
And, you and I heard many times over lunch with Hawk his total disdain for Switzer. He blamed Switzer's cheating for Coach Royal's retirement. He said Coach Royal just couldn't compete with all that cheating.
And we heard that story about the 300 game and the lost ring several times too. Hawk wore that returned ring for the rest of his life.
I don't know about Weltlick, but on several occasions Hawk told me that happened to him with our current basketball coach. Hawk said he went to the new coach's first basketball practice and was told at the door by an assistant coach that practices were closed. Hawk left and went home. A friend called him later in the day and Fred told him about being turned away at practice. Apparently, the friend called the athletic department (I presume, DeLoss) and about 45 minutes after Hawk had finished his conversation with his friend, he got a call from the same assistant coach that had turned him away. Fred's quote about that conversation was that the assistant coach had completely changed his tune and said, "Mr. Edwards we WANT you at practice." Hawk was a very proud person and didn't want to be anywhere he was not totally wanted. He never again went back to a basketball practice.
Fred's son said today that he can't confirm that Hawk never went to any Mackovic closed practices here in Austin. He thought that maybe he had done so, but he said Fred attended all of the open ones.
In any case, Hawk always described John Mackovic as his friend and was sensitive about any criticism of him. Hawk had an autographed photo of Mackovic and him at a practice at the Sun Bowl prior to the December 30, 1994 game. I do know that Hawk attended some of the Sun Bowl practices because he talked about conversations he had with Mackovic at the practices in the days prior to the game.
Fred was delighted to have you as his football companion for those years. You were in the seat that his late wife, Billie Jean, whom he loved dearly, had occupied for decades. He very much appreciated your company and your enthusiasm at the games.
I don't know if you remember the family that sat behind his seats at the games, but he got to watch their children grow up throughout all those years. Their daughter, Julie, used to send Fred cards when he was ill and he would send her sports presents. Fred thought that Itasca had the best name for a mascot that he had ever heard. I remember one year after Fred had stopped in Itasca on the way home from the College World Series and picked up a Wampus Cats seat cushion, he called me and asked if I would see if I could contact them and get a Wampus Cats seat cushion for Julie.
And he thought that the small town of Niederwald had the best name in all of Texas . That name used to roll off his tongue regularly. On really hot days, he joked that it was probably snowing in Niederwald.
Then there's the one about the hole-in-the-wall bar in the little town in Iowa, just east of Omaha, and how Fred and a friend closed it down one night -- to the delight of the bar owner and the town people that were having a great time with Fred. The next year when Texas was at the CWS again, they showed back up at the bar and the owner got on the phone and called all sorts of town people saying, "Get yourself over here! Those people from TEXAS are here again!"
Or about Fred and Nino, the old white-haired, Godfather-looking ex-boxer who owned a dumpy place in Omaha.
But the great stories that Fred told were endless. Too many to detail here.
I just saw this thread. I too got to know Hawk well during my time between undergrad and grad school. Back then, under McWilliams the practices were all open. There were not that many that attended, so the ones that did got to share stories on a regurlar basis. Reading some of the posts about Fred really brought back some of those stories, I have heard them all. Fred was a hell of a story teller.