Bill Little commentary: Requiem for a six-star general
It's hard to say goodbye to Wally Scott, Jr.
Because most of the time, we'd expect him to be talking to us.
But while Wally was a talker—and he did that with the best of them—he was also a "doer."
For more than 60 years, Texas football has had no greater friend than Wally Scott, Jr., who died Monday from complications following a fall he suffered last week. He was a vital part of the "D. X. Bible" era of Longhorn football, serving as co-captain of the 1942 team. That team became the first Texas team to participate in a postseason bowl game, defeating Georgia Tech in the Cotton Bowl.
Pretty much everything Wally did, he did well. He was brilliant, and could somehow be kind and outrageous all at the same time. And you couldn't help but love him, anyway.
He was born in Calhoun County, Ala., on Nov. 7, 1920, and his family moved a lot when he was growing up. Football became a factor in his life when he finally gained sports eligibility in Tyler, Texas, and in one year there, he was good enough to earn a scholarship to Texas and an eventual induction to the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame in 1998.
In his three years of eligibility at Texas, from 1940 through 1942, he was a part of some of the truly historic moments in Longhorn history. The 1940 team on which he was a sophomore stunned No. 1 ranked Texas A&M, 7-0, knocking the Aggies out of a national championship. In 1941, Wally was one of 14 Longhorn players whose pictures appeared on the cover of Life Magazine. And in 1942, he as part of the Longhorns' first Southwest Conference championship since 1930 and the first ever bowl game.
It was a time when duty called before anything else, and perhaps that would be the hallmark of Wally's life. The young men who came to Texas to play football in 1939 saw their lives change with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. And when they finished their degrees, their hopes and dreams were put on hold. They had a war to fight.
Wally served in the Pacific theater of World War II as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from 1943 until 1946, and then returned to The University of Texas to study law. He was admitted to the State Bar of Texas after graduation from law school in 1948, and soon became the first lawyer ever hired by the Railroad Commission of Texas. He went into private law practice in 1949 as an oil and gas attorney. For over 50 years, until 1999, he continued to work before the Railroad Commission.
When a friend once remarked that a mutual acquaintance had said Wally "was one of the best oil and gas attorneys in the country," he quickly deflected the compliment.
"Well," he said, "there aren't many of us in the first place."
But while he was growing in the law profession and creating a great family with his wife, Cile, Wally's passion was always Texas football. And it was never about what it could do for him, it was always about what he could do for The University of Texas.
When Darrell Royal came to Texas in 1957, Wally and his friend, the late Don Weedon, stepped up to help with the formation of the Austin Longhorn Club. Twenty-five years later, DeLoss Dodds would take that as the nucleus of The Longhorn Foundation, which has become one of the most successful donor programs in college athletics.
It never seemed to matter who was coaching at Texas, Wally Scott was a guy who spanned all eras. When his best friend, Mike Campbell, was bypassed for the Texas head coaching job when Royal retired in 1976, Fred Akers became head coach. And when others recoiled at the rebuff of Campbell, Wally stepped up and took Akers and his new staff and their families on a retreat to Bracketville, which had been the site of many a wonderful summer trip for Royal's staff.
It was there, at the resort at old Fort Clark in the late 1970s, that Wally was proclaimed a "Six Star General," in recognition of his command of the "troops" who had made the excursion, just for fun.
For 13 years, from 1962 to January 1, 1985, Wally served on the Men's Athletics Council, and he held the title of Executive Secretary of the Austin Longhorn Club for 30 years.
Wally was inducted into the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1972, 30 years after he was a significant player on one of the greatest defensive teams in Texas history. From all accounts, he was one of the toughest players of his era. He was a rugged end who excelled on defense.
Chosen as captain of the 1942 team, he was one of the few remaining lettermen from the 1941 squad. An early 3-0 loss to Northwestern had dented the schedule, but Texas had risen all the way to No. 8 in the country when Scott broke two bones in his hand against Baylor, and had to miss the TCU game.
The Frogs, as they had done the year before, shattered Texas' dream with a 13-7 win. But Scott and his teammates were not through. With an incredible defense that pitched three shutouts and allowed no more than seven points to any opponent except the Frogs, they won the Southwest Conference, and accepted the invitation to play Georgia Tech in the Cotton Bowl.
Georgia Tech was ranked No. 5 in the nation, and the national press, which had been so glowing only a year before, was now skeptical. "Texas doesn't belong in the same league with Georgia Tech," wrote a national wire service reporter.
But Scott and his teammates had different ideas. With a defense that had allowed only 57.5 yards rushing a game and only a little over 117 passing, they smothered the Engineers.
Scott and his teammates sparkled, and Texas, on January 1 of 1943, played in and won its first bowl game ever, 14-7.
As Wally and the Longhorns walked out of the Cotton Bowl that day, they had reaffirmed their presence on the national stage. And even though graduation and the war draft cleared the roster of all but two lettermen from that team, D. X. Bible's time at Texas had been solidified.
Wally Scott was a huge part of that. He wasn't a guy who sought, or got, the recognition on the field of some of his higher profile teammates. But he was a leader and a captain with a big heart, and he never quit giving, or leading.
Less than a month ago, Wally attended a Longhorn football letterman's reunion on Friday night before the annual Orange-White game. He seemed reflective, and quieter than usual. As we said at the beginning, it was like Wally to want to talk. But this time, he spent his time telling people how much they had meant to him.
About 10 days ago, Wally fell down some stairs and suffered a concussion and bleeding in the brain area. He tried to fight back, just as he always fought, but this was a battle he couldn't win.
Once upon a time in Austin, there was a popular restaurant called "The Magic Time Machine." It was Christmas in the late 1970s, and a newly married blended family of five were stretching their budget to celebrate the season. Young assistant Sports Information Directors and church secretaries didn't have much money then, but after all, it was Christmas.
And that is why, it mattered so much when the waiter told us that our bill had been paid, and in one of the booths around the corner, there was Wally with his family. I am sure we weren't alone in feeling the touch of Wally's generosity. Darrell Royal says, "What I gave, I have. What I kept, I lost." There is a lesson in that.
What you hope, in the midst of his talking about each of us that night on the roof outside Moncrief-Neuhaus, is that he somehow heard us as well.
For however you saw Wally Scott, as a football player, a lawyer, a benefactor, a talker or a doer…this much we know: Most of all, he was a friend.
Wally Scott’s funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 29, at Hyde Park Baptist Church (3901 Speedway, Austin, TX).