POSTED: Thursday, April 19, 2012 - 9:00am
UPDATED: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 1:40pm
HAMMOND, LA — A special dedication ceremony will happen today, Thursday, April 19, in Hammond. One of Southeastern’s legendary athletes will be recognized.
The section of Western Avenue that runs through Friendship Circle will be dedicated to Edward L. “Ned” McGehee III.
A native of Hammond and nephew of Dr. Lucius McGehee, one of Southeastern's founding fathers, Ned McGehee held numerous positions in Southeastern's athletics program, including his starting position as a trainer, head coach of one of the Lions most successful football squads, as well as several other athletic teams, and serving as athletic director for 20 years.
"Ned McGehee has to be considered one of the true legends of the Southeastern athletics program," said Professor Emeritus of History C. Howard Nichols, who has researched the honoree's life. "He held so many positions at Southeasetrn and had such a strong, positive influence on so many young people over the years. It's appropriate that he be recognized in this way."
The dedication event, which will begin at 2:00 p.m., will include unveiling of the Ned McGehee Drive sign. In addition to Nichols, participants in the program include Southeastern President John L. Crain, Hammond Mayor Mayson Foster, and McGehee's daughter, Gurley McGehee Maurin of Hammond.
McGehee was a graduate of Hammond High School and Tulane University, where he played quarterback on the Green Wave football team and graduated in 1931. Later he would earn a master's degree in education at LSU.
After a stint as a high school coach, he joined the Southeastern staff in 1934 as a trainer and then as assistant football coach. He was named Head Football Coach in 1946, taking control of one of Southeastern's strongest football teams and leading the undefeated 9-0 Lions to a win in the Burley Bowl.
From 1951 to 1971, he served as Athletics Director, while continuing to coach teams in tennis and golf. During his tenure at Southeastern, he also coached basketball, baseball, track, tennis and golf.
"Southeastern had a very small faculty then, so my father also would teach other subjects, such as history, when he was needed," recalls Maurin. "And as head football coach, he took responsibility for nearly everything: mowing the grass on the field, mending and washing uniforms, and preparing the field for games."
Maurin said her grandfather, Dr. Ed McGehee, discouraged his son from following in his footsteps as a physician.
"My grandfather convinced my dad that the life of a country doctor was not easy, and you often had to accept payment in the form of sweet potatoes or venison," Maurin said. "And he saw this first hand; he often rode 'shotgun' on his dad's buggy as house calls were being made to protect against thieves looking for the doctor's drugs."
In addition to his work at Southeasern, McGehee was active in the community, forming Hammond's first Little League, Pony League, Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball teams. He organized the area's first Boy Scout troop and volunteered for the American Red Cross for more than 55 years, teaching swimming, water safety, CPR and first aid. A pilot with his own airplane, he was one of the founders of the area's Civil Air Patrol, flying rescue and surveillance missions until a storm put a piling in the fuselage and destroyed the craft. Before veterinarians became established in Hammond, he would vaccinate animals for free at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Thomas Street.
He was a self-taught taxidermist, turning his skills into a successful business; raised Tennessee Walking horses that his son Edward IV would ride in shows; bred all kinds of birds, including quail, pheasant and parakeets; and cultivated an interest in grafting various species of camellias at the LSU Research Station in Hammond in the yard of his home, now the Micabelle Inn and Restaurant.
"I guess what I most remember about him was his love of life and endless energy. Young people were his special interest; he always wanted to help them and keep them out of trouble," Maurin said, noting that her father frequently took in children from troubled homes. "He believed that when young people were busy and had lots of interests, they were less likely to get into any trouble."