Florida fan fixture with Citadel connections has fitting departure

George Edmondson's cheer at Florida home football games: 'Two bits, four bits, six bits a dollar. All for the Gators, stand up and holler!'

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — How fitting. It all started with The Citadel, and 60 years later it will end with The Citadel.

For the record, the gentleman's real name is George Edmondson, an 86-year-old retired insurance executive from Tampa. And on most days of the year he can go about his life without much notice.

But on football Saturdays, when the Florida football team is playing here at The Swamp, he's one of the most recognizable figures in the Sunshine State.

Meet Mr. Two Bits, the guy who has been leading that simple cheer for six decades before the start of each home game at the University of Florida.

"It all started in September 1949," Edmondson said in a recent interview at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. "I was invited to attend a Florida game with some friends. Back then the Gators weren't very good.

"They were playing The Citadel that day and the Florida fans were booing their team. I decided to lead a cheer among the people I was sitting with. It all kind of started from there."

Since that time, Edmondson has become a beloved icon of Florida football, dressed in his yellow shirt, orange-and-blue-striped tie, seersucker pants and oxford shoes.

Saturday, however, will be his last performance. And fittingly, it will be against The Citadel, his former college.

Train trip

Edmondson attended The Citadel as a cadet in 1941 and '42 before he left school to join the Navy, where he flew F6F Hellcats off the aircraft carrier Saratoga in the South Pacific.

"Unfortunately, I didn't go back and finish college after the war," Edmondson said. "I got married and raised a family."

But he was a cadet in Charleston during those early war years, going through the plebe system like everyone else in those days.

"Freshman year at The Citadel was tough," said Edmondson, who attended a military high school in Georgia. "It was interesting, but I have fond memories of it.

"We used to go downtown to a little restaurant next door to the Francis Marion Hotel where the owner had some backstairs going up to the second-floor level where we cadets could go in and eat and take our blouses off. Nobody was there, so we weren't going to get caught."

Another fond memory includes a football trip.

"I remember (John) "Bull" Rowland was the football coach at the time," he said. "My freshman year, the whole Corps of Cadets took a train trip from Charleston to New York, changed trains and went up to West Point to play Army. Boy that was a great trip. I really enjoyed it."

Whipping dog

Turns out Edmondson didn't have any connection with the University of Florida. He just happened to go to some games with a friend who had some extra tickets.

"Back then, Florida was terrible. They were the whipping dog of the Southeastern Conference," he recalled. "Vanderbilt used to love to come to town and kill us. But it surprised me that the fans were so down on the Gators.

"They were booing the players and booing the coaches. So, you know, they're just kids out there trying. Let's not boo them, let's cheer for them. So every time they made a mistake, we cheered for them."

So Edmondson led his now-famous cheer: "Two bits, four bits, six bits a dollar. All for the Gators, stand up and holler!"

"I only had eight or 10 people in the beginning," he said of that game which Florida won, 13-0. "So my friend asked me to go to the game the next weekend and it just kept going. I just adopted the University of Florida and it built up to what it is today."

A throwback

Indeed, while interviewing Edmondson outside the stadium, a crowd of Gator fans gathered wanting to get his autograph and have photos taken with him.

"The fan base here is unbelievable," Edmondson said. "Sixty years is a long time to do anything. So The Citadel game will be my last time doing it."

A throwback to a simpler time, Mr. Two Bits fits right in with the school's hokey fight song, "The Boys From Old Florida," which the entire stadium does as an arm-in-arm sing-along at the end of the third quarter.

It's one of those quirky things that makes college football what it is.

Edmondson left The Citadel midway through his sophomore year in 1942 and said he doesn't have contact with any of his old schoolmates from The Citadel. "They've all passed on," he said.

No doubt they would all be surprised to see Mr. Two Bits still jumping around on the football field after all these years.

To honor the occasion, officials at The Citadel will present Edmondson with a paperweight replica of a Citadel ring during an alumni event on Friday.

Then Saturday, when the Bulldogs play at Florida, Edmondson will make his last appearance as Mr. Two Bits.

"The Citadel is a great school," he said. "I'm proud to be a part of it, but on Saturday, I'll be pulling for the Gators."