Saturday, November 26th, Alabama beat Auburn 30 – 12 in the 81st Iron Bowl. The first game was played between the University of Alabama and the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama (Auburn) on February 22, 1893 in Birmingham, Alabama. Alabama lost. They stopped competing in 1907 but resumed again in 1948.
It became known as the Iron Bowl because of the Iron and Steel industry of Birmingham. My family has a long-standing relationship with both the Birmingham steel industry and the University of Alabama. My brother worked at U.S. Steel. So did my father, his brother-in-law, and several of our uncles. And my son’s are literally crazy about Alabama football. One of them played in the Million Dollar Band.
My oldest son graduated from the University of Alabama in Birmingham where both I and my father attended college. It was called “the old Phillips High School” when dad went to night school there on the G.I. Bill. His uncle Grover Vincent graduated as a civil engineer from the University of Alabama. His cousin, Maud Kelly, went to the University of Alabama Law School. She became the first woman to practice law in the state of Alabama and is an inductee to the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame.
But enough about family. We were talkin’ football here, specifically the Iron Bowl. Alabama may have lost in 1893 but in 1894, on Thanksgiving Day, Eli Abbot ran 75 yards to score a touchdown in the second half (Roll Tide!). Alabama won the game 18 to 0 “… because of Treetops Thompson’s blocking and Eli Abbott’s running” so says a 1948 newspaper clipping (compliments of Ted McClellan, Thompson’s grandson).
So who exactly was A.J. Thompson, aka “Treetops”? He was a 6’3″, 205 lb. high school dropout who went to the University on a football scholarship as an economics major. Later, he dropped out of college to join a survey team in Oklahoma. By 1910 he owned a blacksmith and repair shop in Lineville, Alabama. According to his grandson, he listed furniture making among his many talents and moved the Thompson Manufacturing Co. to Fairburn, Georgia. A.J. Thompson died in 1951 at the age of 79 and is buried in Cobb County, Georgia.
Oh! Did I mention that A.J.’s half-brother, John N. Seay, is my sons’ great-great-grandfather? Maybe that’s where they get their love of Alabama football. Must be a “football” Gene in our DNA. Ya never know?