Memorial service for Walter Chadwick

Marvin Westwestwords

A memorial service was planned for today in Decatur, Ga., for former Tennessee football star Walter Chadwick. Burial was to follow at Decatur Cemetery. His death at age 73 was announced on Thursday.


Walter is survived by sons March of New York City and John of Knoxville and brothers Donald, Dennis and Alan.

Dennis Chadwick was a wingback for the Volunteers in the early 1970s. Alan set passing records as a quarterback at East Tennessee State. Alan became a prominent high school coach in Georgia.

As busy as they were, Chadwick family members never stopped caring about Walter. Among many other things, they paid the bills from the $500,000 settlement from Wells Fargo after the tragic crash in 1971.

Stories about Walter Chadwick are still flowing freely.

Even though limited physically and mentally, he rode a bicycle along busy Decatur streets from his condo to make connections with Atlanta public transportation. He improved survival odds by wearing orange clothing and an orange helmet. Motorists learned to be on the lookout. Some waved.

Walter had gainful employment, bagging groceries at a Publix. A can of beer was punctured at checkout. Walter wiped up the spill. On his way to the trash bin, Walter, naturally frugal, finished off the can. He was fired for drinking on the job.

Former all-American linebacker Steve Kiner roared to the defense. Kiner lost. Company policy. No exceptions.

Back in his playing days, the Vol tailback was notorious for throwing the football into the crowd after his touchdowns. UT managers and security people were prominent in pursuit. Most times they made recoveries. Sometimes they didn’t.

Several years ago, Jerry Cooley, wingback in the Bowden Wyatt era, a member of “Friends of Walter,” carried a football from Tennessee to Georgia and asked Chadwick to autograph it. Walter was surprised.

Chadwick had lobbed that ball into the south stands at Neyland Stadium after a touchdown against Vanderbilt in his final home game. Walter Parker caught the pass. Nobody came looking for the football. He took it home. In time, it became a conversation piece in his dental office.

Cooley was a guest on Dr. Parker’s boat for a ride to a game. Conversation got around to old Vols and their never-give-up relationship with the star tailback. Bingo, Parker to Cooley to Chadwick. The signed football made it back in Bearden.

Dick Ellis, former Vol tackle, tells this one about game travel preparations.

“We were loading the buses outside Gibbs Hall to go to the airport. We were assigned buses. I was on the bus with Coach Doug Dickey. Managers called the roll to make sure everyone was present.

“Every name was called. There was no Walter response. Coach’s ears started to turn red. He sent a search party into the dorm.

“Walter arrived in a rush, carrying his travel blazer and with his tie flying around his neck. Someone in the back of the bus yelled out, ‘Walter, where is your luggage?’

“From an inside pocket of his blazer, Walter produced his toothbrush.

“‘Got it right here.’”

Walter returned to UT for the 40th reunion of the 1967 Volunteers. He was concerned that Dickey might think his hair was too long. He fretted. Before festivities, Bill Young took him to a barbershop.

Walter made it back for the 50th reunion in 2017. Son March was his escort. Some of the stuff old Vols told him may have been true.

“Friend of Walter” Ellen Morrison added this recollection.

“When Walter asked the blessing at meals, it sounded as if he and God knew each other.”

Marvin West welcomes reader remarks or questions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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