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Posted Monday, July 13, 2009
Winston-Salem, NC - There are some things at Wake Forest that are absolutely unique. The familiar spirited figure in top hat and tails on the sidelines at every game is one - The Wake Forest Demon Deacon.
The tradition of the Deacon began in 1922 when a gentleman named Hank Garrity, Sr. took over the coaching of the college's athletic teams. Wake Forest had fallen on lean years prior to Garrity, but under his tutelage the college experienced a resurgence in school spirit and winning seasons. At that time Wake Forest teams were called the "Baptists" and the "Old Gold and Black."
However, the enterprising editor of the school paper, Mayor Parker '24 of Ahoskie, thought the school needed a unique nickname and, after a particularly devilish win over Trinity (now Duke), created the alliteration, "Demon Deacons." The college's publicity director, Henry Belk, started using the name in his press releases, and soon papers across the country proclaimed the success of the "Demon Deacons."
Demon Deacon - the name was right. It was not until 1941, however, that Wake Forest had a Deacon mascot at its athletic contests. In a dormitory bull session, Jack Baldwin '43 of Greensboro proclaimed the need for a mascot to some of his fraternity brothers and, when one dared him to do it, agreed on the condition that they supply him with a costume.
"We tried to make him a little more dignified than other mascots," Baldwin says. "So we dressed up like you would think an old Baptist Deacon would dress up."
And when Baldwin made his first appearance in top hat, tails, and umbrella, riding the Carolina ram, the Deacon was here to stay.Every succeeding Deacon has flavored the tradition. In the fifties Jim DeVos '55, of Libertyville, Illinois and Ray Whitley '57 of Rochester, New York perfected the fine art of goal post climbing, sitting, hanging and even walking - in cleated football shoes.
DeVos, a lanky basketball player and a master of pantomime, added a new dimension to Deacon antics when he dropped his pants (to revel a pair of Bermuda shorts) at a game in Bowman Gray Stadium.
The most famous Deacon of all time was Bill Shepherd '60 of Linville, North Carolina. Shepherd's fantastic basketball shot at Raleigh is now a Deacon legend. A natural clown, his antics ranged from out-twirling the nation's leading baton twirler at Clemson - with two plumbers' friends - to answering the Auburn fans' cry of "War Eagle" with "Turkey Buzzard," and being soundly thrashed for doing so. But the times Shepherd is most proud of are the ones when he helped prevent fights at the Carolina games.
"I always felt that each of my actions were in the best interest of Wake Forest," Shepherd explains. "And to be the people watching me I was the embodiment of the entire college."
During the Brian Piccolo era in the mid-Sixties, school spirit soared. Leading this spirit was a new Deacon, Hap Bulger '65 of Vienna, Virignia. On the field Bulger was the unicycle-riding Deacon who chased and chided the opposition's mascot, often losing his top hat in the process. Off the field he was very serious about his duty to encourage a winning tradition at Wake Forest. This "Debonair Deacon," as the Student magazine called him, represented a "spirit of spunk and defiance that cannot be contained in one loss or ten."