As an adopted Blue Devil, I am still astounded by the amount of Blue Devil Pride within our high school as well as the community. Being an alumna of Cook High and still living within the Cook County line, I have never witnessed (nor felt) the kind of overwhelming pride for my own alma mater as I started to have when I began working at Tift County High School over four years ago. This wave is infectious, and I’ve felt it during the school day, during the Alma Mater at Brodie Field- an awe inspiring sight in and of itself, and even on shopping trips around town.
Imagine my surprise when the high school media center received a call from the Tift County Public Library with a patron request on the history of the Blue Devil’s Origin. Using this as pretense to handle the 1917 Talisman, Tift County High School’s annual, I just started to dig.
In the earliest annuals from 1917 and 1918, there is no mention of Tifton High, as it was then known, having a mascot of any kind.
There was a gap of 20 years where the media center didn’t have a copy of the annual. Opening up the 1938 Talisman, I was met with the dedication page: “We, the Senior Class of 1938, respectfully dedicate this issue of The Talisman to Gerald Herring, Sr., Bob Herring, *Jeff Parker, *Neil Ryder, Donald Ryder, Silas O’Quinn, Roy Thrasher, Louis Matthews, Major Whiddon, and Ralston Patrick who were Tifton High School students that went to World War in 1917 to insure democracy for the world. This is the second issue of the Talisman. The first was printed in 1917, the year that the United State entered the war, and discontinued until the Senior Class of 1938 took up their work and continued to produce this edition. We intend for this Annual to be an everlasting tribute to those who fought for the United States. Our motto is fitting for the theme of this book. It is ‘I am an American.’” * Denotes deceased during WWI.
I am not sure why they considered the 1938 annual to be the second in production when a 1918 lays in the TCHS archives, but more curiously this edition was plastered in mentions of the Mighty Blue Devils with no mention of the adoption of the mascot. This caused me to do as any curious person would do: I skimmed the previous annuals and the internet for mentions of the soldiers. I found Jeff Parker sitting in the Class of 1919. He proudly stares out of his class photo in his crisp suit with his hands in his lap, and you wonder if this was the last picture taken of him before he decided to join the war effort.
As there were no other faces or names found in the 1917 or ’18 annuals, I started to comb the advertisements of the 1938 and 1939 annuals. Within them I found advertisements from alumni which included both Herring brothers: Gerald “Jake” Herring, Sr., class of 1916, and Robert “Bob” Herring, class of 1913. There were no other mentions of the other soldiers within annuals.
From this point, I made the transition and began research via the internet.
On www.findagrave.com, a memorial website that mainly honors soldiers, I found the headstone of Robert “Bob” Herring which also included a brief history of the Herring brothers in WWI stating that they became a part of the American Expeditionary Force under the command of General John Joseph “Blackjack” Pershing and trained in France. The areas of France that General Pershing commanded were close to the areas where the legendary French soldiers the Chasseurs Alpins fought. These soldiers were mainly known by the nickname given to them by the Germans—les Diables Bleus, or the Blue Devils.
In researching, we received several theories. Alumni from the 1980’s sent us that they remembered being told by their faculty that we got our mascot from Duke University. Coach Ivey Vickers answered and said she had been told by her father, the late James Winfred “Vic” Vickers, that the football coach and principal of Tifton High, Coach B.G. Childs, from 1914-1917 was himself a Duke University Alum and advocated for Tifton High to adopt the mascot. Albeit, he would have had to do this from the community standpoint after his retirement as Duke University did not adopt the Blue Devil as their mascot until 1922. From various stories graciously given from Mrs. Holly Hall and Mr. Spud Bowen, we pin pointed the year of adoption of the Blue Devil Mascot around 1924-1926. Mr. Bowen attributes this to our local American Legion, Georgia Post 21, bringing in the French Battalion, the Chasseurs Alpins, to Tifton around this time.
In short, what I have found are theories and coincidences that lend themselves to a story of the history of our mighty Blue Devils. We at Tift County High School ask the community that if you have any information to clarify or any information to correct from this story to please contact Lauraleigh Shealey at the High School either by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (229) 387-2475 ext. 8600. We are trying to preserve the history of the Blue Devil, and sometimes the history can only be saved through the grace of community.
Just an added piece of information - The Tift County High School's girls' teams were known as the Angels until 1979 when they became the Lady Devils.
October 11, 2017
Tift County High School