Aug. 26, 2003
Billy Hair, captain of Clemson’s 1952 football team, passed away on Sunday at the age of 74. Funeral services will be held Wednesday at 3:00 PM at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Gilbert, SC.
Hair started at the key tailback position in Coach Frank Howard’s single wing offense from mid-season 1950 through the final quarter of the sixth game in 1952. His play led the way to Clemson’s first ever Associated Press “top ten” final ranking in 1950 and a “top twenty” follow-up in 1951.
The undefeated 1950 Tigers edged the University of Miami,15-14 in the 17th annual Orange Bowl played Jan. 1, 1951, with Hair earning game MVP honors. Clemson’s return match against Miami a year later in the seventh annual Gator Bowl resulted in a 14-0 Tiger loss, though again Hair was his team’s MVP on offense.
In late summer of 1952, Clemson’s Office of Sports Information produced and circulated nationwide a brochure urging consideration of Billy Hair for the Heisman Trophy in the upcoming season.
As fate would have it, Hair injured his shoulder in the season opener against Presbyterian College. He played hurt in the next five games, all losses; returned to form at Boston College on Halloween night only to injure his knee in the final quarter of the much needed win; and for all practical purposes his brilliant football career was over. He was a 13th round NFL draft pick of the Green Bay Packers, signed and worked out with them, but he did not make the final cut.
Billy was born and grew up in the small town of Canadys, SC, and distinguished himself as one of South Carolina’s finest prep players of 1947 for Walterboro High School. He entered Clemson in the fall of 1948 as a member of an outstanding recruiting class.
Hair received limited playing time as Coach Howard’s “dream backfield” rolled over the opposition. This all changed against nationally ranked Wake Forest in game number five, when both fullback Fred Cone and wingback Ray Mathews suffered cracked ribs in the first quarter. NEA first team All-American Jackie Calvert shifted to wingback, and Hair took over at tailback for the remainder of his career.
Billy Hair made the All-Southern football teams of 1951 and 1952. In 1983 he was added to Clemson’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
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