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A Story Of The 12th Man, A Young Boy And A Cocker Spaniel

Scot Walker '90 June 6, 2017 10:47 AM updated: June 12, 2017 9:16 AM

E. King Gill '24
E. King Gill '24

Editor's Note:  The following essay was first published in 2015 in Volume 56, Issue #3 of the newsletter of the Gulf Coast Region of the Antique Automobiles Club of America. It was shared with us by Lisa Hines '88, who is a property management assistant at the Redstone Building in Houston, where Leon Ahlers is the building engineer.


From the President – Leon Ahlers

I know that there are a number of loyal Texas A&M fans in the audience, so this month I have an Aggie story for you. 

What do the 12th Man, a cocker spaniel, and a young boy have in common? Read on, it’s no joke. 

Almost everyone has heard about the “12th Man” in A&M football lore, but what do you know about the man himself? There was really a 12th man, though he never actually played football. E. King Gill was a member of the A&M Corps of Cadets and, in 1922, was in attendance at a football game against a heavily favored rival team. The coach, fearing an injury to a player (he had no replacements) sent word to Gill to suit up. Though Gill was not on the team, he donned a uniform and stood on the sidelines, if needed, for the rest of the game, becoming forever, a symbol of unity at Texas A&M football games. In the following years, Gill graduated from medical school and drifted into relative obscurity in south Texas. 

Fast forward to 1951. A 2-year-old boy was playing in his grandparents’ yard and ventured too close to the cocker spaniel’s food dish. When the dog attacked, the boy was grabbed by the face, shaken, and in an instant, his right cheek from below the eye to the upper lip was left hanging loose. The terrified mother pressed a cloth over the injury and rushed the screaming child to the doctor’s office.

Enter Dr. Gill.

Two hours and almost a hundred sutures later, the doctor, guided by the hand of God, had successfully reattached the boy’s face, saving the lad from a lifetime of remarkable disfigurement. Later that day, the dog found a new home. 

Dr. Gill continued his practice of pediatric medicine in Corpus Christi, Texas, passing on in 1979. It seems a shame that Dr. Gill is best remembered for something he did one day rather than for the lifetime of care that he provided his patients. That’s life. 

If you do one really good thing, or one really bad thing, chances are good that this is how you will be remembered, so be kind to one another. Now the boy … His wounds healed, he grew up in Houston, got involved in old cars, and was recently elected President of the Gulf Coast Region of the A.A.C.A.

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