Susan "Sue" Owen '94 October 8, 2021 9:24 AM updated: October 19, 2021 8:37 AM
As Texas A&M celebrates 100 years of the 12th Man tradition, members of the Class of 1980 are donating photos and materials to A&M that illuminate the post-college life of the 12th Man himself, E. King Gill, Class of 1924.
During the Class of ’80 Reunion on Oct. 15-17, Doug Vorpahl ’80 presented Vorpahl family items featuring Gill, including a collection of original photos, to be preserved in Texas A&M’s Cushing Memorial Library and Archives. The presentation was set to occur during the Class business meeting on Oct. 16.
Vorpahl’s father served under Gill in World War II, and they formed a lifelong friendship; the families vacationed together on the Texas coast, and Vorpahl knew the Aggie legend as “Big King.”
Classmates will add to the donation several documents commemorating the Class Gift of a 12th Man Statue of Gill that was originally dedicated March 1, 1980, as well as the relocation and rededication of the statue in 2015. Vorpahl’s father spoke at the 1980 dedication, and in 2019 the Class established the Class of ’80 E. King Gill Selfless Service Award, which goes annually to the graduating senior who most exemplifies the A&M core value of selfless service during the student’s undergraduate career.
Gill is most familiar to thousands of Texas Aggies as a young man — he was a three-sport letterman as an A&M student, and on Jan. 2, 1922, was called out of the stands to suit up as the Aggie football team lost players to injury but eventually upset Centre College in the Dixie Classic. Though he remained on the sideline, his readiness to go in for his team passed into Aggie lore with a 1939 radio anecdote from Association of Former Students head E.E. McQuillen, Class of 1920, telling the story. Since then, Aggies have stood for their team.
In 1964, 62-year-old Gill spoke at campus Muster, retelling the 12th Man story in his own self-effacing style, and told the A&M students, “Every one of you can be a 12th Man. You stand up — stand up for what’s right and be ready to serve.” He passed away in 1976.
The photos and documents given by Vorpahl and his Classmates will help round out and provide a fuller picture of the life of an Aggie legend.