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George Edmondson, Florida’s legendary “Mr. Two Bits,” dies at 97

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Gator Nation loses a legend.

Harrison Diamond / The Independent Florida Alligator (Licensed under Creative Commons)

George Edmondson, whose spirited “Two Bits” cheer became a Florida Gators tradition and earned him the long-running and legendary title of “Mr. Two Bits” and a special place in Gator Nation lore, died Tuesday. He was 97.

The news was first reported by longtime Florida scribe Buddy Martin, and later confirmed by Florida staff writer Scott Carter, who also wrote Florida’s official notice on Edmonson’s passing — and corrected its date to Tuesday from Wednesday.

A celebration of life in Edmondson’s honor will be held in Tampa in August, and per Florida’s release, “all friends of the Gators are invited to attend.” Details will be made available at a later date.

Edmonson is survived by his wife, Jane, and by their three children, three grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Edmonson was born in 1922, and came to the University of Florida as a fan in the late 1940s after settling in Tampa following a stint as a fighter pilot in World War II. It was at Florida’s season opener in 1949 against The Citadel — a school Edmondson briefly attended — that he improvised the “Two Bits” cheer that has since become indelible in Florida lore to counter boos from the home fans, who had not seen a winning season in a season not altered by war in 15 years.

Two bits!

Four bits!

Six bits!

A dollar!

All for the Gators

Stand up and holler!

Edmondson’s exhortation came on a day when the Gators shut out the Bulldogs, 13-0, and was well-received — so much so that he would continue leading the cheer from the stands for not just the rest of that season but a few decades to follow, before Florida eventually asked him to lead the cheer from the field before every home game.

It is that tradition, along with Edmondson’s distinctive outfit — “yellow dress shirt, an orange and blue tie, white and blue striped seersucker pants, and black and white saddle shoes” — that seems likely to live on forever.

Florida has continued it since Edmonson’s second and final retirement from performing the cheer in 2008 — fittingly, at a home finale pitting Florida against The Citadel.

Following Edmondson’s retirement, Florida’s mascots, Albert and Alberta, would don the Mr. Two Bits get-up for a pregame cheer for several years. And then came the 2013 institution of a Honorary Mr. Two Bits tradition that has seen dozens of legendary Gators, current students, and veterans rouse The Swamp with the familiar refrain.

Edmondson was never paid for his efforts, famously saying “What I do for the Gators is from the heart, not from the pocketbook” when approached by Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse to import his tradition to NFL Sundays. (For that sort of fidelity, he earned a place in the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as an “honorary letter winner” despite never being a Florida student.)

And because of his lifetime of service and support of a team he came to love, Edmondson will be remembered fondly by Gator Nation as a beloved fan whose faith in the Gators inspired the stands and sidelines alike — and whose spirit can and should live on in us all.