Emmett C. “Baldy” Wilson Jr., the ‘father’ of Cocky, died on Monday, at 93 years old. According to his obituary in The Gadsden Times, Wilson was a member of the J Club that petitioned to change the school colors and mascot.
Before being the Gamecocks, Jacksonville State University was the Eagle Owls. According to the Jacksonville State University’s Athletic website, “Wilson came up with the idea of using a Gamecock as the new mascot,” because “once a Gamecock started fighting, nothing could stop it.”
The Gamecocks are more of a southern symbol, while the Eagle Owls have more of a northern association.
The JSU page titled, “Why We Are the Gamecocks” says that most of the students were made up of farm boys that were well acquainted with the gamecock, and that found them to be more suiting than an arctic bird.
Wilson played football during the 40s when the movement to change the school colors and mascot took place. After suggesting the idea, Wilson’s wife made the first prototype for Cocky, and the “Fighting Gamecocks” took the field for the first time in 1947.
In addition to there being a movement for a new mascot, there was also a push for new school colors.
People that suggested the color change told Wilson if his group supported their initiative they would support his case, and both changes occurred.
Wilson was also inducted to the Jacksonville State University’s Hall of Fame in 1999, along with inductions to the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Sports Hall of Fame in Etowah and Calhoun County.
Wilson also was named Etowah County’s Patriot of the Year in 1995, and had the Glencoe football stadium, where he coached from 1949 until 1968, named after him and his assistant coach and successor.
Wilson attended JSU on the GI Bill after serving in the 630th Tank Destroyer Battalion of the U.S. Army during WWII. Wilson took part in the Battle of the Bulge and was awarded a Purple Heart for a combat wound according to The Gadsden Times.
According to the JSU Athletics page, Don Salls — Wilson’s former college coach — said “He was one of the most loyal alumni that I have ever seen. Once he left school, he came back to all the games.
I don’t know anyone who has been more loyal as an alum than Baldy Wilson.”
The Anniston Star reported Rudy Abbott, a former JSU baseball coach at JSU as saying, “In his mischievous days he and my daddy used to fight gamecocks. It was a common to raise and fight gamecocks. That’s how I met Baldy.”
The change from an Eagle Owl to the Gamecocks was seen to be more appropriate for the South. “No one knew what an eagle owl was,” said Abbott.
According to the article from The Anniston Star, Wilson said the Gamecocks would be “a good appropriate name for a team that wanted some kind of mascot that would symbolize a fighting spirit.”