George Hall Watkins

Portrait of George Hall Watkins Headstone Photograph

Full Name: George Hall Watkins
AKA: Hoot
Location: Section:Republic Hill, Section 2 (C2)
Row:Q  Number:9
Reason for Eligibility: Member and Chairman, Board of Trustees, Employees Retirement System 
Birth Date: July 31, 1921 
Died: October 5, 2004 
Burial Date: October 9, 2004 

WATKINS, GEORGE HALL (1921~2004) George Hall "Hoot" Watkins was born July 31, 1921, in San Saba County to Jim and Exa Faye Watkins. As a young boy his mother nicknamed him "Hoodly" - later shortened to "Hoot."

George graduated from San Saba High School in 1939. He was an all-star football lineman invited to the Wichita Falls Oil Bowl in 1938. He was also class president. After high school, George attended the University of Texas on a football scholarship and played in the 1942 Cotton Bowl. He was a letterman on the 1941 Longhorn team of Coach Dana X. Bible, first UT team ranked Number 1 in the nation. In the November 17, 1941, Life Magazine, featuring UT football, George's picture was in the body of the story - two weeks after his brother "Tid" Watkins appeared on the November 3, 1941 cover as a cadet at the United States Military Academy. Life Magazine was much read and discussed that month at Jim Watkins' Barbershop.

The week after the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, George enlisted in the Marine Corps with 39 other members of the Longhorn football team. After training, Lieutenant Watkins shipped overseas for the Iwo Jima invasion, the high water mark of the Marine Corps in World War II and site of the famous Mt. Suribachi flag raising. His specialty was bomb disposal which involves finding and disarming unexploded ordnance. Later in life, when presented with any so-called "emergency," George would often say: "This is no emergency. An unexploded 500 pound bomb is an emergency." After the Japanese surrender, he spent a year with the occupation forces.

George then returned to the University of Texas to finish his BBA in accounting. He said it was easier the second time with the GI Bill than the first time with a football scholarship.

On April 7, 1948, George married Gloria Elise Dickinson of Altoona, Alabama. When asked how they met, Gloria always said, "We met in a foxhole on Iwo Jima." The story is true World War II vintage. On Iwo Jima George's foxhole buddy from Alabama, John "Studie" Staples, gave him Gloria's name and address. She still has the letter George wrote introducing himself.

George and Gloria Watkins each had successful careers in state government. He was Assistant Director of the State Building Commission and retired as Chief of Staff for the Texas Attorney General. She was an administrative assistant to Governor John Connally and Lt. Governors Ben Barnes and William Hobby.

In the 1960s George had a key role in constructing the complex of state office buildings now surrounding the State Capitol. He was also elected statewide president of the Texas Public Employees Association. In 1977, Governor Dolph Briscoe selected George as his appointee to the Board of Trustees of the Texas Employees Retirement System, an appointment that required Senate confirmation, which was unanimous. George served six years on that board and the last as Chairman. He retired in 1983.

One footnote exemplifies George Hall Watkins. He helped unknown numbers of students (including most of his nephews) through college at the University of Texas  finding them jobs and housing.

Retirement did not seem to describe his life after state employment because of his numerous projects at home, his rental houses, and the Watkins family land in San Saba, where he built a weekend retreat. George was always a doer and, as many people will attest, would go through a project like a whirlwind, fixing everything in his path. George had recently taken up working on the computer and was undertaking a project to restore and save his father's San Saba photographs from the 1920s.

George poured his love and attention into all he touched, always encouraging and reliable. He never said or did a mean thing to anyone and always was there for support of his family, including his extended family across the country. Even the birds and his garden will have to find a way to order their lives without his care.

George passed away suddenly and unexpectedly while reading the newspaper at the breakfast table at his home on Tuesday, October 5, 2004. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Gloria Dickinson Watkins, and sons Jonathan and Jeffery, his wife Mary, and their children Elizabeth Rose and Gregory.

Information taken from obituary, provided by Wilke-Clay-Fish Funeral Home.

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