Mr. Two Bits

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George Edmondson, Jr.
Mr Two Bits.jpg
"Mr. Two Bits" leading a pre-game cheer
Born 1922
Nationality American
Occupation Insurance salesman
Amateur cheerleader
Spouse(s) Jane Edmondson

George Edmondson, Jr. of Tampa, Florida, known to the University of Florida community as "Mr. Two Bits," is a long-time football fan of—and cheerleader for—the Florida Gators football team.[1] He led a traditional "Two Bits' cheer at Florida football games from 1949 until his retirement in 2008.

History[edit]

The Two Bits tradition began spontaneously in 1949, when Edmondson was attending the opening game of Florida's football season against The Citadel, a school that he briefly attended before enlisting in the United States Navy during World War 2.[2] The Gators had lost five of their last six games the previous year and were not expected to do any better. When the fans booed the players and the coach even before the opening kickoff, Edmondson decided to boost their morale by leading them in a cheer about adding up bits (a "bit" is an eighth of a dollar, so eight of them would indeed total one dollar). The Gators won the game, and fans were so enthusiastic about Edmondson's cheer that he returned the next Saturday to lead it again. Eventually, he began leaving his seat to wander throughout the stands of Florida Field, leading fans in different sections in the cheer.[3]

Edmondson continued this pattern for the rest of the 1949 season and beyond, leading the Two Bits cheer at almost every Gator home game and selected road and bowl games over the next several decades. He was also invited to lead the cheer from the field before each game beginning in the 1970s. All through the years, he wore the same outfit to every game that was typical college football fan attire when he started the Two Bits tradition: a long-sleeved yellow dress shirt, an orange and blue tie, white and blue striped seersucker pants, and black and white saddle shoes.

Edmondson was never paid for his services, even paying for his Gator season tickets like an ordinary fan. In the early 1980s, Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse offered to pay Edmondson "real well" to lead the Two Bits cheer at his hometown Bucs games. Edmondson declined the offer, saying, "What I do for the Gators is from the heart, not from the pocketbook."[2]

Edmondson officially retired from cheerleading at the end of the 1998 football season, even receiving a game ball from then-coach Steve Spurrier. However, Edmondson continued to occasionally lead the Two Bits cheer from the stands, and was eventually coaxed into again leading the cheer from the field before each game. He retired for good at the end of the 2008 season, when the university held a special retirement ceremony prior to the last home game of season (coincidentally against The Citadel).[4] Unlike after his first retirement, "Mr. Two Bits" has not led the Two Bits cheer at a Gator game since, saying that "at 86 years of age, I've got to slow down. Nothing is forever."[5]

Two Bits cheer[edit]

Edmondson used a similar routine whether he led his cheer from the stands or from the field. During the game, he would wait for a break in the action, then draw attention to himself and silence the crowd by blowing a whistle and holding up a small orange and blue sign reading "2 Bits." Once the surrounding fans quieted down, Mr. Two Bits prompted them to yell each line of the cheer with arm waves and fist pumps, encouraging them to roar after the last line. When performing on the field, Mr. Two Bits would be introduced before kickoff and then jog out to midfield wearing his signature outfit. Then, using the same whistle and sign and more vigorous arm waving, he would lead the entire Florida Field crowd in the cheer.

As performed at the University of Florida, the Two Bits cheer is as follows:

Two Bits!
Four Bits!
Six Bits!
A Dollar!
All for the Gators Stand up and holler!

Celebrity Mr. Two-Bits[edit]

After Edmondson's retirement, costumed mascot Albert the Alligator would don a special Mr. Two Bits outfit to lead the cheer from midfield before games. Beginning in 2013, the university has invited past Gator players to serve as the pregame "Celebrity Mr. Two Bits".[6] These guest cheerleaders also wear similar clothes to those worn by the original Mr. Two Bits and lead the crowd in the cheer in the same whistle-blowing and arm-waving fashion. A few of the guest Mr. Two Bits have also wandered through the stands to lead various sections in the cheer like Edmondson once did.

Personal life[edit]

After serving as a Navy fighter pilot during World War 2, Edmondson settled in Tampa, Florida and worked in the insurance business. He still lives in Tampa with his wife, Jane.[5] They sponsor the Mr. Two Bits Scholarship fund, which benefits a University of Florida cheerleader every year.[7]

Though Edmondson was never a University of Florida student, the university named him an honorary alumnus of the school in 2005, and he has claimed it as his new alma mater.[8] He was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as an "honorary letter winner" in 1992.[9][10]

See also[edit]

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References[edit]