Southern icons don’t always fade away into the magnolia trees.

At 77, former University of Georgia football Coach Vince Dooley, whose teams won the National Championship in 1980 and six Southeastern Conference titles, is as busy as ever.

The sports legend talked this week in Atlanta about some of his activities.

• The coach’s passion for gardening grew when he audited UGA classes a dozen years ago. In early April, Looking Glass Books of Atlanta will publish Vince Dooley’s Garden: A Horticultural Journey of a Football Coach.  The volume will include text by Dooley, photos and paintings by Steve Penley, who collaborated with Dooley previously on a football book.

• Dooley and his wife, Barbara, just returned from a Persian Gulf cruise off Dubai. The occasion? The couple mark their 50th wedding anniversary March 19.

• Irish eyes will be smiling on the Mobile, Ala., native this Saturday (March 13). He’s the grand marshal of the Atlanta St. Patrick’s Day parade.

• The Dooleys’ Athens home continues to undergo a major renovation. The main part of the home had to be demolished because of asbestos and mold. Dooley says the couple hopes to move back in from the pool house in late June. He joked that his only concession from Barbara was that he could keep his spectacular garden.

Dooley also will accompany the Georgia Battlefields Association and famed historian Ed Bearss this weekend on a tour of the fall 1864 Civil War campaign in northwest Georgia.

Few Bulldog fans know that Dooley, who served in the U.S. Marines Corps, earned a 1963 master’s degree in history while he was coaching at Auburn University. A year later, he became UGA’s head football coach.

For years, Dooley took a grandson to Civil War sites around the country, including Antietam, Vicksburg and Gettysburg.

“To walk in footsteps of history is so important,” the Civil War buff said.

Phil Gast edits the blog The Civil War Picket.

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Phil Gast

Phil Gast

Phil Gast is a writer-editor living in the Atlanta area.