As a player, he led the University of Tennessee football team to an undefeated season and nearly won the Heisman Trophy, the college game’s highest individual honor. After a brief career in professional football, he became a college coach and won a national championship at the University of Pittsburgh. He then returned as the head coach at the University of Tennesseee and brought his alma mater back to national prominence.
Lynchburg native Johnny Majors celebrated his 78th birthday last week (May 21) — and the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) wants to mark the occasion by making Tennesseans aware of the vast collection of materials the library has available for public inspection that document Majors’ career.
The John T. Majors Papers cover the period of Majors’ life from 1952 through 1995. The collection includes newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, letters to and from fans, notebooks and playbooks, scouting and game reports, photographs and slides, media guides, and audio and video cassettes. The items donated by Majors provide a unique perspective into his career as a player, coach and athletic director.
TSLA is currently working on an addition to the collection, including Majors’ personal calendars from 1968 through 1996, which will be ready later this year. With the addition, the entire collection fills more than 50 record storage boxes in the archives.
“I am sure many Tennessee football fans are not aware that the State Library and Archives has these valuable records documenting the life of one of the college’s legendary coaches,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “These are records that are available for anyone to inspect, free of charge. This is just one example of the many interesting historical collections available at the State Library and Archives.”
The collection is available for inspection during TSLA’s normal operating hours, which are 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, with the exception of state holidays.
TSLA’s building is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville. A limited amount of parking for patrons is available around the building.
Majors was a single-wing tailback and punter at Tennessee who finished second to Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung in the 1956 Heisman Trophy balloting. Majors was named the Southeastern Conference player of the year in 1955 and 1956. His No. 45 jersey is the eighth in school history to be retired.
Majors was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1987.
A brief synopsis of portions of Majors’ career is available in a TSLA online exhibit at: http://www.tn.gov/tsla/exhibits/majors/exhibit_majors.htm.
The Johnny Majors File
1935 — May 21, born to Shirley Inman and John Elizabeth Bobo Majors in Lynchburg, Tennessee
1941-1950 — Educated in Lynchburg elementary and secondary public schools.
1950 — Moved with family to Huntland, Tennessee
1953 — Graduated from Huntland High School
1957 — Graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville
1957 — June-September, played with the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian Football League
1957-1959 — Student and, later, assistant football coach at the University of Tennessee
1958 — June 27, married Mary Lynn Barnwell, daughter of C. H. and Esther Barnwell of Chattanooga
1960-1963 — Assistant football coach at Mississippi State University
1964-1967 — Assistant football coach at University of Arkansas
1968-1972 — Head football coach at Iowa State University
1973-1976 — Head football coach at University of Pittsburgh
1977-1992 — Head football coach at University of Tennessee
1993-1996 — Head football coach at University of Pittsburgh
1997-Present — Director of Athletics and Special Assistant to the Chancellor at University of Pittsburgh