TAMPA, Fla. — Florida Gator fans and sports enthusiasts around the world are mourning the loss of a genuine Florida icon.
George Edmondson, better known as "Mr. Two Bits," passed away this week at the age of 97.
If you went to the University of Florida, or even a Gator game, over the past 60 years, chances are you’ve shouted along with the cheer Edmondson made famous.
He lived in Tampa, but those knew him best know his heart was always in Gainesville.
For nearly six decades, when you heard George Edmondson blow his whistle you knew what was coming next
“Two bits, four bits, six bits – a dollar!” the Gators faithful would shout along with Edmondson.
Dressed in his iconic yellow shirt and orange and blue tie, he would lead the stadium in a cheer that brought tens of thousands to their feet - earning him his nickname.
“George was a special kind of person,” said Tampa businessman and long-time Gator fan Leonard Levy. “He’s iconic as far as University of Florida is concerned. And I don’t know that any school has anything like that. You know, where an individual has made that kind of impact.”
On social media, Florida alumni and sports enthusiasts around the globe have been leaving tributes to Edmondson. That includes die-hard Gator fans like Steve Rogers of Zephyrhills. Rogers and Edmondson once worked in the same Tampa insurance office.
“He was the true definition of the Gator Nation spirit. He was always that way,” said Rogers. “This is a guy who is part of the game. He was as much a part of the game as the flags and the orange and blue.”
Edmondson never actually attended UF, but he and friends would go to all the games.
Back then, the team was terrible. Fans would actually boo.
So, Edmondson took it upon himself to fire up the crowd his two-bits cheer.
It caught on. And the name Mr. Two Bits stuck.
“George was very humble. You know he didn’t make a big deal about being Mr. Two Bits,” said Levy. “But he enjoyed the role. He enjoyed doing it.”
Edmondson, who was since made an honorary alum, officially hung up his Mr. Two Bits whistle in 2008. But since then Florida athletic all-stars and top alumni have led the cheer in his honor.
There won’t be another George Edmondson, say his friends, but the tribute makes them confident his Mr. Two Bits legacy will live on as part of the Gator nation.
“I don’t know that he had as much passion for anything else as he did about the Gators,” said Levy. “And that will be his legacy. Hopefully, they will go on forever and people will remember him. That he started that.”
Family members say Edmondson had been ill for the last several years, but hey know how much Mr. Two Bits meant to Gator fans and sports enthusiasts. They are planning a public celebration of Edmondson’s life sometime in August.
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