By Cindy Swirko, Staff writer
George E. Edmondson, beloved by generations of University of Florida football fans as Mr. Two-Bits for the cheers he would lead throughout the stadium, died Wednesday night. He was 97.
Edmondson for 60 years was the Gators’ cheerleader in chief. Fans thrilled when he would pop up in their section of the stadium — always dressed in a yellow oxford shirt with orange and blue tie and blue khaki pants — whistle the crowd to attention and wave his “2-Bits” sign.
The cheer — “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar…all for the Gators, stand up and holler!” — rarely left anyone in the seat.
Edmondson retired from cheering in 2008. Since then, others have filled in as Mr. Two-Bits. Among them, former players and coach Steve Spurrier have worn yellow shirts and blue pants do the cheer at the start of the game in Edmondson’s honor.
As word of his death spread Thursday, people took to social media to express their sadness.
“Heartbroken. Rest In Peace, Mr. Two-Bits. Thank you for bringing so much spirit and joy to the #GatorNation. We love you,” tweeted Rachael Jones, a fellow at UF’s Brechner Center.
“Very Sad hearing my Friend and Mentor/ Hero has Gone to the GATOR NATION in the Sky. Prayers to his Family and Friends,” wrote John Martin, a former Hawthorne city commissioner, on Facebook.
Edmondson, a retired insurance agent, adopted the alter ego Mr. Two-Bits in 1949 and drove up from Tampa for the games. Aside from taking part in a four-day course for insurance agents in 1950, Edmondson never set foot in a UF classroom.
The first game he attended was against the Citadel, and it wasn’t pretty, Edmondson told The Sun in 2008.
The Gators were “the whippin’ dogs of the Southeastern Conference” at the time, Edmondson said. When the Gators took the field, they were booed. Head coach Raymond “Bear” Wolf got booed, as well, Edmondson recalled.
“It was sad, and I thought it was terrible,” Edmondson said. “They were just a bunch of kids out there.”
Edmondson decided to counter the booing with a simple cheer: “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar … all for the Gators stand up and holler!”
A few folks seated around him joined in and Mr. Two-Bits was born.
His uniform was an adaptation of what everyone used to wear to Gator games “back in the day” — men jackets no matter how hot and humid, and women wore heels and a pompon corsage. Edmondson has jettisoned the jacket but kept the rest.
Attending a military school in Charleston, South Carolina, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Edmondson left school and enlisted in the Navy, where he served in the Pacific.
After the war, he settled in Tampa, where his father sold insurance, and he entered the field himself.
In his years as a Gator supporter, he’s known every head coach from Bob Woodruff to Urban Meyer, whom he calls “the apple of my eye,” and considers them all personal friends.
Edmondson missed only a couple of home games in 60 years during the Mr. Two-Bits era. He continued to attend games for a time after his retirement.
A celebration of life will be held in Tampa in August, and all friends of the Gators are invited to attend. Details will be announced at a later date, UF said.
Edmondson is survived by his wife, Jane, as well as three children, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.