Former Alabama Standout, Civic Leader Clell Hobson Dead At 93

DEMOPOLIS, AL — Crimson Tide football legend and longtime west Alabama community leader Clell Hobson has died, his family confirmed to Patch Thursday morning.

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He was 93.

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Tuscaloosa Patch has reported extensively on the life of the former Tuscaloosa High football star who went on to be the last starting quarterback at Alabama to not play for the legendary Paul W. “Bear” Bryant.

ALSO READ: Living Legend | Untold Stories Of A Tuscaloosa Hometown Hero

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After the end of a brief minor-league baseball career, Hobson and his wife Polly had three children: Linka Marie, Mike and Butch — a former big league third baseman and manager.

“We are in the process of setting up a scholarship endowment for sports medicine in Dad’s name,” Butch Hobson told Patch on Thursday. “We have to get it funded first and there will be more information when it gets completely funded at $25,000.”

Apart from his playing days and being a family man, Hobson also became a beloved high school coach, school administrator and elected official, impacting countless lives along the way.

As recently as 2022, Hobson was one of four honorees named grand marshals for the annual West Alabama Christmas Parade and was awarded a proclamation from the Tuscaloosa City Council to commemorate the occasion.

Upon his passing, Hobson was the oldest living former University of Alabama quarterback — other than the equally legendary Marie “Tot” Fikes (Carastro). Slightly older than Hobson, she starred in intramural football in the 1940s at The Capstone and Hobson insisted the rest of his life that she was a good enough quarterback to play in pads.

His life was a remarkable one, indeed, and Tuscaloosa Patch went back through our past reporting to give you just a glimpse of Hobson’s legacy.

Clell Lavern “Butch” Hobson, Sr. was born on Nov. 28, 1930, in Tuscaloosa to Vernon and Irene Hobson.

Running the offense at Tuscaloosa High School for legendary Black Bears coach Frank “Swede” Kendall, the team had a stable of young talent as Kendall returned for his sixth season.

While Hobson went head-to-head on the gridiron against eventual Crimson Tide teammate Bart Starr, he was a standout on the baseball diamond, as well. After earning a scholarship to his hometown school, he was a freshman on the Crimson Tide’s first baseball team to make it to the College World Series in 1950.

This iconic Crimson Tide baseball team featured the Lary brothers, along with future big leaguers Al Worthington and Ed White.

On the football field, Hobson played in 34 consecutive games for the Tide and coach Red Drew from 1950 through 1953.

Hobson ran a pass-heavy offense during the 1951 season and posted the second-highest passing percentage in the country. The following year, he was good enough to earn national “Back of the Week” honors in 1952 for his performance in a 27-7 upset over No. 8 Maryland in Mobile’s Ladd Stadium.

Hobson’s play during the 1952 campaign saw the Tide have its best season of the decade, finishing 10-2. Despite the success, losses to unranked Tennessee and No. 2 Georgia Tech would quash any hopes of a conference title or national championship.

He became only the fourth quarterback in school history to top the 1,000-yard passing mark and capped off his collegiate career with one of the most memorable bowls wins in school history in the 1953 Orange Bowl.

The Tide scored 40 unanswered points in the second half, with Hobson and backup Bart Starr combining for over 300 passing yards in the 61-6 win. The margin of victory stood as a bowl record until the 2008 GMAC Bowl in a win that saw Alabama set four individual records and eight team records.

After college, Hobson chose to continue his baseball career and played five seasons in the Cleveland Indians organization — now the Cleveland Guardians.

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As Patch previously reported, Hobson’s first minor league action came for the Sherbooke Indians of the Provincial League, which would prove to be his best statistical season.

Over 500 at-bats during the 1953 season, Hobson hit .310 with 11 home runs and 82 RBIs. At one point during his minor league tour, he was a teammate of Roger Maris.

Minor league life is a tough one, though, and arguably the hardest pathway to the highest level in any professional sport and he bounced around the lower rungs of the organization in towns like Reading, Spartanburg and Allentown.

Hobson eventually hung up his cleats in exchange for a whistle, moving his family to Centreville when he was hired as head football coach of the Bibb County Choctaws in 1958.

In his first coaching job, he found immediate success as his squad went 7-2-1 in each of his first three seasons. In 1964, Hobson then moved his wife and three children to Pickens County to take on coaching duties for the Aliceville Yellow Jackets.

This three-year stretch proved the most successful of his coaching career, posting a 24-4-2 record and a 10-0 regular season in 1965 thanks to Glenn Woodruff — a 6-2, 185-pound quarterback and defensive end who earned All-State honors in 1965 and 1966, before going to play two sports at Alabama and then in the minor leagues.

Hobson’s last big coaching move took the head coach to Bessemer High School in 1967 — a decision that would leave a lasting impact not just on his two star-athlete sons Butch and Mike, but the entire Bessemer community.

Over six years coaching Bessemer High, which consolidated with Carver High in 1969 to become Jess Lanier High School, Hobson posted a record of 32-26-2. Despite a pair of 5-5 seasons, he would end his 14-year coaching career without ever having a losing season.

However, the 1968 season — one of the 5-5 campaigns — would likely be one of his proudest standing on the sidelines as his son Butch ran the offense and began generating scouting attention for his athletic ability.

With wins over Shades Valley, Hueytown, Ramsay, Anniston and Parrish Selma, Butch Hobson and teammate Bill Stamps both earned All-State honors.

“I didn’t like him on the football field but he was and is a great person,” Butch Hobson told Patch in 2022. “People sit around and talk to my Dad and say what a sweet man he is, and I say you should have talked to him on the football field.”

After his three kids graduated high school — Butch going to UA, Mike going on to be an All-American linebacker at Jacksonville State and daughter Linka Marie being his loving caretaker in recent years — Clell Hobson decided to give up coaching after the 1969 season to become the school’s assistant principal.

Hobson then dedicated his life to education administration, eventually moving back to his hometown of Tuscaloosa to serve as principal at Davis-Emerson Middle School before retiring and serving one term on the Tuscaloosa City Council from 1997-2001.

“Clell Hobson is a Tuscaloosa legend for many reasons,” Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox told Patch on Thursday. “From being a superstar athlete in multiple sports to serving on our city council, he committed to being the best for the teams he served. We became friends over the years and his kindness and encouragement meant so much to me. Tuscaloosa is a better place because Clell Hobson called it home.”

In the years after he gave up coaching, Hobson was able to see his son Butch become a third baseman for the Red Sox, Yankees and Angels, before going on to a decades-long coaching career that saw his namesake manage the Red Sox on his way to eventually becoming one of the winningest managers in independent baseball history.

“Dad was a hard worker and he was tough … and tough on the football field,” Butch said in 2022. “He followed a lot of Coach Bryant’s teachings, especially on preparation. I learned about the work that I needed to do to get to the big leagues and stay in the big leagues [in baseball]. Dad instilled work in us.”

Following the death of his wife and the mother of his children, Polly, Hobson found love and companionship later in life in Ann Vereen Patton. Patton passed away in September and, in her obituary, mentioned Hobson as “her dear companion.”

Butch Hobson returned to the University of Alabama in late February to speak to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and said his recent contract negotiations for his previous job for the Chicago Dogs fell through. While a professional disappointment for the lifelong baseball man, he told the class and this reporter that everything happens for a reason.

Indeed, the free time away from the game allowed Butch to spend more time with his Dad during his final months as his health deteriorated.

“This is the first year I haven’t been on a baseball field in the spring in 53 years,” Butch told the class. “I think, No.1 for me is: I needed to be with my Dad.”

Funeral arrangements for Hobson have not been set as of the publication of this story.

Editor’s Note: Along with the planned scholarship endowment, Butch Hobson has long advocated for the induction of his Dad into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame (ASHOF) and told the class at OLLI that nominees are often determined by write-in votes.

Click here to access the nomination form for the ASHOF.

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