Frank W. “Sonny” Seiler dies
ATHENS, GA- Frank W. “Sonny” Seiler, the patriarch of the long line of Georgia Bulldog mascots known as “Uga,” died Monday in his hometown of Savannah after a short illness.
Born February 20, 1933, Seiler devoted his entire life in service to his profession as a Savannah attorney, to the State of Georgia, and to the University of Georgia. But he may be most famous, along with his family, as the owner and manager of Georgia’s legendary mascot, “Uga.”
The more than six decades of the Uga tradition began in 1956, when he and his wife, Cecelia, brought their English Bulldog to the season-opening football game at the request of then-coach Wally Butts. “Sonny” and the Seiler family have raised each of the continual line of mascots for 67 since that time years including the present “Uga XI.” During that time the Georgia mascot has received national acclaim many times including being named the “Nation’s Best College Mascot” by Sports Illustrated, which pictured him on its cover.
“I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to the Seiler family on behalf of the entire Bulldog Nation,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “Sonny’s contributions to the University of Georgia as a student and alumnus were innumerable, and his loyalty to his alma mater was unmatched. His legacy will live on forever in the history and traditions of this great institution.”
A ”Double Dawg” graduate of the University of Georgia, Seiler enjoyed a distinguished career as a Savannah attorney. He was an active Senior Partner of the law firm Bouhan Falligant which he joined in 1960. Seiler has served as a member of the University of Georgia Athletic Association Board of Directors, President of the University of Georgia National Alumni Association, member of the Board of Directors for the Georgia Student Educational Fund, Chairman of the University of Georgia School of Law Board of Visitors, member of the Presidents Club, and member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Georgia Foundation. Seiler was experienced in many areas of law and was well known for serving as lead defense counsel in the Jim Williams murder trials that were later made famous by their inclusion in John Berendt's book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Sonny Seiler,” J. Reid. Parker Director of Athletics Josh Brooks said. “Mr. Seiler was a dear friend who I cherished and will miss very much. He was an iconic figure at the University of Georgia for the past almost 70 years. Because of his generosity, Uga is the most beloved and recognizable mascot in all of college athletics. We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for building a legacy that will continue for years to come. Please join me in lifting the Seiler family up in prayer during this difficult time.”
Seiler has been recognized with the Distinguished American Award given by the UGA Chapter of the National Football Foundation. In 2001, he and his wife Cecelia received the UGA Alumni Association’s National Alumni Merit Award, the highest recognition given by the University to its alumni.
Among many honors, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame presented Seiler with the Erk Russell Spirit Award, which recognizes contributions to sport that mirror the enthusiasm that Russell brought to coaching football.
Seiler was also a member of the Screen Actors Guild having appeared in three motion pictures filmed in Savannah and Hollywood: Gingerbread Man, Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil, and The Legend of Bagger Vance. He is also the co-author with Kent Hannon of the book, Damn Good Dogs!
Seiler graduated from the University of Georgia with a B.B.A. in 1956 and later received his J.D. from UGA. He was President of Sigma Chi fraternity and was President of the Interfraternity Council. He was a member of the Varsity Swim Team, a Greek Horseman, elected to ODK Honor Society, and was a member of Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity. While at UGA, Seiler was elected to Sphinx, which is the highest honor attainable for a male student. He was also President of the Gridiron Secret Society. Following law school, Mr. Seiler was commissioned Second Lieutenant, United States Infantry and served in the United States Army as a First Lieutenant. He also served six years as an officer in the Georgia National Guard, 230th Field Artillery.
Seiler was preceded in death by his wife of 59 years, Cecilia Gunn Seiler. He is survived by four children, Cecelia Swann Seiler and Charles Wilkins Seiler (Wendy) of Savannah, Bess Seiler Thompson (Shannon) of St. Simons Island, GA, and Sara Seiler Story (Todd) of Athens, GA. He leaves seven grandchildren: Margaret Chapman Story, Sara Thompson McKinnon (Bryce), Anna Gibbons Story, David Tennyson Thompson, Seiler Burnette Thompson, William Gunn Story, and Cecil Wilson Seiler. He also leaves one great grandchild: Whit Bardwell.