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Nov. 16, 2003

By Tom Price, Gamecock Historian

Louis and Kathryn (Kat) Sossamon, their children, Kat’s father and at least one in-law could lay claim to the title of number one Gamecock family.

Lou and Kat graduated in 1943. Kat’s father was N. B. (Red) Edgerton, Carolina’s head football coach for four seasons, 1912-15, while at the same time establishing a medical practice in Columbia.

Daughter Kathryn (Kit) graduated in 1967, daughter Polly in 1971 and son Cody in 1973. Kit is a Richland County Councilwoman and her husband, Joel Smith, is dean of the University’s Moore College of Business. Polly lives in Mount Pleasant.

Cody succeeded his father as publisher of the Gaffney Ledger, a 9,000-circulation newspaper published three times a week. Lou ran the family newspaper after a football career that included All America honors at Carolina, military football and four years of professional football.

Lou Sossamon was a center and linebacker who played for Coach Rex Enright, 1940-42. The Associated Press named him to its second team All America after the 1942 season, the first Gamecock player to be named to an All America squad. He was first team All Southern Conference in 1941 and 1942 and played in the 1942 Blue Gray all-star game.

Kat was a Carolina cheerleader and she and Lou were married shortly after both graduated in January 1943, the University’s first mid-year commencement due to World War II.

Lou entered the U. S. Navy and played for the undefeated Bainbridge, Maryland team that many consider the most talented military football team of all time. One of his Bainbridge teammates was future University of North Carolina great Charlie Justice.

Sossamon next played service football in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor and remembers that the team’s water boy was a teen-aged budding baseball star named Stan Musial.

“We were sent to the Outgoing Unit” for deployment to the combat zone “when we got the news that an atomic bomb had been dropped” on Japan, Sossamon remembers.

The All America Football Conference was organized after the war to compete with the National Football League and Sossamon signed with the New York Yankees, owned by Del Webb who also owned the Yankee baseball team and the football team’s games were played in Yankee Stadium.

When future Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra went home to St. Louis after the baseball season, Lou and Kat Sossamon rented the Berra apartment in New York and Sossamon and Berra became good friends. One of Lou’s prize possessions is an autographed bat that Berra used in the World Series perfect game pitched by Yankee pitcher Don Larsen.

Two teammates with the Yankee football team were Tom Landry, later legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and Buddy Young, a back that Sossamon remembers as one of the greatest of his time.

The Yankees played the Cleveland Browns in the AAFC 1948 championship game. Each Browns player received $1,000 as the winner’s share while Sossamon’s loser’s share check from the title game was $700. Sossamon remembers his first season professional football contract was for $10,000.

The AAFC eventually merged with the National Football League with the Browns, San Francisco 49ers and the Buffalo Bills becoming members of the NFL and the other franchises going out of business.

Sossamon’s grandfather, Ed H. DeCamp, was a printer with The State newspaper in Columbia when he moved to Gaffney to found the Ledger. Sossamon’s father followed and Lou joined the newspaper after ending his football career. Now 82, he is retired and has turned publishing duties over to Cody, the fourth generation of the family to run the newspaper.

Cody attended Carolina on a football scholarship when Paul Dietzel was the head coach. He was recruited by assistant Lou Holtz. However, a shoulder injury ended Cody’s playing career.

Lou Sossamon served three terms on the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees and was chairman of the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee when the University became a member of the Southeastern Conference in 1992.

He remembers Coach Rex Enright as “the finest fellow I have ever known” and was a pallbearer at Enright’s funeral. Sossamon is proud of his father-in-law’s service as head football coach while at the same time establishing a medical practice. Red Edgerton had three winning seasons and one break-even season in compiling a 19-13-3 record (5-2-1, 4-3, 5-5-1, 5-3-1).

Sossamon was elected to the University of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 1968 and is also a member of the State of South Carolina Hall of Fame.