Harry Gilmer

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This article is about the football All-American. For the TCI product representative, see Harry U. Gilmer.

Harry Vincent Gilmer Jr (born April 14, 1926 in Birmingham; died August 20, 2016 in O'Fallon, Missouri) was an All-American and All-SEC Alabama football star and National Football League halfback/quarterback.

Gilmer was born to Harry and Mattie Bragg Gilmer in East Lake. He and his brother Billy grew up in Birmingham. In high school, Gilmer starred for the Woodlawn High School Colonels. Experienced in playing neighborhood games against older and taller boys, he utilized a "jump pass" technique in high school and college. After graduating in 1943, he was drafted for military service in World War II, but failed his physical examination due to a stomach condition that limited his diet.

Enrolling at the University of Alabama, Gilmer played left halfback and featured passer in coach Frank Thomas' "box formation" offense, splitting time as a punter and kick returner, as well. The 1944 "war babies" team, which resumed Alabama's football program after a brief hiatus, featured mostly underclassmen on the field, and Gilmer showed his potential that season, returning a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in his first game against LSU, and completing eight of eight passes in a narrow loss to the more experienced Duke Blue Devils in the 1945 Sugar Bowl. In covering the game, writer Grantland Rice called Gilmer the best college passer he had ever seen.

Gilmer was named the Southeastern Conference's "Player of the Year" for the 1945 season. That year, behind center Vaughn Mancha, Gilmer accounted for 1,457 yards of offense, and was the Most Valuable Player in the Tide's 34-14 victory over Southern California in the 1946 Rose Bowl. He finished his Alabama career with 2,894 passing yards, 1,673 rushing yards, and 40 touchdowns. He also averaged 36.4 yards per punt, 28.7 yards per kickoff return and 13.5 yards per punt return. As co-captains, Gilmer and guard John Wozniak were the first players to leave their handprints and footprints in the "Walk of Fame" at the base of Denny Chimes.

Gilmer was selected by the Washington Redskins with the first overall pick in the 1948 NFL draft, held on December 19, 1947. He signed a $15,000 per year contract, but his playing time was limited by a leg injury suffered in practice. When he returned, Gilmer was used mainly as a backup to Sammy Baugh and as a second rusher. In the 1951 season he split time at defense and special teams and picked off five passes. He remained with Washington through 1954 and made the Pro Bowl team in 1950 and 1952. He was traded to the Detroit Lions for Bert Zagers and Bob Trout and assigned to back up Bobby Layne. After two more seasons, Gilmer retired from the league and began coaching. He left the NFL with 3,786 passing yards, 923 rushing yards, 23 touchdowns and 45 interceptions.

He was named head coach of the Lions in 1965. His tenure ended after the 1966 season and he retired to a farm in O'Fallon, Missouri, outside St Louis, where he continued to work as a scout for the Cardinals, remaining in St Louis even after the team moved to Arizona in 1987. He retired from scouting in 1994.

Gilmer and his wife, the former Katherine Jeanette Reem, had four children. Gilmer became a widower in 2006. He died at home in August 2016.

Gilmer was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1973, the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993.


  • Groom, Winston (2000) The Crimson Tide: An Illustrated History. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press ISBN 0817310517
  • Schexnayder, C. J. (July 29, 2016) "Harry Gilmer". Encyclopedia of Alabama online - accessed August 22, 2016
  • Hurt, Cecil (August 20, 2016) "Harry Gilmer was a Tide superstar." The Tuscaloosa News
  • "Harry Gilmer" (August 21, 2016) Wikipedia - accessed August 22, 2016

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