Local History

Lynchburg native Johnny Majors inducted into Pitt Hall of Fame

LOCAL NEWS | Sports — One of Lynchburg’s most famous native sons, Johnny Majors, added a new honor to his resume last Friday as the Pitt Athletics Hall of Fame inducted him just prior to the UCF v. Pitt game. He must have brought the Panthers some luck, because Pitt got the upset that night putting an end to a UCF regular season win streak that dates back to November 2016 … that’s over 1,037 days ago.

Though most locals know him from his days at Moore County High School, Huntland High School, and the University of Tennessee, Majors coached two different stints at Pittsburgh. From 1973-76, he served as head coach at Pitt. During that time he not only helped running back Tony Dorsett win the Heisman, but also put together a perfect 12-0 season and a national championship run. The Panthers beat Georgia 27-3 in the Sugar Bowl to take home the trophy.

He returned to Tennessee in 1977 to coach at his alma mater where he remained until 1992. Following his UT coaching career, he returned to Pitt as head coach from 1993-96 and stayed on as a Special Assistant to the Athletic Director and Chancelor until the summer of 2007.

The Majors kids (from left to right) Larry, Shirley Ann, Bill, Joe, and John grew up in Lynchburg. {Photo Provided}

The genesis of a rivalry

Majors Boulevard in Lynchburg pays tribute to the Majors family and their contributions not only to Moore County but also southern, middle Tennessee. Johnny’s father Shirley Inman Majors played at Moore County High School before coaching there from 1944-47. He left to restart the football program at Huntland High School. At the time, they hadn’t fielded a team in 20 years. He commuted each day from Moore County to Franklin County so that his children could continue to attend Moore County Schools. That all came to an end one chilly fall night when Johnny and the MCHS Raiders beat his father’s Huntland Hornets 18-13 in the last regular season game.

“That’s the last dad-blamed time a son of mine plays against me,” he said, according to the State Archives.

After that, Shirley Majors packed up the family and moved to Huntland where Johnny finished his high school football career. It’s the genesis of an intense rivalry that remains today.

Shirley Majors eventually became the head coach of the University of South in Sewanee for 21 years — coaching the only two undefeated, untied teams of the twentieth century in 1958 and again in 1963.

The Vols retired Johnny Major’s #45 jersey in 2012. {Photo Provided}

Johnny Majors is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Athletics Hall of Fame. The Vols retired his #45 jersey in 2012. During his time there he was a NCAA All American and runner up for the Heisman. He finished at Rocky Top with 1,622 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. The SEC named him MVP in 1955 and 1956. •

{Editor’s Note: This year’s MCHS Raiders versus Huntland game will take place in Huntland on October 18.}

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