Former Statesboro resident Morris Lupton, known by many as the driving force behind the creation of the Georgia Southern Eagles football program, died Tuesday.
Lupton, founder of TimeSaver convenience stores, was 81. He moved to Lake Oconee several years ago after selling the TimeSaver chain in 1985. He also had a home at Shellman's Bluff.
The avid football fan was a major GSU Eagles supporter and built the first two buildings in the Paulson Stadium end zone — the Lupton Building.
Friends and colleagues shared fond memories of Lupton on Tuesday, each declaring Lupton was the main force behind the birth of the Eagles.
He was inducted into the GSU Hall of Fame in 2000 for having supported former Georgia Southern College President Dr. Dale Lick in spearheading "an active caravan tour" to visit "22 Georgia communities to initiate interest in starting football at GSC," according to www.gseagles.com. He was "considered a key element in the recruitment and subsequent hiring of Erk Russell in 1981," according to the site.
He was recognized with the Erk Russell Spirit Award at the annual Georgia Sports Hall of Fame banquet in Macon in 2016. The award is presented annually to a person who embodies the spirit and enthusiasm that Russell brought to coaching. Lupton dedicated three decades to supporting the university's football program.
Lupton not only contributed money but countless hours of time, including a great deal of hands-on work for the site preparation of Paulson Stadium. He and Russell traveled all over South Georgia garnering support for GSU football.
He was also a major supporter of the Southeast Bulloch High School football team.
Lick recalled good memories with Lupton, describing how he was so excited over the idea of bringing football to GSU that he promised to buy 100 season tickets and help raise money, including donations from his own pocket.
"He was a tremendous guy," he said. "Morris traveled with us to 23 places to talk to people about how important (a Georgia Southern football program) was to the business community and the whole region. He was a very dear friend, and I hate to see him go."
Statesboro resident Ric Mandes said Lupton was the main driving force behind the football program, ahead of Lick and Russell.
"He was one of the strongest individuals to make this happen," he said.
Speaking about Lupton's down-to-earth personality, Mandes said his friend was "a self-made country boy who was infectious with his laughter."
Bucky Wagner, who was GSU's athletic director from 1981–95, called Lupton "my very best friend in the whole world."
Lupton was the very first president of the Southern Boosters, but he was "not political," he said.
"He loved his family and loved football," Wagner said. "He was a simple man but did so much for so many behind the scenes. If one person was behind football, it was Morris."
Wagner said he admired the fact that Lupton built his TimeSaver business from the ground up, building the stores himself, one at a time, and never borrowed money to do so.
Lupton was born in Beaufort, North Carolina, and enjoyed fishing, traveling and racing cars, according to his wife of 20 years, Kim Lupton.
He leaves behind a son, Bobby, and a daughter, Lisa. He is preceded in death by a son, Billy, who died 11 years ago, she said.
Visitation for Lupton is Friday at 1 p.m. at McCommons Funeral Home in Greensboro, Georgia. The funeral service is at 2 p.m.
Kim Lupton said that in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the GSU Eagles Athletic Fund.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon maybe reached at (912) 489-9414.