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John Witherspoon McDowall (1905-1969): 

Coach, Professor, Athletic Director

John “Jack” Witherspoon McDowall, son of John W. M. and Sarah McDowall, originated in Newberry, Florida.  McDowall received preparatory education first at Florida High School in Gainesville from 1922 to 1923, then at the Rockingham, North Carolina High School until 1924.  In high school, McDowall became heavily involved in sports, such as football, basketball, track, and baseball.  He joined the All-Florida End and the All-Florida Guard, broke the record for the high jump, captained the baseball team, and won both football and basketball championships.  In addition, he also joined the All-North Carolina High School End, broke the Southeastern Meet record of Florida for collages, and became the All-North America first basemen.  In 1924, he attended the North Caroline State College, from which he received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1928.  While at the college, he participated in football (freshman quarterback), basketball (captain in 1927 through 1928), baseball, track, played on the Pacific Coast All-Southern Team, and broke the state record for the high jump.  Also in 1928, Who’s Who in American Sports included McDowall on its list.  After graduation, he then became the coach for Asheville High School in North Carolina until 1928, his football team winning nine out of ten games; it might have made the championship but for an outbreak of influenza.  At one point in the season, his basketball team won twenty games straight. McDowall joined organizations such as Blue Key, the Theta Kappa Nu fraternity, as well as receiving an honorary membership to the Golden Chain.  In addition, he obtained a master’s degree in education from Duke University (Durham, North Carolina) in 1935. 

McDowall joined the Rollins College faculty in 1929, where served as director of physical education and coach from 1929 to 1931, and as director of physical education and athletics for men from 1931 to 1939.  In 1937, McDowall held the position of chairman of the division of physical education and athletics until 1939, becoming in that year the professor of physical education for men (1939 to 1944, and again in 1949 to 1957).  He also assumed role of chairman of the division of health and physical education from 1942 until 1943, director of physical education from 1944 to 1949, professor of psychology from 1944 to 1945, chairman of the division of health and physical education from 1943 to 1943, as well as that of director of athletics and chairman of the division of health and physical education (1949 to 1953).  Although McDowall retired from active teaching at Rollins in 1956, he acted as a consultant to the athletic department until 1969.  His attitude on coaching focused on character development through sports, thus precluding effortless victories.  “I wouldn’t knowingly schedule a game with any team Rollins could lick 40-0… and I wouldn’t schedule a game with a team that could lick us 40-0, either.  What the public wants to see and what is best for the players, too, is even contests.”[1]  Owing to his distinctive contributions to the College, McDowall received the Rollins Decoration of Honor in 1942.  In 1965, North Carolina added him to their Sports Hall of Fame.

McDowall, in addition to having an important role as coach and professor, also had memorable achievements within the greater Florida community.  From 1943 to 1944, McDowall functioned as a United States Naval Lieutenant during World War II.  In 1952, he successfully ran as a Democrat[2] for Orange County commissioner on a platform consisting of pro-business administration, better roads, country beautification, the Sports Fishermen’s Program, and conservation.  Re-elected in 1956, McDowall held the position until 1960.  McDowall died on May 25, 1969 from a heart condition.  His wife, Sally McDowall, and a daughter, Sally F. Blake, survived him.  McDowall received a memorial service at Knowles Chapel on the Rollins Campus.

- Angelica Garcia

[1] Tomokan, (1933).

[2] Orlando Evening Star, (May 26, 1969).

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