Special Alert

Athens Trivia

Uncover the fascinating side of Athens, Georgia! Check out these Athens firsts, oddities, and claims to fame.

Athens Oddities:

  • The world's only double-barreled cannon was built in Athens and is displayed on the grounds of City Hall. The prototype was a spectacular failure in test firings and was never used in combat. Featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not!
  • "The Tree that Owns Itself" was willed eight feet of land on all sides around its base, and is surrounded by a vintage cobblestone street. Recognized by Ripley's Believe it or Not!

Athens Firsts:

  • Chartered by the Georgia General Assembly Jan. 27, 1785, The University of Georgia is America's first state chartered university.
  • Athens is the birthplace of America's first garden club. Founders Memorial Garden, on UGA's North Campus, was established to honor the club.
  • Athens native Fred Birchmore was the first man to bicycle around the world.
  • Athens resident Ben Epps was the first Southern Aviator. He successfully designed, built, and flew the first airplane in Georgia in 1907, just four years after the Wright brothers' (from Ohio) first flight.
  • Michael Thurmond, Georgia's current Commissioner of Labor, was the first African-American elected to statewide office in Georgia.
  • Ida Mae Hiram, Athens' first black female dentist, was the first African-American to pass the Georgia Dental Board exams.
  • Athens became the smallest municipality in America to develop a far-reaching wireless cloud in late 2002, when The University of Georgia's New Media Institute launched the Wireless Athens Group Zone (WAGz). The zone stretches from Broad Street to Dougherty, and from Pulaski Street to Thomas. WAGz allows individuals with portable computers to access information about downtown businesses, tour Athens' music history, and communicate with others using the system.

Antebellum, Confederate, and Military Notables:

  • UGA's main library houses the original Constitution of the Confederate States of America, on display once annually in April on Confederate Memorial Day.
  • Athens was spared Sherman's "March to the Sea," leaving a variety of antebellum structures, many of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Over four dozen historic sites in and around Athens comprise the self-guided Heartland of the Confederacy Civil War Trail.

Sports Glory:

  • Sanford Stadium's 2003 seating capacity of 91,780 is the fifth largest on-campus collegiate stadium. It is renowned for the English Privet hedges that encompass the playing field.
  • UGA's 21 Division IA sports teams have won 25 national championships, including 15 since 1999.
  • UGA is 9th in the 2006 Directors' Cup standings, the annual ranking of the nation's best all-around collegiate athletics programs.
  • Football players Herschel Walker (1982) and Frank Sinkwich (1942) are UGA's two Heisman Trophy winners. The trophies are on display at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall Sports Museum.
  • On New Year's Day, 1981, the Georgia Bulldog football team (led by Herschel Walker) defeated Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl to win the 1980 NCAA National Championship.
  • Francis "Fran" Tarkenton, who attended Athens High School and UGA, went on to throw for more yards, completions, and touchdowns than any other player in NFL history.
  • The Collegiate NCAA Tennis Hall of Fame is located on the University of Georgia campus in the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, which is also the semi-permanent home of the Men's NCAA Tennis Championships.
  • The 425,000-square-foot Bernard B. and Eugenia A. Ramsey Student Center for Physical Activities is the largest and most comprehensive fitness/exercise facility for students and faculty in the country, and is rated by Sports Illustrated as the nation's best such facility.
  • For more Bulldog trivia, visit Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall Sports Museum, or online at http://georgiadogs.ocsn.com/traditions/index.shtml.

On the UGA Campus:

  • The University of Georgia's College of Journalism administers the Peabody Awards, known as the Pulitzer Prize for broadcasters.
  • Dr. Edward J. Larson, professor of history and law, received the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for history. Larson won the Pulitzer for his book "Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion."
  • The Georgia Review, the University's quarterly literary journal, was for five consecutive years a finalist in the fiction category for a National Magazine Award, one of the highest accolades in the magazine publishing industry. The Review won the award in 1986.
  • The UGA Chapel features an enormous painting of the interior of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome; measuring 17 feet by 23 ½ feet, it is purported to be the largest framed oil painting in the world.
  • The University libraries, with more than 3.7 million volumes, are ranked 28th among the nation's best 109 research libraries in ratings compiled by the Association of Research Libraries. The libraries contain one of the largest map collections in the United States.
  • The 150-year old Lumpkin house, on ultra-modern South Campus, is on a gigantic parcel of land that was willed to the University of Georgia by the Lumpkin family. The gift's one stipulation: if the house is ever moved or destroyed, ownership of the land will revert to the Lumpkin family.
  • The black iron fence that surrounds North Campus was built in the 1850s to keep livestock off campus.
  • Memorial Hall, located on the UGA Campus, was built with 47 columns to honor the 47 UGA men who died in World War I.
  • The UGA libraries have established the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame to recognize authors for their contributions to the state's literary heritage. Two writers, living or deceased, will be chosen annually for induction into the Hall. Among the first 12 members: Margaret Mitchell, Martin Luther King Jr., Flannery O'Conner, Sidney Lanier and W.E.B. DuBois.
  • The University is home to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, the State Museum of Art and the State Museum of Natural History.
  • The Georgia General Assembly designated the University's Botanical Garden the State Botanical Garden in 1984. The 312-acre forest south of the main campus features a 20,000-square-foot conservatory/visitor's center that contains tropical and semi-tropical plants.
  • The General Assembly designated the Georgia Museum of Art the State Museum of Art in 1982. Founded in 1945, the museum has a permanent collection of more than 8,000 works with primary focus on American artists.
  • The General Assembly in 1999 designated the Museum of Natural History as the State of Georgia Museum of Natural History. Housed in several departments, the museum is composed of collections of arthropods, plants, rocks, snakes, fish, invertebrates, mammals, fungi, birds, pollen and plant microspores and contains more than 4,500,000 specimens.
  • Enrollment for fall semester 2006 totaled 33,959 - the second-highest highest enrollment in UGA history.
  • The 4,681 new freshmen who enrolled in the fall of 2006 had an SAT average of 1228 and a high school grade point average of 3.76. The SAT average is 238 points above the state average and 207 points above the national average.
  • Of the new freshmen who enrolled in the summer and fall of 2006, about 85 percent were Georgia residents and about 98 percent of the Georgia freshmen received the HOPE Scholarship. Altogether, for the current academic year, a total of 16,837 UGA students in all classes has HOPE Scholarships with a total value of $81.3 million. Since the HOPE Scholarship program was established in 1993, a total of 73,431 students has received scholarships worth a total of $668 million. 
    •For more University of Georgia points of pride, visit The University of Georgia's Visitor Center, or online at http://www.uga.edu/profile/pride.html .

The Music Scene:

  • Athens is world-renowned for its music scene, and nurtured such bands as REM, the B-52s, Widespread Panic, Drivin' and Cryin', and Pylon, just to name a few.
  • On April 18, 1998, Downtown Athens hosted the largest CD release party in history: local band Widespread Panic gave a free concert that attracted almost 100,000 music fans.
  • In August, 1996, R.E.M. signed a new deal with Warner Bros. worth $80 million, the largest record contract in history.
  • For more Athens music history and trivia, take the self-guided Tour of Athens Music History, or visit: The Georgia Music Hall of Fame's Athens pageFlagpole magazine, orhttp://www.athensmusic.net.


  • The Georgia General Assembly designated the University's Botanical Garden the State Botanical Garden in 1984.
  • The 312-acre preserve south of the main campus features a 20,000-square-foot conservatory/visitor's center that contains tropical and semi-tropical plants.
  • Athens is the birthplace of America's first garden club. The club is recognized by the Founders Memorial Garden on UGA's North Campus.
  • The Ginkgo tree is Athens' official tree.
  • The Ginkgo tree in front of the UGA President's house was planted in 1929, soon after the owner returned from a meeting of the Garden Club of America.
  • The Iris is the official flower of Athens.
  • The Western soapberry tree in the center of the boxwood garden at the UGA President's House is the only one in Athens.
  • The dogwoods along Prince Avenue were a project spearheaded by homeowner Hugh Gordon to enhance the neighborhood; the oldest was planted in 1948. 
    African-American Accolades:
  • Athens native Michael Thurmond, Georgia's current Commissioner of Labor, was the first African-American elected to statewide office in Georgia.
  • Ida Mae Hiram, Athens' first black female dentist, was the first African-American to pass the Georgia Dental Board exams.
  • The Morton Theatre, completed in 1910, is the only remaining vaudeville theatre on the National Register of Historic Places that was built, owned, and operated by an African-American, Monroe "Pink" Morton.
  • In its heyday, the Morton featured headliners such as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Duke Ellington. The landmark building and community cultural center also housed black professionals' offices, where doctors, dentists, pharmacists, jewelers, barbers, and insurance companies served the black community throughout the first half of the 20th century.
  • Dr. William Harris, one of Athens' most prominent early African-American physicians and the city's first black pharmacist, co-founded the Georgia State Medical Association in Augusta, served on this association's executive board, was elected president of its medical section, and served as a prominent Republican at the 20th National Republican Convention in 1932.
  • Hall Johnson, a native Athenian who incorporated jazz and blues techniques, established the Hall Johnson Chorale, and is considered one of America's most distinguished black musicians.