Bobby Pope

Faircloth will be cheering for Vols

If you were to take a poll in Cordele, it is almost a certainty that Mallon Faircloth would be chosen as the best football player to ever come out of Crisp County.

He was a two-time all-state selection for the Cougars, earning the recognition in 1958 and again in 1959 when he was voted the state Class 2A Back of the Year. He led Crisp County to an 18-4-1 record during his final two seasons.

Following his high school career, Faircloth signed a scholarship with Tennessee, where he played quarterback and tailback. In fact, he was the last single-wing tailback for the Vols. He was an all-conference selection in 1961 and 1963.

During his three-year varsity career, Tennessee compiled a 15-15 overall record, going 6-4, 4-6 and 5-5 while he threw for 1,230 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 1,503 and scored 10 more TDs. He was the Volunteers’ punter (he averaged 43.1 yards per punt as a senior), punt returner and kickoff returner and had five interceptions as a defensive back in 1962.

Faircloth signed to play in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys but lasted just two weeks. Following his release from Dallas, he had opportunities with the San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings but turned those down to return to Tennessee to finish his undergraduate degree and to attend law school.

After graduating from law school, he embarked on a professional legal career that saw him work in private practice for 13 years in Cordele before being appointed a superior court judge by then Georgia governor George Busbee. Faircloth also presided over juvenile cases while serving on the superior court.

He spent 18-plus years as a superior court judge and never had opposition when he ran for re-election. He was named a U.S. magistrate judge in Columbus in 1999 and held that role until 2010 when he retired. During his federal appointment, he presided over the Fort Benning Military Base and took on everything the Army didn’t want to take to court martial.

Fort Benning also had as many civilian employees as military personnel, and he had that jurisdiction, as well. He was twice named the Army’s Patriotic Citizen of the Year.

Faircloth is an author, having penned one published and three non-published books. He is also a master woodworker and has done antique reproductions, and he is an art critic and an active Rotarian. While the Fairlcloth family was 10th generation baptists in Wilcox County, he is an Episcopalian at St. Nicholas in Harris County.

Faircloth has remained in Columbus since his retirement. He has stayed busy in rotary, continues to do his wood-working hobby and was involved in sporting clays, but he gave that up two to three years ago. He just completed a book of humor back in January.

When Tennessee meets Georgia between the hedges Saturday in Athens, Faircloth will be in attendance cheering on the Volunteers. Although the Bulldogs and Vols met for the first time in 1899, they have only played on 45 occasions with Tennessee holding a 22-21-2 edge in the series.

Twenty-four of those meetings have come since 1992 when the SEC split into East and West Divisions with division opponents playing annually. Faircloth never faced Georgia during his time on Rocky Top. The judge has season tickets to Tennessee home games and is there to see the Vols play on fall Saturdays.

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