FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 1992, ALLIGATOR, 3
Honored general, former UF coach dies at 100
Associated Press and Alligator Staff Report
He was called the "best general we ever
had" by Harry Truman. He also was, until
Steve Spurrier came along, the most suc-
cessful football coach in UF history.
Wednesday, Gen. James Alward Van Fleet
died in his sleep at his Polk City ranch. He
"I have the greatest admiration for him as
a person and a general," said former UF
President J. Wayne Reitz. "He was a great
football coach and maybe the greatest
general this country had, and he was..a
compassionate man, a gentleman of the first
"At a reception for him several years ago,
I said that he was the coach for the Gators
and made $500 a year," Reitz said Thursday.
"When I said that, he stood up and said,
'And I was overpaid. What I learned about
commanding and leading, I learned as foot-
ball coach at the University of Florida.'"
Van Fleet, a retired four-star Army
general, led combat campaigns on D-Day, at
the Battle of the Bulge and in the Korean
Twice during his 38-year military career,
Van Fleet brought his know-how to UF. He
was headfootball coach and ROTC's profes-
sor of Military Science and Tactics from,
1921-24. He later returned to UF's ROTC
program from 1929-33.
As a major, Van Fleet became head foot-
ball coach in 1923 and maintains the second-
best coaching percentage at UF behind
only current coach Steve Spurrier.
Van Fleet coached UF's best early football
teams. His teams in 1923-24 brought the
Gators national attention for the first time
and earned him a 12-3-4 collegiate coaching
As a colonel, Van Fleet commanded the
Army's 8th Infantry Regiment of the 4th
Division that stormed Utah Beach in the
Normandy, France, invasion of Europe on
D-Day, June 6, 1944. Three months later, he '
was promoted to major general.
Although not an alumnus, Van Fleet
received an honorary law degree from UF
in 1946. In 1971, he was named to the Gator
Athletic Hall of Fame.
Van Fleet's last public appearance came
in March when more than 1,000 well-wishers
gathered for his 100th birthday celebration
in Polk City, which sits amid Central
Florida's citrus and cattle farms.
"Thank you very much," Van Fleet said
from his. wheelchair in a barely audible
"I hope I deserve some of it as a living
example of a great American that I would
want to be No. 1."