SMITH COLUMN: Remembering Terry Wingfield

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, September 7, 2021

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Terry Wingfield outlived his closest friends, a core group of Athens businessmen who were about the Bulldogs, work and play — a little golf, a little fun and frolic and in Terry’s case, a lot of altruism.

That, perhaps, needs a bit of amplification. With his affiliation with the Frances Wood Wilson Foundation of Tucker, Wingfield had the enviable opportunity to give away money. Even with that fortuity, there was something that set him apart. He was a man who was blessed with a good heart.

During his tenure with the Foundation, he coordinated charitable funding that exceeded $40 million dollars, often favoring his hometown and alma matter.

He was prudent in his decision making but he always kept an eye out for Athens and the University of Georgia. Wingfield was also a man with a loyal heart.

The UGA chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame is the biggest chapter in the country and has been for years. The chapter endeavors, among other objectives, to recognize high school scholar-athletes in Northeast Georgia.

The Wilson Foundation enabled the chapter to make a significant impact with its objectives by awarding scholarship grants to the high school honorees. It was a small commitment for the Wilson Foundation, in its grand scheme, but a very significant point of pride for the UGA chapter.  It was the sort of thing that was of the essence of the man.  He had especial affection for the underdog charities, those which were truly in need.  Medical facilities, hospitals, churches and educational organizations with selfless objectives, got his attention.

Wingfield was an enthusiastic supporter of the Sports Medicine programs at Georgia, brought about by the innovation and creativity of its capable director, Ron Courson. He appreciated the good works of the Boy Scouts and was a long-time supporter of the organization which honored him in 2019 for his philanthropy. 

An affable and warmhearted person, Wingfield was fond of noting that “life is good, but it is better in Athens.” He could not do enough for his hometown and his university.

He was a close friend of William C. Hartman, long time Bulldog coach and UGA alumnus. Wingfield became a trustee of the Hartman managed Georgia Student Educational Fund, which supported Bulldog athletics for many years. Hartman often sought Wingfield’s advice.

A passionate graduate of Georgia, Wingfield — before taking over the Wilson Foundation — raised his family in Athens and spent his early years in the mortgage loan and insurance business. 

Wingfield appreciated the good life, following the Dogs, supporting the activities of the Athens Touchdown Club and the Athens Country Club. His regular golf foursome was banker John Terrell, insurance broker Bubber Scruggs and a very successful mayor of Athens, Upshaw Bentley, who was a lawyer. Their weekly golf matches were sometimes the talk of the club.  They took exception to losing but were adept at socializing every hole and showering the golf course in humor and clean old-fashioned fun.

Professionally diverse, this foursome and a wider circle of close friends, focused on family, friendship and loyalty to the University of Georgia.   They worked hard, enjoyed life and jumped to their feet when the Bulldogs brought about high moments between the hedges. They enjoyed poking fun at one another with the greatest of cleverness but were never mean spirited. When Wingfield took over the management of the Wilson Foundation from its founder Fred Wilson, this meant that he sat at the central seat of influence for the distribution of the foundation’s income and assets. 

In all our lives we have come to appreciate that the party after the party sometime were the best parties. That was the case with Terry and Joy Wingfield. Terry would invite everybody by for his signature dessert, a “Heavenly Tillie,” an ice cream and liqueur based cordial.  For a long time, he kept the recipe a secret, but many of his friends serve it today. It is now on the menu of the Athens Country Club.

Now that his golf foursome is together again, I suspect there soon will be a celestial round taking place with everybody enjoying a “Heavenly Tillie,” and conversation about Bulldog football.