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 Ersell D. “Red” Cavette

Ersell D. “Red” Cavette

Birth
Death 25 Jul 1995 (aged 89)
Burial Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, USA
Plot Section 8, # 431
Memorial ID 54302740 · View Source
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As a Southeastern Conference football referee, Ersell D. 'Red' Cavette was "as fair as anybody possibly could be," said former Louisiana State coach Charlie McClendon. "When they told you Red Cavette was going to call a game, you could just forget about (officiating) problems," McClendon said. "He was one of the best and most well-respected officials that we've ever had." And when the games were over, Cavette remained what retired Ole Miss coach John Vaught called "a great personal friend." Cavette, 89, who from 1952 until 1968 was the top-rated referee in the Southeastern Conference, died of heart failure Tuesday morning at Baptist Memorial Hospital East where he had been a patient since early June. Blending enforcement of rules with a practical balance of common sense, he earned respect of officials, coaches and players. "He was the best common sense official I think I've ever been around," said Memphian Jim Campbell, who officiated 31 years and now is supervisor of football officials for Conference USA. "Sometimes we'd drive to games together and it might be a 6- or 8-hour drive. He'd talk football all the way, and it was like going to school." Campbell recalled an example of the common sense approach. "Red was working a game and there was a fight on the field," Campbell said. "He didn't see exactly what happened so he asked the quarterback, 'Who threw the punch?' The quarterback wouldn't tell him. So he told the quarterback: 'If you don't tell me, then I'm going to throw you out.' Right away, the quarterback said it was number so-and-so and that was that." Memphian Bill Pittman, a long-time official said, "He could take a bad situation and make something good about it, and nobody would get mad. He had more common sense about officiating than anybody I've known. And he was always trying to help younger officials." When Cavette was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1981, it was announced that he worked a football game on every football weekend from 1945 through 1968. People who knew him weren't surprised. "He was the dean of officials at the time and everybody looked up to him," Campbell said. "I never heard anybody say a bad word about him. And he could tell so many stories that it was just wonderful to be around him." Cavette officiated 14 bowl games, including five Gator, three Orange, and three Sugar. Following his on-the-field work, he served as supervisor of the Missouri Valley Conference football officials from 1969 to 1971 and was an observer for the SEC from 1973 until 1979. Cavette refereed games that involved such distinguished coaches as Vaught, Paul 'Bear' Bryant, Bob Neyland, Ralph 'Shug' Jordan and Wally Butts, and managed to maintain peace and order. "He was an exceedingly fine official . . . he knew the game and called it like he saw it," Vaught said by phone from his Oxford, Miss. home. "I always enjoyed having him work for us because I felt the game was in great hands as far as fairness to both teams." After his retirement, Cavette was a regular at area municipal golf courses, usually at Galloway or Audubon, and he played with the same intense competitiveness as some of the football players he officiated. "What made it so neat was that everybody knew Red from some past association - from when he worked for the railroad, or from his days as an athlete or from when he was an official," said Galloway pro Cliff Frisby. "He was just a living legend around here." Born in 1905 on a small farm eight miles east of Como, Miss., Cavette attended a one-room, one-teacher school through the sixth grade. In 1916 his family moved to Memphis, where he went to A. B. Hill School in South Memphis, and later excelled in sports at South Side and Christian Brothers.
After finishing high school at Christian Brothers, Cavette was offered a scholarship to Ole Miss, but went to work for Illinois Central Rail Road. In 1927 when local promoter Early Maxwell organized the Memphis Tigers pro team, Cavette joined the team as an end and later when Clarence Saunders took over the team, Cavette was captain in 1929 and '30. The team developed a widespread reputation for playing excellent football. The '29 team played exhibitions with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears of the National Football League on consecutive Sundays and won both games. The Packers had just won the NFL title. Cavette got an introduction to officiating in 1931 when he and three other players from the Memphis Tigers pro team were recruited to call a game in Tiptonville, Tenn. Cavette later admitted that none of the four had ever seen a rule book. In 1937 Cavette joined the Southern Football Officials Association, and during World War II he worked service team games all across the South as a referee. In 1945 he became one of the first members of the SEC Football Officials Association. Services will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Park Funeral Home with burial in Forest Hill Cemetery Midtown. Cavette, the husband of Sue Cavette, also leaves a son, Don Cavette of Memphis; a sister, Willie Mae Yates of Arizona; a brother, Neil Cavette of Georgia, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The family requests that any memorials be sent to Lindenwood Christian Church or to a charity of the donor's choice. (By Bobby Hall, published in The Commercial Appeal 7/26/1995)


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  • Created by: Carole McCaig
  • Added: 30 Jun 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 54302740
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Ersell D. “Red” Cavette (5 Oct 1905–25 Jul 1995), Find A Grave Memorial no. 54302740, citing Forest Hill Cemetery Midtown, Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, USA ; Maintained by Carole McCaig (contributor 46785778) .