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Landmark and Legend
Memphis, TN
Here we note noteworthy people and landmarks of the area that have now passed into history.



 
Billy J. "Spook" Murphy
1921 - 2008

Billy J. "Spook" Murphy, retired Athletic Director and head football coach of the University of Memphis, died February 21, 2008, at a retirement and care facility in Memphis. The respect he garnered not only came from his more than 30 years work at the University of Memphis but also before that in service to his country. Billy Murphy served as a U.S. Marine in the South Pacific during World War II and received the Bronze Star, the Presidential Citation and the Navy Citation.

"Spook" Murphy got his nickname during his playing days at Mississippi State University, where he was selected to the Associated Press 1941 All-Southeastern Conference team as a tailback on the football squad. He was selected as captain of the team for the 1943 season, which was never played due to the war. Joining the Marine Corps Reserve, Murphy was sent to Duke University for the military's V-12 student program and he played one season of football there.

After the war, Murphy returned to Mississippi State for a final football season and to complete the requirements for his degree. After graduation, he became an assistant football coach at Memphis State (a former name of the University of Memphis). After 5 years he went back to his alma mater to assist head Bulldog coach Murray Warmath. Murphy followed Warmath to the University of Minnesota where he coached for 4 years before returning to Memphis State late in 1957 to take the head coaching job.

Coach Murphy assembled a 91-44-1 record as head coach at Memphis, finishing with a win in the 1971 Pasadena Bowl. At that point he was the 11th in the nation among active coaches in won-loss records and 15th in the number of games won. Murphy had become athletic director at the school as well as continuing as head football coach in 1966. In 1972 he retired from coaching but continued as athletic director at Memphis for several years.

Among Coach Murphy's awards were being named the National Coach of the Year by the Detroit News in 1963, the National In-Print Award in 1963, inductee into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1975, induction into the Mississippi State Hall of Fame in 1977 and induction into the University of Memphis M Club Hall of Fame in 1982. Murphy was named the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year three times in the 1960s. He received the 18th annual Citizenship Award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Memphis Civitan Award in 1963 and was awarded the Distinguished American Award from the American Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame in 1976.