Sickened with rheumatic fever at age 13, Bobby Bowden, the beloved, long-time coach of the Florida State Seminoles, spent a year in bed recovering. True to the custom of the era, young Bobby was treated at home during house calls made by Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Mehaffy. Coach Bowden says his parents took comfort in knowing Children’s Hospital was there for their son if he ever needed hospitalization.
After he recovered from his illness and began his fabled football career, Coach Bowden maintained close ties to Children’s. As a member of the 1947 and 1948 Woodlawn High School football teams, Coach Bowden played in the annual Crippled Children’s Clinic football game at Legion Field to “help raise money for a great cause.” When he became a coach at Birmingham’s Howard College, he continued to visit the hospital, sharing time and an occasional pep talk with patients. “Having been confined by sickness for a year, I could communicate and give encouragement by visiting with some of the patients,” he says.
Children’s Hospital has grown considerably since Coach Bowden left Birmingham 45 years ago, but it remains of source of pride to the Magic City native who considers himself a child of Children’s.