Fans pay respects to longtime FSU coach Bobby Bowden in Tallahassee

Legendary coach who died after battle with pancreatic cancer honored Friday

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Fans lined up for hours Friday to say farewell to legendary Florida State University football coach Bobby Bowden, who died last weekend after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Flags flew at half-staff across the Sunshine State on Friday in Bowden’s honor.

The beloved coach lay in honor at the Florida Capitol rotunda from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday and then lay in repose at the Moore Athletic Center at FSU from 2-7 p.m. Friday before his funeral on Saturday.

It was an emotional scene at the Capitol, where many fans shed tears while saying their goodbyes.

“I was in Denver on Sunday and I heard the news and I cried and I’m about to cry now,” FSU alum and Jacksonville resident Scott Allberry said.

After the viewing at the state building, Bowden’s casket was brought to Florida State’s campus, where fans lined up in the shadow of his statue to say their final farewells. The first fan in line at the athletic center Friday told News4Jax she had been there since 10 a.m. hoping to pay her respects to Bowden.

“My husband was having to work so I said I’ll get us a place in line because we didn’t know what it was going to be like,” Jennifer Christie said.

There is plenty to celebrate from Bowden’s life and illustrious football career, which included 377 college football wins, two national titles and a dozen ACC championship wins.

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Jacksonville played a part in that legacy, hosting the first ACC championship game, where Bowden led FSU to victory.

Bowden said he loved the time he spent on the First Coast near Jacksonville.

“(It’s) one of my favorite parts of the country,” Bowden said in an interview with News4Jax sports anchor Cole Pepper. “I used to come here and go out to the fort just to see the fort. I love military. I spent a lot of time in Jacksonville. I always thought if I was going to live in a big city that might be where I would want to live. But I’m happy in Tallahassee.”

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Bowden’s legacy transcended his football career.

Fans and former players said it was the person Bowden was off the field that they’ll remember most.

“Bobby was just always there for us as the fans from the time I was a little kid to when I was in school to when I was a booster or am a booster and saw Bobby -- he always acted like he knew me and if he did or not treated me like I was the most important person in the world,” FSU alum James Mitchell said.

There will be a celebration of life for Bowden at the Tucker Civic Center at 11 a.m. Saturday and those who wish to attend are encouraged to arrive early because large crowds are expected. Doors open at 9:30 a.m.

Bowden’s final resting place is in Alabama. On Sunday evening, he will lie in repose at Reid Chapel at Samford University.

He will then be buried in a private service in Trussville, Alabama.

About the Author:

Jamal St. Cyr is an award-winning sports anchor who joined the News4Jax sports team in 2019.