If Twitter and Facebook had been available in the ’50s, Norman King would have been quite famous. His athleticism was bordering on unbelievable, and his lifestyle was wild and crazy.
Charlie Roberts, an Atlanta Constitution sports writer for 42 years, said in his opinion Clint Castleberry was the best all-around athlete to come out of Georgia. Clint was a three-time Boys High star who wrecked Notre Dame at South Bend and Navy at Baltimore in his 1942 freshman year at Georgia Tech before being killed while flying an overseas World War II mission. Charlie said the closet to Castleberry were Johnny Carson, Larry Morris, Pierce McWhorter, Johnny Rucha and a few others including Norman King.
Norman was a three-time sports great at Murphy High as well as a terrific swimmer and diver and an outstanding golfer. Murphy boys’ basketball coach Mo Phelps said Norman was the best defensive player he had ever seen. No one could hawk the ball with such boundless ball-hungry energy as Norman. One of his highlights from basketball was beating North Futon in the 1955-56 season for the city championship.
In 1954 Norman and Joe Delaney of North Fulton were chosen on the Sporting News and All-America team, Norman at quarterback and Joe at halfback. They were the only ones chosen for this honor. In swimming and diving he won three first-place medals in the Havatlanta meet.
At the University of Georgia, the wild man started at halfback but was moved to left end, where he started his sophomore year. Old timers compared him to Johnny Carson, Harry Babcock and Gene White. Loran Smith said Norm was the best athlete ever to play only one season.
Unfortunately, the wild man never took his scholarship seriously. He focused on girls, partying, drinking and sleeping late and totally ignored his college work. The illustrious William Tate, dean of male students, sent him home. From there he went to Daytona Beach and got a job as a lifeguard. I found him down there playing the piano for beer money at a corner bar. He still says it was his favorite job ever.
Norm joined the Marines, where his sports record preceded him. The bully of Camp Lejeune, who outweighed him by 30 pounds, shoved him in the mess hall line on his first day, whereupon Norman knocked him down.
They went outside to finish the fight, and Norman finished it. Later Norman and the bully became drinking buddies. Norm won every swimming contest and was first in all the hikes, according to all his pals from Marietta.
After his Marine discharge, Norman chose pro football over college football and was offered a contract with the Buffalo Bills. In his second preseason game against Denver, he scored two touchdowns, and his future looked quite promising until he and two other Bills demolished a downtown bar. The cause of this fight was the ladies’ interest in the athletes. Their dates took exception. The players were kicked off the team. The New York Titans pounced on the wild man, but football players were poorly paid at this time. After all, it was the first year of the new American Football League. Besides, he didn’t like the regimentation. The contract he didn’t accept was for $7500 per year. He got a selling job in Atlanta at $10,000 per year.
Golf legend Gary Player met Norman in 1963 and asked him to come to work for him in South Africa. Norman had several happy years before going to Australia with a friend, where he started a swimming pool company and built tennis courts. The business was quite successful until the 1974 flood ruined it.
Going back home seemed to be a good idea, and he got a job with his old Georgia Bulldog teammate, Don Leeburn. He was with Don’s Crown Distributors for 20 years and Pop’s Wine and Spirits for 17 years. Currently he plays piano and composes songs, yet another of his many talents.
The wild man was married twice, first to Gaye Boardman of Atlanta, with whom he had one son Michael. Michal was an All-American diver at both Westminster and the University of Indiana. Norman’s second wife was Peggy James of Augusta. However, Norm was not cut out for married life, and both marriages ended in divorce.
The unforgettable wild man is a survivor of a heart attack in 2001 and tonsil cancer in 2013, but he is still chasing the girls and playing golf.
Looking back on our friendship since the 1950s, I recall many outstanding events: the triple forward flip at Venetian Country Club, the feet-first races we originated and opening country club pools around the city with our diving expos.
For many years we didn’t see each other. After college I got married, went into the financial planning business and saw the party trouper only occasionally. Now we play golf every week and reminisce and tell lies. Only the truth about Sir Norman King is stranger than fiction.
Norman has always been the most fun of anyone I know, bigger than life with a great zest for living. He keeps on going like the Energizer Bunny. Norman has lived life on his own terms with no regrets. He marches to his own drummer. He loves the ladies and they love him, and guys really get along with him too. The wild man is one of my oldest, best friends. I wouldn’t trade him for anyone. He is now an aspiring composer and is aiming to sell his original compositions on the piano to movie producers.