George Harrington nearly took a wrong turn on his way to enrolling at Linfield. Fortunately for him and the college, he found his way to McMinnville.
Born in Alpine, Ore., and raised in Medford, Harrington weighed only 90 pounds as a high school freshman. His lack of size could not deter his love of sports. He grew to 160 pounds by the time he was a senior and was quarterback of the Medford football team. He also played on a basketball team that reached the state semifinals. At graduation, he was honored as an outstanding student and athlete by the American Legion.
After high school, he took a one-year respite from his studies to work at Crater Lake National Park. Merle Hagen, his former coach at Medford High School, had become an assistant coach at Linfield. Hagen contacted Harrington to encourage him to attend, telling the young freshman that tuition for one year would total $50. Soon, George was on a Greyhound bus bound for McMinnville. While transferring from one bus to another in Salem, he went to have breakfast and the connecting bus departed without him. To kill time until the next bus arrived, he went down to a local sporting goods store and ran into Willamette University football coach Spec Keene. Soon, Keene had Harrington in a Willamette uniform and practicing with the Bearcats team. A photographer from the Oregon Journal newspaper happened to be at practice that day and snapped Harrington's picture.
That night from a WU fraternity house, he phoned his brother, Ivan, asking for advice. Ivan said, "Get yourself to Linfield where you know Coach Hagen." George slipped away while everyone was asleep and caught the one bus that went to McMinnville.
When he arrived, he phoned Hagen to ask for directions to the college. Hagen was surprised to hear from him, "We saw your picture in the newspaper in a Willamette uniform and feared we had lost you." A few days later, some WU students tried to hijack Harrington back to Salem, but they were unsuccessful. When the coach found out that the intruders were on campus, he assigned two of the largest Linfield players to keep Harrington in their sight.
Hagen had neglected to mention to Harrington that he would have to pay for his room and board. About two months after the start of the fall semester, the college registrar, J.K. Riley, called George to his office. "When are you going to start working out your room and board?" he asked. George was shocked, having thought his $50 covered all his college expenses.
To pay for school, he performed janitorial work and lawn care on campus and earned haircuts by cleaning up at the local barber shop. He had little money left over to buy food but managed, barely, to survive his first year of college.
During his freshman year, Harrington played football, basketball and baseball. The remaining years he played football, basketball and golf, lettering a total of nine times.
Harrington began the 1935 football season as the Wildcats' third-string quarterback. Discouraged, he contemplated quitting the team but looked forward to Linfield's upcoming game against Columbia University (now University of Portland) at Multnomah Stadium. In the locker room the day of the game, Coach Henry Lever named Harrington the starting quarterback. He remained the starting quarterback for the rest of the season and also kicked and punted. He helped take the Wildcats to the first Northwest Conference football championship in school history. "At the time, I don't think we really fully understood the significance," he said, referring to the milestone accomplishment of Linfield's first title.
Not only was Harrington captain of the football and basketball teams, he was the Linfield student body president.
He went on to a successful career as a golf course manager at the Rogue Valley Country Club, Arizona Country Club and the San Juan Hills Country Club. He remains active in the Arizona-Nevada Chapter of the Club Managers Association of America. He annually donates 40 dozen golf balls and over 20 rounds of golf to the Bill Hodges Memorial Golf Tournament, which raises scholarship dollars for the University of Northern Arizona and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Harrington, 87, has lived in Scottsdale, Ariz., since 1986 and still plays a round of golf nearly every day. His love affair with golf began as a 12-year-old caddy at the Rogue Valley Country Club in 1927. He won his first tournament in 1948, and in 1955 he and son, Gary, won the Oregon Golf Association Father-Son tournament. He played on the Hudson Cup amateur team in 1951 and 1953.
In 2000, he was honored with the Linfield Alumni Service Award and is continues as the college's primary local organizer of alumni functions in Arizona.