Frank W. ‘Sonny’ Seiler is a well-known figure primarily recognized for his association with the University of Georgia Bulldogs’ mascot, Uga, and his involvement in the legal profession. Born on October 5, 1931, in Savannah, Georgia, Sonny Seiler has made significant contributions to both his community and the world of college sports.
The “Uga” tradition began in 1956 when Seiler and his wife, Cecelia, brought their English bulldog to the season-opening football game at the request of then-coach Wally Butts. Since then, Seiler and his family have raised a continual line of mascots for the Georgia football program, including the present “Uga XI.” The burly dogs have received widespread acclaim, including an appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Since the 1950s, Seiler and his family have owned and maintained the unbroken line of live mascots of the University of Georgia sports teams, English bulldogs known successively as Uga I – XI.
After receiving both his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Georgia, Seiler joined the Savannah firm Bouhan Falligant in 1960 and became a senior partner. He also served on the Georgia Athletic Association’s board of directors and several other organizations associated with his alma mater. He served as the lead defense attorney for Savannah antiques dealer Jim Williams, who was tried four times in the 1981 slaying of his lover before he was finally acquitted.
The case served as the centerpiece of John Berendt’s 1994 bestselling book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” which introduced the world to a wide range of eclectic characters in Georgia’s historic coastal city. The book was later adapted into a 1997 movie directed by Clint Eastwood, in which Seiler portrayed the trial judge. A member of the Screen Actors Guild, Seiler also appeared in the 1998 film “The Gingerbread Man” and 2000’s “The Legend of Bagger Vance.” In addition, he co-authored the book “Damn Good Dogs!”
Sonny’s contributions to the University of Georgia as a student and alumnus were innumerable, and his loyalty to his alma mater was unmatched. His legacy will live on forever in the history and traditions of this great institution.University President Jere Morehead
Seiler has been recognized with the Distinguished American Award given by the UGA Chapter of the National Football Foundation. In 2001, he and his wife Cecelia received the UGA Alumni Association’s National Alumni Merit Award, the highest recognition given by the University to its alumni. Among many honors, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame presented Seiler with the Erk Russell Spirit Award, which recognizes contributions to sports that mirror the enthusiasm that Russell brought to coaching football.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Sonny Seiler. Mr. Seiler was a dear friend who I cherished and will miss very much. He was an iconic figure at the University of Georgia for the past almost 70 years. Because of his generosity, Uga is the most beloved and recognizable mascot in all of college athletics. We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for building a legacy that will continue for years to come. Please join me in lifting the Seiler family up in prayer during this difficult time.”Josh Brooks – J. Reid. Parker UGA Director of Athletics
Sonny Seiler died Monday, August 28, 2023, in his hometown of Savannah, Georgia after a short illness at the age of 90. Seiler was preceded in death by his wife of 59 years, Cecelia Gunn Seiler. He is survived by four children, Cecelia Swann Seiler and Charles Wilkins Seiler (Wendy) of Savannah,
Bess Seiler Thompson (Shannon) of St. Simons Island, GA, and Sara Seiler Story (Todd) of Athens, GA. He leaves seven grandchildren: Margaret Story Bardwell (Greg), Sara Thompson McKinnon (Bryce), Anna Gibbons Story, David Tennyson Thompson, Seiler Burnette Thompson, William Gunn Story, and Cecil Wilson Seiler. He also leaves one great-grandchild: Whit Bishop Bardwell.
- “Owner of UGA’s beloved Bulldog mascots Sonny Seiler passes away” (August 28, 2023) https://www.11alive.com/article/sports/college/georgia-bulldogs/georgia-bulldog-mascots-owner-sonny-seiler-dies/85-4ad19db9-f5bd-4203-b0d0-5bd08f2bf17b
- “Patriarch of UGA mascots, Frank W. ‘Sonny’ Seiler dies at 90” (August 29, 2023) https://www.wsbtv.com/news/georgia/patriarch-uga-mascots-frank-w-sonny-seiler-dies-90/WU6KKE45RZCHBFTNKHJENIWYBM/
- “‘Sonny’ Seiler, legendary Savannah lawyer who bred Georgia Bulldog mascots and was portrayed in Clint Eastwood movie, dies at 90” (August 29, 2023) https://fortune.com/2023/08/29/obituary-sonny-seiler-midnight-garden-good-evil-georgia-bulldog-mascot/
- University of Georgia Athletics. “Uga Mascots.” https://georgiadogs.com/sports/2016/6/10/uga-mascots.aspx
- Savannah Morning News. “Uga’s Best Friend: Sonny Seiler and the Georgia Bulldogs.” https://www.savannahnow.com/story/sports/college/football/2016/08/13/ugas-best-friend-sonny-seiler-and-the-georgia-bulldogs/14379419007/
- Seiler & Parker, P.C. http://www.seilerlaw.com/
- “Frank W. “Sonny” Seiler Dies” (August 28, 2023) https://georgiadogs.com/news/2023/8/28/football-sonny-seiler-dies