“He is Virginia Tech”: Remembering Buford Meredith
Editor’s note: Longtime Virginia Tech grounds foreman and Hokie fan Buford Meredith died in January.
Buford served 50 years with the Virginia Tech Athletic Department.
His niece, Angela Kinzie, submitted a story to The Roanoke Times in which she pays tribute to her uncle.
We decided to share her story in her own words.
If you’ve passed through the Virginia Tech campus or have driven by Lane Stadium over the past few weeks, you may have wondered why the state and school flags were hanging at half-staff.
There were no tragedies to speak of; no state officials had died.
The flags, instead, were lowered in mourning for my uncle, Buford Brown Meredith, who passed away on Jan. 23 at the age of 78.
In Blacksburg, every fall reminds us of the ones before. The colors orange and maroon are everywhere: on people’s backs and on the turning leaves. Crisp air is filled with the smell of burgers and barbecue, and people from throughout the United States come to town to see the Hokies play. Some are experiencing this for the first time; for others, it’s a tradition.
My uncle supported the Hokies for 50 years with his heart and with his hands. He had just celebrated his 50th year with the Virginia Tech Athletic Department.
As grounds foreman, he mowed the facility’s fields and cross country course, among other duties. He is lovingly remembered for painting the lines and end zones on Lane Stadium’s famous Worsham Field. Although many fans had never met or even heard of Buford, they were affected by him. At his funeral service, the Rev. Gary Poff said, “If you ever saw the Virginia Tech football field, then you saw Buford Meredith.”
He loved his job, he loved the people, and they loved him.
In the early 1960s, Buford worked on the construction of Cassell Coliseum, wherein his memory was honored before the Tech vs. UVa game Jan. 24. A moment of silence was observed, along with the display of his picture on the Jumbotron and a spoken recognition of what he gave to the university for so many years.
“He is Virginia Tech,” said John Ballein, associate director of athletics for football operation. . “Tough, hardworking, caring, loyal and could always put a smile on your face. That is Buford.”
Senior Associate Athletic Director Sharon McCloskey’s story of my uncle is one of my favorites and is documented in the book “Tales from the Virginia Tech Sidelines,” by Chris Colston.
McCloskey began working closely with Buford on the athletic department’s grounds. The job was helping her pay for tuition costs. One day, he noticed that she didn’t have a proper lunch — she was eating just a peanut butter sandwich.
Not only did he offer her part of his own lunch that day, but he started bringing an extra sandwich and chips for her every day. Eventually, he brought even more, all to ensure that the struggling student had a decent meal. In a few years, McCloskey achieved her degree and took a top position in the athletic department, where one of her tasks remains taking care of the officials and their needs. After arriving for a pre-game meal one day, she noticed that a mistake had been made and there wasn’t a meal for Buford. She offered to share her own, but he wouldn’t accept. On the next game day, McCloskey ordered two extra meals: one for herself, the other for my Uncle Buford.
“Things have now come full circle. Where he once fed a hungry student, that former student now feeds him,” Colston wrote in his book.
Fields coordinator Emerson Pulliam met Buford Meredith in 2005 when he was a senior working at Lane Stadium. Buford was like a grandfather figure to Pulliam. He told me that after losing his dad at age 17, he was lucky to have someone like Buford to look up to.
“I parked in front of him, and I knew when I saw his truck that it was going to be a good day. If I didn’t, I wondered what was wrong,” Pulliam said. “I’d talk to him about life; it was easier to do that with him than anybody else. No matter what, I’d always make it a point to take five minutes out of my day to talk to him.”
After my uncle suffered a heart attack a few years ago and was no longer able to paint the field before home games, he recommended Pulliam for the job. Pulliam had learned a lot from working alongside him.
“The first time I did it on my own, it was emotional, and tears came to my eyes,” Pulliam said.
I remember my uncle as the laid-back, kindhearted person he always was. I remember him and my aunt Shirley — his wife of 54 years — driving around in their big blue pickup truck, stopping to get burgers at the local Dairy Queen and buying an ice cream cone for their dog. I remember how much he loved movies and how much he loved to laugh.
I’ve always watched Tech football games from behind the scenes. My mom has worked there, with my uncle, for many years now. My dad and grandfather worked there, too. I see the 12-hour days the people in grounds, housekeeping and maintenance work to make Lane Stadium the beautiful place and experience that it is for our local and Tech communities.
I’m proud to say that I’ve had the opportunity to know that work ethic, talent and dedication. It’s key to building and maintaining the “Hokie Spirit” that everyone is so proud of, and of which Buford Meredith was such a special and incredibly essential part.