Lewis Neyland, the younger son of the successful former University of Tennessee football coach Gen. Neyland, died Saturday in Chattanooga after living here for roughly 50 years and enjoying a long business career.
In a 2010 interview with chattanoogan.com on the occasion of the dedication of a statue at Neyland Stadium honoring his father, the younger Mr. Neyland amicably recalled that his famous father was 43 years old when he was born and was serving in Calcutta, India, in a job overseeing supply shipments during some of their growing-up years. As a result, Lewis was much closer to his mother.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of contact with him because he was serving his country,” said Lewis Neyland, who had lived in Chattanooga since the mid-1960s. “Our mother (Ada “Peggy” Fitch Neyland) raised us.”
He did jokingly add, however, that his father would occasionally have to discipline him and his older brother, Bob Neyland Jr., with his Army belt-like accessory when they were misbehaving, but not too often.
Both younger Neylands also went to Baylor as boarding students in the mid-to-late 1940s, although Lewis, who was four years younger than his brother, later returned to Knoxville and attended the now-closed Knoxville High.
Lewis Neyland said that his father was actually brought to Tennessee to be an ROTC instructor in 1925, and only after he arrived did then-head coach M.B. Banks ask him to coach ends on the UT team as an assistant.
His son also recalled stories of his father having to travel almost daily between Chattanooga and Knoxville when he was stationed in the Scenic City with the Army Corps of Engineers a number of years before World War II.
Regarding the statue, Lewis Neyland said at the time of the 2010 interview that he believed his father might have felt embarrassed by it.
“He did not like honors, particularly that statue,” he said. “He might go by and see it if people insisted on it, but he was a very shy man.
“He didn’t attend award banquets,” his younger son continued. “He said, ‘I’m here to coach football and that’s my job.’ “
At the time that the statue was dedicated in 2010, Lewis Neyland was recovering from a partial amputation of his leg due to a longtime battle with diabetes and was unable to attend. However, he and his wife, Libby, who married Lewis after Gen. Neyland died, did later drive up to see the statue and visited with longtime UT athletic publicist Gus Manning.
“They opened up the gates,” Libby Neyland recalled at the time. “He (Lewis) hadn’t seen the new basketball arena (Thompson-Boling Arena) and we just missed Bruce Pearl (the then-Tennessee men's basketball coach). We then went back by the stadium and saw it lit up.”