Home / Featured / Noted Auburn alumnus bought, brought century-old eagle statues to Toomer’s Corner after spotting them in driveway of wealthy Philadelphian

Noted Auburn alumnus bought, brought century-old eagle statues to Toomer’s Corner after spotting them in driveway of wealthy Philadelphian

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Philly Meets Filly: Before the eagles arrived, freshmen women at Auburn were required to sit atop the columns in shorts at least three hours a week, or so legend has it (but not really, but who knows). Here’s Ruth Radney, “one of the best of the current group of beautiful freshmen women on the Plain”, a finalist for the 1960 Miss Village Fair, and the first “Loveliest of the Plains” for Fall quarter 1961, posing in front of one of the eagle statues probably just days after it was installed.

Last week we learned that what little we thought we knew about the history of the eagle statues at Toomer’s Corner was wrong, duh… because this is Auburn, and that’s what happens when you’re dealing with traditions tied to Toomer’s Corner (see: everything).

But that century old Philly connection obviously isn’t the whole story.

Sure, we have the where and the when (or the when-ish), who, and why. But there’s still the how (and a little bit more “why” wouldn’t hurt)—or at least there was until we got this delightful email from Genevieve Primos, the granddaughter of W.C. “Red” Sugg, who brought the eagles to Auburn in 1961, and who turns up under pretty much any rock you care to turn over in the name of AUrchaeology (see: Walt Disney’s Auburn Tiger).

Primos (who is also the great-granddaughter of Cliff Hare, maybe you’ve heard of him) wrote that she just so happened to be visiting her mother, Red’s daughter, on Friday when she saw our post. Her mother, Marcia Sugg Coombs, was able to “fill in some of the blanks about the eagles!” The rest is (the real) history.

Red was an avid Auburn fan and grew up in Auburn.   As a young boy he worked at Homer Wright’s drug store (down the block from Toomer’s Corner) and went on to get his pharmacy degree at Auburn University.  He had a successful career with Upjohn Pharmaceutical becoming the Sales Director and relocating to Michigan.  One day, he was traveling in Philadelphia by car with a driver. He noticed the Eagles perched at the end of a  driveway in a residential neighborhood.  He drove up the driveway, engaged the owner of the home in conversation, and somehow arranged for the eagles to come to Auburn!  Obviously he was a good salesman and my mother said this type of thing was not unusual for him!  Red was also a friend to Walt Disney and talked Walt into drawing him a picture of an Auburn tiger carrying a football!  When Red retired from Upjohn in 1965, he and my grandmother returned to live in Auburn. He worked at Toomer’s Drug Store part-time for fun when not attending Auburn football games! Red died in Auburn in 1975.

Now for a little more about the eagles’ former home, the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Building, courtesy fact ‘n’ foto finder extraordinaire Auburn Elvis.

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The building was designed by noted Philadelphia architect, Theophilus P. Chandler, Jr., and built by contractors, J. E. & A. L. Pennock (a noted contractor that built stuff like the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York, and an academic building at West Point, and stuff) in 1890, for an estimated cost of between $400,000, to $500,000.

Get out your copy of Illustrated Philadelphia: Its Wealth and Industries. American Publishing & Engraving Co., or go here and look at page 103, first column, near the bottom of the page: “A marble gable will rise 32 feet over the recessed portion of the front, and graceful ornamentation will relieve the otherwise classic outline of the facade.”

Also, and you’ll LOVE this—check out page 49. The Penn Mutual Building illustration accompanies the chapter entitled, “A Bird’s-Eye View of the City.”

Thanks, Genevieve. Thanks, Auburn Elvis.

Thanks, Red!

You can see some great photos of the eagles high in the Philadelphia sky here.

Related: That red paint they found on the eagles.

More on Toomer’s Corner: Auburn grad attorney had no qualms defending Updyke / Toomer’s Oaks souvenirs will be branded ‘Auburn Oaks’ / Woodturned item made from Toomer’s Oaks will be on permanent display in Auburn art museum / Toomer’s Corner rollings didn’t start with Punt, Bama, Punt, says History / Did Auburn students celebrate Bear Bryant’s death by rolling Toomer’s Corner?

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About Jeremy Henderson

Jeremy Henderson is the editor of The War Eagle Reader and co-host of Rich and Jeremy in the Mornings on Wings 94.3 FM in Auburn. Follow him on Twitter: @wareaglereader / @jerthoughts / @RichandJeremy

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