Reverberations from the University of Georgia’s Chapel Bell float throughout campus following Georgia football’s national championship win, but why is anyone ringing this bell in the first place?
Located on UGA’s North Campus, the Chapel Bell is the site of one of the university’s oldest traditions, with both students and alumni lining up to ring it after big or little wins.
A routine held close to the hearts of many, the first time the 190-year-old bell was reported to be rang in celebration was after the 1894 football game where Georgia defeated Auburn 10-8 in Atlanta, according to a UGA Libraries digital exhibit.
However, the bell was rang many times before then by enslaved Black people whose many duties on campus included ringing the bell to alert students of Chapel services, meals and classes, according to a UGA symposium detailing the history of slavery at the university.
While calls to dedicate the Chapel Bell to the enslaved people who rang it, such as Dick Cary and Sam Watkins have been made in the past, such recognition from the university has not occurred.
A plaque memorializing Pleasant Hull, a bellringer and janitor at the university, was erected in 1951 and resides next to the bell. On the plaque, Hull is described as “colorful and traditional … typical in faithfulness and loyalty of many servants of the university.”
Today, students ring the bell after acing a test or even during their first tour of UGA. Other celebratory occasions such as graduating, making it into a college of choice or winning a national title for the first time in over 40 years also warrant pulling the large rope to set off the bell.
“It felt amazing [to ring the bell]. It’s hard to put into words but it’s a UGA tradition and we’ve got to keep those traditions going,” UGA alum Jonathan Brunson said.
Ringing the bell in celebration of Georgia getting a national title was Brunson’s second time to participate in the tradition — the other being on his graduation day.
“All I have to say is ‘Go Dawgs.’ It feels good,” Brunson said.
Since the minutes following the win, the line to ring the Chapel Bell has remained populated with families, alumni and students capturing photos of themselves as they pull it all while yelling “Go Dawgs!”
“I obviously haven’t been alive for the 41 years, but rival fans made sure I felt every one of those years so it was very nice to finally be able to celebrate this win,” UGA graduate student Jared Palmgren said.
Ever since the bell was set behind the Chapel in 1913, the 700-pound structure has undergone a few repairs, according to a 2019 Red & Black article. During these times, people weren’t able to ring the bell. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also made the tradition sometimes difficult to participate in.
“This is actually one of the first times that I was able to ring the bell,” UGA alum Shaolynn Betts who graduated last year said.
With the Chapel Bell in use, those near North Campus can expect to hear the rings in the days to come as fans continue to celebrate a long-awaited win by the Georgia Bulldogs.
“I felt strong because it’s very hard to ring the bell. It’s almost like a representation of the struggle you have to go through in order to beat such a powerhouse in football,” Betts said. “We did it, we’re here and we get to hear the victory over and over again at least for the next couple of years.”