Smokey trainer Dr. Earl C. Hudson dies at age 91

University of Tennessee mascot Smokey X, a Bluetick Coonhound, watches football action against Kentucky from the sidelines in their NCAA college football game in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) — Dr. Earl C. Hudson, the trainer of the University of Tennessee live mascot Smokey died Saturday at the age of 91.

Hudson and his wife Martha have owned and trained the line of blue tick coonhounds since, who serve at UT’s living mascot, since 1994.

“I have been honored to know the Hudson family for the past 25 years, and I cherish my relationship with the family and especially with Mr. Earl,” Tennessee Spirit Coordinator Postell-Gee said. “Mr. Earl’s passion for the Vols was unrivaled, as evidenced by his many years of commitment to afford Tennessee fans the privilege to share his beloved canines.”

Postell-Gee oversees UT students serving as Smokey’s handlers.

The Hudsons were the owners of Hudson Drug Store. Dr. Hudson was a pharmacist at the business, and he was a U.S. Army veteran of the Korean War.

Hudson’s son and daughter-in-law, Charles and Cindy Hudson, will continue to provide UT with a living mascot.

The family will receive friends from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at Stevens Mortuary. There will be a celebration of life service at 7 p.m.

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Memorial contributions can be made to the General Fund of Smithwood Baptist Church at 4914 Jacksboro Pike in Knoxville. There will be military honors at the private graveside service.

The coonhound became the Vols live mascot in 1953. The school’s Pep Club hosted a contest and placed announcements in newspapers saying, “This can’t be an ordinary hound. He must be a ‘Houn’ Dog’ in the best sense of the word.”

According to UT, the first Smokey was chosen during halftime of a football game against Mississippi State. The winner was “Brooks’ Blue Smokey,” a blue tick coonhound owned by Rev. Bill Brooks. Brooks was Hudson’s brother-in-law. After Brooks’ death, his wife Mildred continued to provide the school with a live mascot until her brother took over in 1994.

During 1955, Smokey II was taken by Kentucky students. However, Smokey is not a mascot to mess with. In 1957, Smokey II survived a confrontation with the Baylor Bear in 1957.

The current mascot for the Vols is Smokey X, who made his debut in 2013.

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