In an ESPN Outside the Lines story, Wright Thompson of ESPN.com writes about his interview with Paul “Bear” Bryant’s former driver and assistant, Billy Varner. Varner, 76, was one of the few trusted people in Bryant’s inner circle and probably knew the legendary Alabama coach better than anyone else working for him. Here is an excerpt from Thompson’s story called ‘The Last Ride of Bear and Billy’.
“Billy was bartending at the Tuscaloosa Country Club. That’s where he met Alabama’s new football coach, and when Varner took the same job at the Indian Hills Country Club, where Bryant lived off the third fairway, they became close. Most afternoons, Bryant would slip into the bar and play cards with friends. When the bar was empty, the two men talked. That led to jobs, bartending at parties and running errands, and by the late 1960s, around the same time the coach traded his brown fedora for a hat with black-and-white checks, Billy began working for Bryant full time. You want a window into Bear Bryant’s power in the state of Alabama? He got his bartender a badge and a gun.”