Lindley Bothwell, revered as “Mr. B” by generations of song girls and yell leaders at USC where he was their volunteer coach for the past 60 years, died Thursday in Sherman Oaks after a long illness. He was 84.
A successful Woodland Hills citrus rancher, former Indianapolis 500 racer, pioneer surfer and collector of vintage cars, Bothwell was USC’s first yell leader as an undergraduate in 1919. Then USC football coach “Gloomy Gus” Henderson dubbed him “the worst yell leader I’ve ever seen.”
Decades later, Bothwell chuckled at that evaluation, explaining that “I was leading yells when the quarterback was trying to call audibles.”
He was a good enough baseball player to be offered a-then lucrative $10,000 signing bonus by Pittsburgh in 1923, but he turned it down on the advice of a coach to “get all the education you can. Nobody can take that away from you.”
In nine years, he completed undergraduate and master’s degrees at USC and a bachelor’s degree in agriculture at Oregon State University, where he was also a yell leader for three years.
In 1921, he started the first rotating card stunts in cheering sections at USC football games--the first being performed by 500 men, all wearing white shirts and seated at the 50-yard line in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Under his guidance, the USC Song Girls were named the best song-leading team in the United States in 1972 and again in 1974 by the International Cheerleading Foundation.
Bothwell’s grandfather, Dr. Walter Lindley, was the first dean of the USC School of Medicine, and two of his aunts founded the university’s chapter of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. Bothwell, in turn, founded USC’s chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity in 1926.
“I just never wanted to go any place else,” he once said. “We lived over on 29th Street, and we could hear the yelling and screaming when there was a football game.”
‘Honest and Open’
He clearly enjoyed his association with young people, explaining in a 1980 interview that “the thing I like about the kids is that they kid you--if they like you, that is. They’re very honest and open.
“But I’m their grandfather, not their father. Their father has to pay all their bills.”
He is survived by his wife, Ann; a son, Lindley Jr.; a daughter, Bonnie; one brother, Douglas Bothwell, and a sister, Mary Low Fisher of New York City.
Funeral services are scheduled for Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. at Old North Church in Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, Hollywood Hills. The family has suggested that donations may be made to the USC Song Girls/Yell Leaders Foundation or the USC School of Social Work’s Crittenton Scholarship Fund.