Sept. 30, 2013
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
While he's excited about the new riverfront Baylor Stadium on campus, Walter "Pinkie" Palmer is a little saddened that the 64-year run at Floyd Casey Stadium will come to an end after this season.
"There's a lot of history there, a lot of history for me," said Palmer, who is part of the 2013 class of inductees for the Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame that will be honored at the Oct. 18 banquet at the Ferrell Center. "I'm glad that the school is getting new facilities. I can't imagine it not being a real boost to the program having the new athletic workout practice fields and now coming along with the stadium. It's just going to be unbelievable. . . . But it's a little sad to remember some of the great events and great opportunities that I had playing in that stadium."
One of those came in his very first game at the stadium on Sept. 10, 1966. In a rare nationally televised game (ABC), a heavily underdog Baylor team was hosting a seventh-ranked Syracuse team that featured the All-American backfield tandem of Larry Csonka and Floyd Little, who have both been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"As I remember, it was the first game of the season for collegiate football," said Palmer, a sophomore running back for the Bears that season. "They had some legends . . . Larry Csonka and obviously the other running back (Little) that was in the running for the Heisman that year. They had a great offense."
But in one of the decade's biggest upsets, Baylor dominated from the start and rolled to a 35-12 win over the Orangemen.
"It was just a wonderful occasion for me," Palmer said. "My first game as a sophomore, and I was fortunate enough to catch a touchdown pass in that game. And man, I thought it was simple. Later on, I found out it was a little more difficult."
After starting out 3-1 that season, including a 7-0 road victory at No. 5 Arkansas, Baylor lost four of its last six that year and won just four games combined in Palmer's last two seasons.
"Nobody likes to lose," said Palmer, who was No. 2 at the time and still ranks 15th in career yards rushing with 1,554. "I came from a background of a winning football team (at Olney, Texas). And anytime you don't come out ahead in a ball game and certainly across a season, it's not a good thing."
A captain on the 1968 team that turned out to be coach John Bridgers' last at Baylor, Palmer rushed for a then-school-record 818 yards and six touchdowns, earning second-team All-Southwest Conference honors and a spot on Baylor's 1960-69 All-Decade team in a backfield that included All-Americans Don Trull and Ronnie Bull.
"Of course, Bridgers had come from the pro football era. And what he was implementing offensively at Baylor was at the time the cutting-edge stuff," Palmer said. "I wasn't the typical 215-, 220-pound fullback that some people had at that time. And being a running back in a pro-style offense gave you a lot of opportunities that maybe you wouldn't have had if you were just a straight fullback. I thought it was great."
Saving some of his best for the last, Palmer rushed for 120 yards on 31 carries in a 35-19 loss at 14th-ranked Arkansas, followed that up with 128 yards on 30 attempts in a 10-9 Homecoming victory over defending SWC champion Texas A&M and capped off his senior season with 115 yards rushing in a 16-7 win over Rice.
"I didn't have to get up for that (A&M) game. I was already up. I loved to play A&M," Palmer said. "I think we had a good offensive game plan going into that game. The coaches had picked up some keys that permitted us to run the ball (230 yards on 54 attempts). We did a good job moving the ball on the ground, and the defense responded, and we ended up coming out ahead in that game."
Like fellow Hall of Fame inductee Jerry Marcontell, Palmer stayed in school an extra year and coached the freshman running backs while getting a triple major in finance, economics and business management.
"I figured out that coaching was not my thing," said Palmer, who worked under freshman coach Mickey Sullivan. "I think everybody that plays football wants to be a coach at some point. But after I got a taste of it, I decided to go other ways."
Business didn't turn out to be his thing, either.
"Between Martin Hall and the Hankamer School of Business, there was a law school," Palmer said. "So, I walk in there one day and talked about it and signed up."
Palmer graduated from the Baylor Law School in 1972 and joined a practice in Marshall, Texas, with his father-in-law, Sam B. Hall, a future U.S. Congressman and federal judge.
"He gave me an opportunity to learn the legal profession," Palmer said of his now-deceased father-in-law, "and it was a wonderful education."
Now head of the Palmer Law Firm, Inc., Palmer served as the City Attorney for Marshall for 18 years and has added his son, Chase Palmer, to the firm. Chase was the "back bone" in raising funds for a monument honoring men's basketball's "Immortal Ten."
Watching the resurgence of Baylor football under coach Art Briles, Palmer said, "Everybody that's ever donned the green and gold has to be excited by Briles' offensive system. I think some people thought it was just a fluke with (Robert Griffin III). Then we come along the next year with a passer (Nick Florence) that leads the nation. And now we have Mr. (Bryce) Petty doing a great job. It just shows you how great a coach Briles is from an offensive perspective."
Joining Palmer in the 2013 class are Marcontell, Texas Rangers outfielder David Murphy (baseball), NCAA champion quarter-miler Brandon Couts (track and field), women's basketball All-American Sheila Lambert and longtime NBA player Brian Skinner (men's basketball).
Tickets to the Hall of Fame Banquet, which will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Ferrell Center, are $50 each. Table sponsorships (seating for 10) are also available for $750 (individual) and $1,000 (corporate).
Contact Tammy Hardin in the "B" Association office at 254-710-3045 or firstname.lastname@example.org.