(from left to right): Doc conducting the concert band (spring 1967) Doc accepting a gift from TCU Band Director Jacobsen. The Gift: A clock with the inscription "To Doc, a Little Man with a Big Reputation" (presented after halftime in Fayetteville, 1969) Doc with the concert band (spring 1968)

(from left to right):
Doc conducting the concert band (spring 1967)
Doc accepting a gift from TCU Band Director Jacobsen. The Gift: A clock with the inscription "To Doc, a Little Man with a Big Reputation" (presented after halftime in Fayetteville, 1969)
Doc with the concert band (spring 1968)

A Director of Note: Richard “Doc” Worthington

Richard “Doc” Worthington

Richard “Doc” Worthington

by Robert Hopper

More than 370 students are participating in the Razorback Marching Band or a concert band during the fall 2014 semester.  Band members are supported by four band directors, two staff members and six graduate assistants.

In the fall of 1957, Richard Worthington arrived to a very different program.  Worthington, affectionately known as Doc, was finishing his doctorate from the University of Illinois when he accepted the director of bands position at the University of Arkansas.  Worthington took over a band program of 81 students. 

The band’s nickname at the time was the “Marching 100.” Worthington restyled the band as the “Marching Razorbacks” to differentiate the group from other college bands and to open the opportunity for the band to grow in numbers.  Over Worthington’s 14-year tenure, the band nearly doubled to more than 150 members. 

Alumnus Bill Woolly, who served as a drum major under Worthington, remembers the director for his kindness and generosity to students.

“Doc was one of the nicest men I ever met,” Woolly said.  “He depended on student staff and trusted them to help run the program.”

Under Worthington’s direction, the Razorback Band played for President John F. Kennedy at the dedication of the Greers Ferry Lake in Heber Springs on Oct. 3, 1963.  The band also played for President Richard Nixon in 1969 when the No. 2 ranked Razorbacks lost to the No. 1 ranked Texas Longhorns in Fayetteville.  

Worthington’s most enduring legacy to the university came in 1964 when he oversaw the integration of the Razorback Band.  Geneva Hill, a native of Little Rock and an alto saxophone player, became the first African-American member of the Razorback Band.  James Seawood, a tenor saxophone player and the first African-American male band member, joined Hill in 1965

Probably the most controversial subject during Worthington’s time at the University of Arkansas was the desire by some campus groups to remove “Dixie” from the band’s repertoire at the athletic and campus events. Strong feelings on both sides of the issue arose during the last few years that Worthington served as the school’s band director and especially when he eventually decided in the fall of 1969 not to play the tune anymore.  Courageous an act that it was, he and the band felt the effects for a long time afterward. In fact, his successor would have to deal with the fallout for years to come.

~ The University of Arkansas Razorback Band: A History 1874-2004

After leaving the University of Arkansas, Worthington was appointed chair of the Department of Music at Northeastern Louisiana University, now the University of Louisiana at Monroe. He served as director of the School of Music for 17 years and was named director emeritus in 1989 before retiring in 1995. He is also credited with the founding of the Monroe Symphony Orchestra.

Worthington served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, and for many years served as the commercial, instrument rating and chief flight instructor for McMahan Aviation in Monroe. He and several other pilots from around Louisiana formed Angel Flight in 1997 and Pilots for Patients in 2007. 

Worthington passed away on April 3, 2014, at the age of 93.

“…[H]e left behind such a legacy of  goodwill among band members and the faculty that he was frequently invited back for special celebrations and anniversaries to be honored for his many contributions to the organization.” 

~ The University of Arkansas Razorback Band: A History 1874-2004


Robert Hopper

About the author

Robert Hopper serves as the associate director of operations for the University of Arkansas Bands Program in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. Information for this story was compiled from personal accounts and The University of Arkansas Razorback Band: A History 1874-2004 by T.T. Tyler Thompson