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.
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
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