Rice Athletics mourns the passing of former All Southwest Conference lineman Larry Whitmire '58, who was a tri-captain on the 1957 Owl football team that upset #1 Texas A&M on their way to the school's last outright SWC Championship in 1957. Whitmire, who was inducted into the Rice Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996, passed away in Houston on Thursday.
Originally from Corpus Christi where he attended Ray High School, Whitmire was a three-year starter on the Owls line earning second team All-SWC honors as a junior and then first team accolades as a senior. He joined with King Hill and Matt Gorges to serve as captains for the '57 Owls and helped guide that team through a 3-3 start to an eventual conference title and berth in the Cotton Bowl.
Rice's run to the 1957 title started with a 13-7 win over then #12 Arkansas at Rice Stadium to set up a meeting with top-ranked Texas A&M the following week. In front of a standing room crowd of 73,000, Whitmire and his teammates stunned the Aggies and eventual Heisman winner John David Crow, 7-6 and then closed out the conference crown with a pair of 20-0 blankings of TCU and Baylor to earn the school's fourth and last Cotton Bowl appearance, where they fell to Navy, 20-7.
Whitmire took full advantage of the scholarship opportunity Rice head coach Jess Neely offered, becoming a four-time graduate of Rice. He received his B.A. in 1958, his B.S. in 1959, his M.S. in 1964 and his Ph.D. in 1966. He was also involved in numerous extracurricular activities while within the hedges, including intramurals, Rally Club and the student ASME society.
Upon graduation from Rice in 1959, Whitmire worked for nine months for Atlantic Refining Company before serving a six-month stint with the Army Corps of Engineers in 1960. After leaving the Army, he went to work for Hess Terminal, but returned to graduate school at Rice in the fall of 1962. In 1966, after receiving his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, Whitmire went to work for Exxon Production Research Company as a staff engineer.
Four years later, he transferred to Exxon Pipeline Company, where he worked until he retired in 1994.
Whitmire and his wife of 55 years, Rilda (Richardson '59), were an active members of the Memorial Drive Methodist Church where he served in many lay capacities, including coordinator for the church's youth baseball program for many years. Along with Rilda, he is survived by their three sons, their wives and seven grandchildren.
Information regarding funeral services and memorials are pending.