John Antonio was with Henderson Advertising when he designed the Clemson Tiger Paw logo in 1970.
John Antonio, 83, the designer of Clemson’s Tiger Paw logo, died today in Greenville after a long bout with cancer.
The native of Greenville designed the logo in the spring of 1970, and it was introduced at six separate press conferences around South Carolina, Charlotte and Atlanta by head football coach Hootie Ingram, head basketball coach Tates Locke, All-ACC running back Ray Yauger and university Vice President Wright Bryan on July 21, 1970.
Frank Howard had just retired after 30 years as head coach and replaced by Ingram, and Locke had just been hired as the new basketball coach, so Edwards felt it was time for a change from an image concept as well. He hired Henderson Advertising in Greenville to work on a new athletic logo.
Company President Jimmy Henderson had attended Clemson and took personal interest in the project. He gave the project to Antonio, who had worked with corporations on logos and public relations. He contacted every school in the nation and requested a copy of their Tiger logo. All were pictures or drawing in some form of a Tiger.
Antonio then wrote the Museum of National History in Chicago and asked for a plaster-of-Paris cast of the imprint of a Bengal Tiger’s paw. This was sent to Henderson and a picture was made, slightly tilted about 10 degrees to the right.
Antonio had a meeting with Clemson coaches and administrators in early summer of 1970 and showed the use of the Tiger paw on stationary, athletic fields and uniforms. Howard, then the director of athletics, was not impressed until Antonio pulled out an orange Clemson helmet from under the desk. He had affixed a white tiger paw to the helmet. It was unusual in those times to have any logo on a college helmet.
“That helmet made a big impact on Coach Howard,” Sports Information Director Bob Bradley recalled years later. “He was so impressed he wanted to bring that helmet back to Clemson and show everyone.”
Antonio’s memorial service will be at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at First Presbyterian in Greenville.