The Story Behind “Go Heels Go America!”

By Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I wrote about “Go Heels Go America” a little over two years ago, but I feel like with yesterday’s Veterans Day celebrations as well as the immense increase in popularity of the phrase, it makes sense that I address it again.

Just a few years ago, “Go Heels Go America” could be seen on a select few bumpers of fratty SUV’s throughout North Carolina, pins during football games, on an occasional wristband and at the conclusion of every post on the world renowned blog, “Thrown Away To Worthy.”

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Recently, the phrase morphed into a rallying cry for Tar Heels supporters across the world. From Tar Heel fans and Carolina alumni serving overseas, patriotic celebrations at sporting events in Chapel Hill, t-shirts in the student stores and sorority cocktails, “Go Heels Go America” is a phrase that has gained tremendous popularity within the Tar Heel community. If you were in Chapel Hill for the Homecoming festivities over the weekend, it was everywhere. But where did it come from?

As the fight song goes, Harper Williams was a Tar Heel born and a Tar Heel bred. A Wilmington native, the majority of Williams family attended the University of North Carolina, so it was no surprise when Harper arrived in Chapel Hill in the fall of 2004 to start his freshman year.

Williams was surrounded by his best friends and living a lifelong dream as a student at Carolina. It was perfect. After his first semester, the outgoing Williams returned home to celebrate the holidays with his family and friends, but eager to get back to Chapel Hill.

Unfortunately, he never made it back. Williams was tragically killed in an automobile accident in Wilmington on December 19, 2004. He was just 19 years old.

Amid the tragedy and mourning, Williams family and friends, of which there are many, collaborated and developed the “Harper Beall Williams Memorial Scholarship Fund” as a way to remember him. “Go Heels Go America” has been the rallying cry for the scholarship fund since its creation. Proceeds from every pin, bumper sticker and wristband adorned with the phrase goes to the scholarship fund.

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The saying was adopted by Harper and his buddies whenever cheering on the Heels during his freshman year. Nowadays you hear the phrase everywhere from sporting events to Independence Day celebrations on Wrightsville Beach.

Harper would surely be proud of the wide reach of the phrase, even if the original meaning might have been lost along the way. That’s the kind of guy he was. He was selfless and simply wanted everybody to have a good time and smile.

At the same time, to many who knew Harper well, the phrase provides a connection to a great Tar Heel, brother, son and friend. It always keeps Harper close by and the more the phrase is used, the more pride his friends and family can take in what Harper meant to so many people.

So the next time you see “Go Heels Go America” on the car in front of you or yell it after the National Anthem at a game, remember that it is greater than a marketable phrase. It represents much more.

More than ever,
Go Heels Go America

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