Harvey Updyke, 'Bama fan who poisoned trees at Auburn, dies

An overzealous University of Alabama football fan who poisoned landmark oak trees at archrival Auburn University has died

ByThe Associated Press
July 31, 2020, 2:44 PM
Harvey Updyke
FILE - In this June 10, 2013 file photo, University of Alabama fan Harvey Updyke departs the Lee County Justice Center in Opelika, Ala., after pleading guilty earlier to poisoning landmark oak trees at Auburn University. Updyke has died. He was 71. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File).
The Associated Press

OPELIKA, Ala. -- Harvey Updyke, the overzealous University of Alabama football fan who poisoned landmark oak trees at archrival Auburn University and went to jail after bragging about it on a radio show, has died.

Updyke's son, Bear Updyke, named for 'Bama coaching legend Paul “Bear” Bryant, said the one-time Texas state trooper died Thursday, al.com reported. He was 71.

No cause of death was released, but court filings showed Updyke, who lived in Louisiana, had numerous ailments including congestive heart failure and coronary disease.

Updyke pleaded guilty in 2013 to poisoning trees at Auburn’s Toomer’s Corner, where Tiger fans traditionally gather after big victories to throw rolls of toilet paper over the oaks.

Authorities learned what had happened only after Updyke, using a pseudonym, announced what he had done on a call-in sports talk show. Updyke said he was upset after Auburn beat Alabama in 2010 and then went on to win the national championship.

He served six months in jail for damaging an agricultural crop and was ordered to turn over $800,000 but paid only a fraction of the amount. Updyke told a judge he couldn't afford to pay more, and prosecutors' attempt to get more money stalled last year because of questions over Updyke's health.

In a public Facebook post, daughter-in-law Marsha Updyke recalled Updyke as a passionate, lighthearted family man who carried a gun, wore boots and loved attention.

“He was misunderstood at times, but anyone close to him understood him, knew his heart, forgave his flaws, and loved him. He made us all laugh. He genuinely cared,” she wrote.

Neither Updyke nor her husband immediately returned messages, and Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes, who tried to get additional restitution payments from Updyke, said he didn't have independent confirmation of his death.

Margaret Brown, an attorney who represented Updyke, declined comment.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events