Tuesday, November 26, 2013

All Tied Up: The 1963 Egg Bowl

"Thanksgiving" means different things for different people. For many, the holiday conjures images of bounteous feasts and gatherings with family and friends. For others, it’s an opportunity to serve those who may not have enough food, clothing or shelter. For many Mississippians, though, it also means that it’s time for football. Specifically, it’s time for the annual gridiron grudge match between Mississippi State and Ole Miss. We call it the “Egg Bowl.” What’s at stake in the annual battle for the golden egg are bragging rights for a whole year. Fifty years ago, though, the Egg Bowl didn’t exactly produce a winner...or a loser, for that matter.

The 1963 edition of the Egg Bowl was played at Scott Field in Starkville on Saturday, November 30. The weather was cold and blustery, with wind gusts in excess of thirty miles per hour. Coming into the game, both teams had good records. Ole Miss was undefeated, and only a 0-0 tie in the first week against Memphis State to tarnish an otherwise stellar campaign. Once again, the Rebels had almost wrapped up the SEC championship and were heading to the Sugar Bowl, leading the conference in both offensive and defensive categories. Mississippi State had also had a good year, with just two losses (to Memphis State and Alabama) and one tie against Florida. For the Bulldogs, it was the first winning season in six years. Both teams were led by All-Americans at center and tackle and both teams had good coaches. Ole Miss, of course, was led by the legendary Coach John Vaught. Mississippi State’s coach in 1963 was Paul Davis, a native of Knoxville, Tennessee. Davis (left) played at Ole Miss and then coached at New Albany High School before heading to Jones County Junior College. From there, he coached at Memphis State and then at Mississippi State as an assistant under Coach Wade Walker. Davis took over the reins as head coach the previous year and only managed a 3-6 record in 1962.  Although Ole Miss was still considered the odds-on favorite for the 1963 Egg Bowl, the game promised to be a hard-fought contest, especially at Scott Field. On this occasion, however, many of the 35,000 fans assembled for the game were not entirely focused on football. Just six days earlier, President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  By all accounts, the crowd was a bit subdued. It had certainly been an eventful week.

Once the teams kicked off, however, all eyes focused on the contest at hand. In the game, Ole Miss scored first, driving the ball eighty yards in eleven plays, scoring on a pass by Rebels quarterback Jim Weatherly. A native of Pontotoc, Weatherly (right) was an All-American football player but is best known today as a songwriter. Among other tunes, he composed “Midnight Train to Georgia,” made famous by Gladys Knight & the Pips. On this day, however, he was the man at the helm of the league-leading Ole Miss squad. Meanwhile, Mississippi State couldn’t get a first down in the opening period. In the second quarter, though, the Bulldogs got going and managed to score on a 49-yard field goal (a school record at the time) from kicker Justin Canale. Canale was from Memphis and was one of five brothers who played at either Mississippi State or Tennessee. After graduation, he played as a lineman in the AFL for both Boston and Cincinnati before joining the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes, where he was part of the 1970 Grey Cup championship team. With Canale’s successful field goal, Ole Miss held a slim 7-3 lead at halftime.

In the third quarter, the Rebels had a hard time moving the ball and at one point were backed up deep in their own territory. Facing a stiff wind, the punter managed only an 18 yard kick and the Bulldogs got the ball at the Rebel 32 yard line. From there, State went on to score their only touchdown of the day on a halfback pass by Ode Burrell, the only pass he ever threw in his college career and the only pass completed that day by State. Burrell (left), a native of Goodman, Mississippi, was a JUCO All-American at Holmes Junior College before heading to Mississippi State, and then went on to play for the AFL’s Houston Oilers, where he was named the AFL All-Star in 1965. The first time he touched the ball for Houston, Burrell returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. As big as that play was, however, it probably didn’t compare with the pass he threw in the Egg Bowl. With that touchdown, the Bulldogs – incredibly - were now in the lead, 10-7! Mississippi State’s narrow margin held for more than a quarter, but then Ole Miss began what looked to be the game-winning drive. Starting at their own 25 yard line, the Rebels moved methodically down the field, gaining 72 yards in twelve plays. With a little more 3:00 remaining, Ole Miss had the ball at the State three yard line. It was fourth and goal, and the game was on the line. Instead on going for the winning touchdown, however, Coach Vaught chose to send in the kicker, Billy Carl Irwin. Placed at the ten yard line, Irwin easily made the kick (although he had missed an extra point in the 1962 Egg Bowl), and the game was tied 10-10. With time left on the clock, Mississippi State had the opportunity to pull the upset of the year, but it was not to be. The Bulldogs just couldn’t move the ball and the game ended in a tie.

The 1963 Egg Bowl ended just where it began – tied. Throughout the long history of the game, there had been other ties, but this would be the last (and will likely be the last). In explaining why he went for the tie instead of an outright win, Coach Vaught (seen here in the 1963 Sugar Bowl) noted that Ole Miss was still “conference champions and undefeated.” Had the Rebels failed to at least tie Mississippi State, Auburn would have taken the conference title, so on paper it was a solid decision. For the Bulldogs, though, they could now rightfully claim that the Rebels hadn’t beaten them. As with most ties, neither side was entirely happy with the outcome, but neither was too upset either. Neither team lost, but then neither team won. Ole Miss, for its part, preserved its claim to an undefeated season and won the SEC title. Mississippi State earned the right to claim at least a partial victory in the Egg Bowl and got to a bowl game for the first time in twenty-three years and earned a #11 ranking in the polls (Ole Miss was a consensus #7). With a record of 6-2-2, Coach Davis was named the SEC Coach of the Year.

In the post-season bowls, Ole Miss went to New Orleans and played in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. Played in four inches of snow, the Tide couldn’t score a touchdown but managed to beat Johnny Vaught’s team on the strength on four field goals, 12-7. Interestingly, the quarterback that day for Coach Bear Bryant was Steve Sloan, substituting for Joe Namath, who had been suspended. Sloan, of course, would later become head coach at Ole Miss. Mississippi State, meanwhile, earned a trip to “sunny” Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and played North Carolina State in the Liberty Bowl on December 21. With temperatures as low as 15 degrees, only 8,309 fans (in a stadium which held 102,000) saw the game in person. Mississippi State won the game 16-12, capping off a 7-2-2 season. Due to the low attendance, the game moved to an indoor facility in Atlantic City in 1964, becoming the first bowl game played indoors. The next year, the Liberty Bowl moved to Memphis, where it remains today.

Photo and Image Sources:
(1) Egg Bowl trophy: http://sezyou.wordpress.com
(2) Davis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_E._Davis
(3) Weatherly: http://www.fanbase.com/Mississippi-Rebels-Football-1964
(4) Burrell: http://www.fanbase.com/Ode-Burrell
(5) Vaught: http://www.mmbolding.com 
(6) Liberty Bowl: http://www.wcbi.com

Monday, November 25, 2013

"The mountain itself seemed to howl...": The 34th Mississippi at Lookout Mountain

In the early morning hours of November 25, 1863, six brave souls from the 8th Kentucky (U.S.) volunteered to scale the heights of Lookout Mountain above Chattanooga, Tennessee, to see if the mountaintop’s Confederate defenders had departed. When they discovered that Braxton Bragg’s men were indeed gone, the Kentuckians planted their regimental flag at the crest. At dawn, the rest of the Union Army huddled on the slopes below observed the flag and knew that Lookout Mountain was theirs, resulting in “wild and prolonged cheers,” according to Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, whose men had secured the position. To celebrate the occasion, the detachment, led by 49-year-old Captain John Wilson, had their photograph (right) taken on Lookout Rock, one of many subsequent photos taken from the dizzying heights.

The fight for control of Lookout Mountain had occurred the day before and centered on the slopes below the crest, primarily at a place called the Craven House. Defending the position were several Mississippi and Alabama regiments in Moore’s and Walthall’s brigades with about 2,700 men, both part of Maj. Gen. Carter L. Stevenson’s division. The Mississippians, all in one brigade, were commanded by Edward Cary Walthall. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Walthall (left) moved to Holly Springs at a young age and began practicing law in Coffeeville in the 1850s. After being elected district attorney, Walthall joined the army as a lieutenant in the “Yalobusha Rifles” of the 15th Mississippi but by the fall of 1863 had been promoted to brigadier general. Perhaps his greatest day as a commander would come on November 25 with his defense of Missionary Ridge. On the 24th, however, his brigade was engaged in a desperate struggle to hold the slopes of Lookout Mountain.

At approximately 8:00 a.m., Union Brig. Gen. John Geary’s “White Star” division of Hooker’s Corps crossed Lookout Creek in the valley below the mountain and captured a large number of Walthall’s pickets who were posted there. The Mississippians were unaware of the Union advance due to a thick fog, an atmospheric condition which would later give the battle the name “The Battle Above the Clouds.” Pushing past the creek, the Federal line moved against Walthall’s position at the Craven House (above right), where Geary’s men met fierce resistance from the 24th and 27th Mississippi, the 29th and 30th Mississippi and the 34th Mississippi Infantry. The latter regiment was commanded by Col. Samuel Benton. A Tennessee native, Benton was a successful lawyer and newspaper publisher in Holly Springs before the war and was a member of the Mississippi Legislature and the Secession Convention. Wounded at Perryville, Kentucky, in October 1862, he was back with his regiment in time for the Lookout Mountain fight. Seven months later, on July 22, 1864, Benton (right) was seriously wounded at Atlanta and died after suffering for six days in the hospital at Griffin, Georgia. His body was later reinterred to Holly Springs’ Hillcrest Cemetery. Benton County, Mississippi, organized in 1870, is named in his memory.

During the desperate fighting, the 34th Mississippi was cut off from the rest of Walthall’s Brigade and had to withdraw as best they could up the steep, rocky slopes of the mountain, all the while suffering from Federal artillery fire raining down on them. Of that experience, one of Benton’s men, Private Henry Woodson of Co. E, wrote that “The whole face of the mountain was lurid with bursting shells and seems to belch smoke from every crevice, while the mountain itself seemed to howl and shriek as if a million demons had been aroused in its caverns.” The rest of Walthall’s brigade fought stubbornly around the Craven House but was forced back by overwhelming odds to a second line several hundred yards further up the mountain. By the afternoon, after being reinforced by Pettus’ brigade from the crest of Lookout Mountain, Walthall’s and Moore’s men managed to patch together a defensive line, but it was both thin and precarious. Luckily, the swirling fog and heavy clouds of smoke helped hide the weak condition of the Confederate position. Finally, after being battered all day, they were withdrawn about 8:00 p.m. and moved to the defense of Missionary Ridge. During the engagement, nearly 240 men from the 34th Mississippi were reported as wounded and missing, and many of those were captured. An untold number were killed. 
Among the men serving that day in the 34th Mississippi was a private by the name of Thomas Jefferson Blythe. Born in August 1829 in Alabama, T.J. Blythe was nineteen years old when he married Ester Elvira Baum and settled down in Marshall County, Mississippi. His father, Andrew Jackson Blythe, served briefly in the Second Seminole War in Florida in 1836 as a musician, but was stricken with measles and had to come back home to Mississippi. On April 27, 1862, thirty-four year old T.J. enlisted in Co. F (the “Goodman Guards”), 34th Mississippi Infantry, along with two brothers, John Wesley and Newton Jasper Blythe. Of the three, John Wesley became an officer, serving as a lieutenant. Remarkably, all three survived the war. T.J., in fact, lived until 1907 and is buried (right) in the Lowry Methodist Cemetery near Ripley along with a son named Henry Patton Foote (lower right) who died in 1898. Blythe’s name might be just another of the thousands of Confederate veterans who are buried in graveyards across the state, except that he happens to be the great grandfather of a U.S. president. Henry Patton Foote Blythe’s son, as it turns out, was a traveling salesman. Killed in an automobile accident in 1946, he died just three months before the birth of his son. Hailing from the little town of Hope, Arkansas, young William Jefferson Blythe III adopted the name of his stepfather when he was fifteen years old. Today, of course, we know him as President Bill Clinton.

(1) 8th Kentucky: http://muddyboots76blogspot.com 
(2) Walthall: http://records.ancestry.com
(3) Craven House: Photo by author
(4) Benton: http://findagrave.com
(5) 34th Mississippi Flag: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com
(6) (7) Thomas Jefferson Blythe and Henry Patton Blythe: http://findagrave.com

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The President and the Bishop

Two great men, one a statesman and military hero and the other a man of the cloth, engaged in a very public war of words in the late 19th century over the hot-button issue of liquor. Both were Mississippians, and following the heated exchange both probably wished in part that the issue had never surfaced, though neither retreated from their position one iota. The statesman in this drama was Jefferson Davis. Born in 1808, Davis had served as a U.S. Senator, U.S. Secretary of War and then as president of the Confederate States of America. Although he was vilified by many in the post-war years, Davis (right) regained some degree of political influence in the South toward the end of his life. In Texas, Davis had inserted himself in the fight over a statewide vote on a prohibition amendment in 1887. Although the vote involved the question of alcohol, the issue was as much about the future of Southern politics as anything, and pitted the old Democratic Party machine against the northern Republicans and more reform-minded Democrats, among whom was a former Confederate cabinet member, John H. Reagan. For his part, Davis was squarely on the side of the Democratic, anti-prohibition side, which, oddly enough, was largely supported by the black vote. Politics, as they say, often makes for strange bedfellows.

Among the supporters of the prohibition amendment was a young Methodist bishop named Charles Betts Galloway. Born in 1849 in Kosciusko, Mississippi, Galloway was elected bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in 1886 after previously serving as editor of the New Orleans Christian Advocate. Among other things, Galloway was a vocal opponent of 'demon rum' and, like Davis, inserted himself into the politics of prohibition. By extension, then, he allied himself with the "new" democrats and Republicans, a coalition that some old-line Democrats feared might morph into a third party. For Galloway, though, the prohibition fight was less about politics than about 'moral reform,' a cause the freshly minted bishop must have felt justified to lead. Concerning the issue of liquor, Galloway was quoted as saying "The heart will never be converted while the reason is crazed with the poison of ardent spirits. Then in the name of sorrowing women and starving children, and the one hundred thousand drunkards who are annually toppling into hell, let us battle for the suppression of this blighting sin and the triumph of the right." As it turned out, though, the battle in Texas was lost and the advocates of alcohol won by an overwhelming margin. Given the significance of the vote, the nation took due notice. In reporting the results, the San Francisco Chronicle stated flatly that "the Texans will give up whiskey when they have good ice-skating in Hades."

Far from seeing it as a crushing defeat, however, Bishop Galloway and other prohibitionists considered it a temporary setback and simply redoubled their efforts to save the nation's soul from 'spirituous liquors.' Jefferson Davis, meanwhile, had been successful in turning back what he viewed as a political coalition even more toxic than moonshine, and he wrote a letter to his old friend and former Texas governor Francis Richard Lubbock in support of the outcome (Lubbock had been Davisaide-de-camp during the Civil War and had been captured along with Davis and imprisoned). When Davisletter came to the attention of Bishop Galloway, he publicly blasted his fellow Mississippian before an anti-liquor audience. On August 11, 1887, Galloway spoke to a crowd in Brookhaven, Mississippi, and said “I have only one regret about the memorable contest in Texas. Not so much that the amendment was defeated, for that is only temporary, but that the great name of the most distinguished Mississippian should have been used in favor of the open saloon and against moral reform.” The fiery churchman was just getting warmed up. “I did hope that his stormy life,” he said, in reference to Davis, “would have a peaceful close; that the sun would go down without a fleck of cloud in the sky; but that unfortunate utterance will obscure the radiance of his eventide and leave a shadow upon his memory. How sad that the last words of a soldier, sage, and Christian should become the shibboleth of the saloons!”

Following that speech, Galloway and Davis entered into an extended and acrimonious exchange of public letters centered on the question of prohibition, but it also personal. Naturally, Davis was not pleased with the tone of Galloways oration, which made its way into the press.  In response to the assertion that his “sun was about to go down,” Davis wrote that “Age and sever trials of my life may have justified the expectation that my last words had been uttered; but the Father has mercifully prolonged my days, and the unsympathetic augury of Bishop Galloway is unfulfilled.” Regarding the issue at hand, Davis said that Galloway had “left the pulpit and Bible to mount the political rostrum and plead the higher law of prohibitionism,” to which Galloway responded by saying that he was content to be branded as a political partisan if it involved preaching temperance and against “the whiskey traffic.” Galloway in fact reminded Davis that he himself had commissioned Episcopal Bishop Leonidas Polk (left) as a major general in the Confederate Army and, therefore, seemed to have no issue placing a sword in the hands of “an eloquent and honored clergyman” while now rebuking a minister of the Gospel for preaching moral reform. Davis shot back by insinuating that Galloway now claimed moral superiority over Polk and opined “Did egotism and vain conceit ever rise to a more ludicrous height?” Clearly, the battle over the bottle had gotten down and dirty.

During the continued barrage of letters, Davis argued that prohibition had been a failure in Maine (another state where it was been introduced), a fact which Galloway vehemently disputed. To support his position, Galloway cited James G. Blaine and even Hannibal Hamlin (Abraham Lincoln's first vice president) and then quoted John H. Reagan, the former Confederate Postmaster General, who (according to Galloway) said that Davisoriginal letter to Gov. Lubbock has been read and applauded by “every saloon keeper and dram drinker in Texas” (like those gathered here in front of the "Dixie Saloon"). No doubt, the enlistment of a former Confederate cabinet member to bolster the bishops argument was particularly galling to Davis (although it must be noted that even among ‘rebelsReagan [right] had always been a bit rebellious). Eventually, the tone of the letters began to subside a bit, but neither man retreated. In his final letter on the subject, written November 16, 1887, Davis wrote the editor of the Clarion newspaper (and thus no longer addressed to the young bishop) the following: “O prohibition, sometimes called moral reform, what crimes are committed in thy name!? If Bishop Galloway wished to avoid controversy, it would have been easy in this case to do so. I only asked of him that he would, upon examination of my letter to Governor Lubbock, frankly avow the fact that it contained nothing to justify the caustic remarks upon me in his Brookhaven speech, and notably in his last communication there is wanting the manifestation of a wish not to ‘employ offensive terms or betray personal discourtesy.’” Apparently, both men were tiring of the fight, but the Bishop had one more round left in him. On December 21, Galloway questioned Davisassertion that individual states did not have the right to prohibit liquor. “Mr. Davis,” he wrote, “should be the last man in the United States to deny the sovereign people of a State the right to do anything” given “his paramount doctrine of State rights.” Admittedly, Galloway had a point. Davis, however, was finished with the debate. Two years later, Jefferson Davis died in New Orleans and was mourned across the South and especially in Mississippi as a great, if not somewhat tragic, figure. His legacy is still being debating today.

Twenty years after Davisdeath and on the occasion of the centennial of his birth, Bishop Galloway, by now a much more seasoned clergyman, returned to his alma mater and gave an eloquent commencement speech at the University of Mississippi on “The Life and Times of Jefferson Davis.” In the speech, which was later published, Galloway was very gracious to the memory of Davis, no doubt comforted by the fact that there would be no more letters coming from him on the issue of liquor. During the oration, Galloway heaped praise on Jefferson Davis, saying that “when another hundred years have passed, no intelligent voice will fail to praise him and no patriotic hand will refuse to place a laurel wreath upon his radiant brow.” President Davis, as everyone knows, was a very proud man and no doubt felt a great sense of indignation at the ferocity of Bishop Galloways attacks on him. Such a man could hardly dismiss being referred to as “the shibboleth of saloons.” On the occasion of his centennial, then, we might imagine that Jefferson Davis observed Galloways commencement oration from the realms beyond with a bit of doubt as to its sincerity. After all, in the midst of the controversy over liquor, Davis wrote Galloway that the Bishop has “employed many kind and complimentary expressions in regard to me, but, in view of your persistence in unjustified assailment, your compliments seem like the garlands with which in olden time a sacrificial offering was decorated.” Indeed.

The issue of prohibition did not go away for some time. In fact, the year after the Texas vote, the Prohibition Party gathered in Indianapolis to nominate Clinton Fisk for president and garnered nearly a quarter of a million votes in the presidential election in 1888. Finally, the prohibition movement gained enough traction to ratify the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919 with all but two states (Connecticut and Rhode Island). No doubt, Bishop Galloway would have been thrilled at this turn of events. Alas, he had died a decade before. Charles Betts Galloway is buried in Jackson’s Greenwood Cemetery. Jefferson Davis, after being reinterred in 1893, was laid to rest in Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery. 

This article is based on a piece by Thomas H. Waggener and was originally published in the Jackson Civil War Round Table newsletter many years ago. It is used here with his permission.

Photo and Image Sources:
(1) Davis: hhtp://commons.wikipedia.org
(2) Galloway: http://digitalgallery.nypl.org
(3) Prohibition Rally: www.rustycans.com
(4) Polk: http://en.wikipedia.org
(5) Dixie Saloon: http://texashistory.unt.edu
(6) Reagan: http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/Confederate_Cabinet.htm
(7) (8) Galloway and Commencement Address: http://books.google.com
(9) Prohibition Party: http://en.wikipedia.org