Calling All Rebels to Show True Spirit of Ole Miss

Pickett's CHarge at Gettysburg in 1863.
Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg in July 1863. World Press

What Kind Of Rebel Are You — Yeah that’s a legit question this very day at Ole Miss. In fact, it has always been the question at Ole Miss.

It is the only question at Ole Miss that has been answered a million times since 1860-something, but to no one’s satisfaction. And here’s the rub for every PhD who ever cleaned out their desk at the Lyceum. It’s a completely non-academic question. It’s a question in each individual Ole Miss heart. It’s times like these that remind me we aren’t Rebels because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.

But aren’t you just sick of it?! I mean aren’t ya just so sick and damn tired of this racial demon that rears its ugly, ignorant head on campus. It’s like it’s on some sadistic little schedule too. Run by some idiot kids whose aim is to cut black Rebels to the quick, with a stab straight in their hearts. But the hearts aren’t mine and theirs anymore. Rather the heart is ours, and while your noses lay scattered around the floor of that fraternity house you just wrecked, it’s Ole Miss’ spited face that will bare the scars.

And let me say this…I’ve never voted for a Democrat in a state or national election, in my life. But my first thoughts were pretty liberal, because all I could think was…somebody needs to whip those boys asses! I mean…what kind of Rebels are you?

The spirit of ‘Civil War’ Rebels’ lives now only in the hearts of white southern men. It is a real ache for all the Ole Miss boys who went down, on a far away battlefield, in the lead of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. It was the high water mark of the Confederate States of America and the death of the University of Mississippi, Class of 1861. And for that second part, I’ll always be sad.

But it’s not a hate. It’s a kind of a backward looking melancholy of old, for a long wrong lost cause. And there, in our mind’s attic, in some dusty old trunk, it must forever remain, and pass away with us. But it’s not a hate.

 "Frank Bruiser" in '37 - By J. R. Cofield (c) Ole Miss Athletics
Frank “Bruiser” Kinard in ’37 – By J. R. Cofield (c) Ole Miss Athletics

So from 1863, or so, until 1963, or so, America and Ole Miss operated on the Good Old Boy System. In the North it was the “white guys first” system. In the South it was the “white guys only” system. But about 50 years into that 100, another kind of Rebel was born. And that Rebel spirit doesn’t hate, except for the schools beneath us, et al, Hotty Toddy! This Rebel spirit is a love for Ole Miss football that started when “Bruiser” Kinard became our first All-American in ’36 and ’37.

The spirit of an Ole Miss ‘football’ Rebel lives now in the heart of every kid who ever jumped out of bed early and ready on Saturday game day morning. It lived at my house for an 8 year old and his 5 year old brother. It’s young Johnny Vaught with Charlie Conerly and it’s wise John Howard Vaught with Archie. It’s the Rebels in Red with gray pants and that red and blue stripe down the side. It’s beating LSU on the last play of the game. It’s the everlasting echo of Stan “The Man” Torgerson…he scoresssss! It’s Kiner’s Mules and an Orange Crush. And legend has it that on a cold November afternoon in ’83, the Yankees in South Bend lost because the Lord had abandoned them. They say He was down in Jackson directing a divine wind.

So, that 100 years, or so, that started with the end of the Old South and ended with blood in the halls of the Lyceum and the start of a New South and Ole Miss, saw yet again…another kind of Rebel born. It started when “Gentle Ben” Williams was our first black player and All-American…and elected Colonel Rebel, the highest honor the Ole Miss student body can give.

 Federal Troops occupy the Lyceum in October of '62 - By (c) Ed Meek
Federal Troops occupy the Lyceum in October of ’62 – By (c) Ed Meek

That new Rebel spirit was there at ‘The Stand’ when Chad burst through the line for the loss. It’s Deuce waving to the student section as he went by. It’s L. Q. breaking the Irish with the only catch he ever had as a Rebel. It’s Dexter’s halfback pass to Shay. It’s Sykes up the middle on the Bear’s day. It’s Fein and Poe with Fins Up…and God rest his soul, it’s Chucky.

The Grove is our heart. It’s where we go to celebrate today’s Rebel spirit and it’s there that we show the world the fellowship that is Ole Miss. And she is a beauty, with a gracious charm, that separates us from the rest. Mr. Faulkner’s postage stamp stories told the world that we are complicated, but special, and lest we forget it.

So, Ole Miss, it’s time once again to rally round and show what kind of Rebels you are. The reactions run the field from the far left goal post, to the right. All you Rebels who can only write about how bad you now hate three other human beings, get behind me. All you defeatist Rebels who can only write about how we’ve been damaged beyond all recovery, get behind me. All you Rebels who have written about your shame in the face of a friend who has expressed their disdain for your alma mater…they aren’t your friends and all y’all can get behind me. And finally, to those non-Rebels who have their own southern disdain for Mr. Meredith, but delight in the chance to use his name as a tool and weapon against his Alma Mater and today’s Rebel Spirit…you guys can all go to Hotty Toddy hell.

And what about James Meredith himself, the long suffering Mr. Meredith? For a small clan of Civil War Rebels who can’t lock their dusty mind’s attic trunk, forever, he is their problem, and they are our problem. Oh if only it could really be gone with the wind. But this isn’t a chivalrous romance novel set around a dieing South and Ole Miss. It’s a vibrant living Rebel spirit set on grounds the Ivy League proclaims are the most beautiful in America.

 Ole Miss Legend "Gentle Ben" Williams - Ole Miss annual
Ole Miss Legend “Gentle Ben” Williams – Ole Miss annual

But just when we hope our beauty has buried that beast under enough good intentioned soil…it once again rears its ugly, ignorant head on campus. Watered and fed by beer and stupidity, its roar is seen, amplified and shot round the world. Much too late to dodge; a racial bullet has been fired at James Meredith, yet again. And for the Rebels searching for the best response in this latest aftermath, the answer lies where the question began. Hiding in plain sight, on the grounds of the Lyceum, is the dignified statue of James Meredith, himself, marching forward.

But more dignified than his likeness are Mr. Meredith’s latest remarks. His belief in the love of the Ole Miss family and the University’s bright future. And then, always the Rebel in his life’s political times, the out-spoken soft-spoken Ole Miss Alum said that we can overcome anything together with faith in the Lord.

James Meredith - By Eric Schultz
James Meredith – By Eric Schultz

John Cofield is a hottytoddy.com writer and one of Oxford’s leading folk historians. He is the son of renowned university photographer Jack Cofield. His grandfather, Col. J.R Cofield, was William Faulkner’s personal photographer and for decades was Ole Miss yearbook photographer. Cofield attended Ole Miss as well.

Contact John at Johnbcofield@gmail.com

1 COMMENT

  1. This is spot on, John. It is the best I have heard Rebels described. It is a deeply personal word to each of us. Our alma mater will not fall but will continue to get stronger as it weathers yet another storm. Hotty Toddy – Wayne Oglesby

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