Vassallo: “Ole Miss History…The Year Was 1919”

Have you ever noticed the light standard right out in front of the Lyceum? This magnificent nightlight was placed there in 1919 by the class of that year. This was a most interesting year also in US history. Following are some of the more important happenings according to Wikipedia.

To start with, President Woodrow Wilson was occupying the White House. The New Jersey Democrat would suffer a massive stroke in October, partially paralyzing him. The Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court was Edward Douglas White from Louisiana, and the Governor of Mississippi was Theodore G. Bilbo.

Before we get too deep into the weeds of 1919, it would be of interest for any of our readers to peruse the names on the light standard and shed any light on these individuals. We will reference the Ole Miss yearbook of that year also (thanks to the “General,” Jim Stephens collection.)

On January 6, Teddy Roosevelt dies in his sleep at age 60. Two amendments to the US Constitution were authorized in 1919, relating to prohibition (18th) and women’s suffrage (19th). 

On January 25th, the Hotel Pennsylvania (not California) is built in Manhattan eventually becoming the world’s most popular hotel! And then on February 26, the Grand Canyon becomes a National Park.

The year of 1919 was scarred with race riots throughout the nation with one of the worst occurring in Charleston, SC. Although on June 28th The Treaty of Versailles ended WWI, the United States would never ratify it.

In August, the Green Bay Packers were founded; in October, the Black Sox scandal transpired, and the day after Christmas in what has become the greatest transfer of talent in the history of sports, Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees from Boston for $125,000.

The Ole Miss Annual of 1919 was divided into five books. These were…. Military; University; Athletics; Student Activities and Miscellaneous. The Chancellor that year was J.N. Powers. Alfred Hume was the Vice Chancellor. The senior class of 1869 was featured!  It is interesting to note that the Military section superseded the others.

As to football, in reviewing the 1918 season, of the four games played, only one resulted in a victory. Here is how the yearbook described the two games versus you know who….”The Thanksgiving game was with A&M on the latter’s field with the Red and Blue being defeated 34-0. A return game with the Farmers was arranged, and on December 7th, the two teams met again.” (Ole Miss losing this one 13-0). The Red & Blue played primarily freshmen as all upperclassmen were in the military.

The Foreword page reads “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these,  ‘It might have been.'” We’ll depart from 1919 with those thoughts.

Steve VassalloSteve Vassallo is a contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at or call him at 985-852-7745.

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  1. Steve, the Bessie Furr on the plaque is Bessie Furr Sumners, wife of Chester Sumners, who was a partner in Hickman, Sumners Law Firm in Oxford. He died in the 1950’s but Bess lived on for many years in their home on Leighton Rd. She was a contemporary of William Faulkner and participated in many of the Faulkner Conferences on campus. They were the Grandparents of Dr. William Sumners Mayo of Oxford, and the Great Grandparents of Brad and Rush Mayo, both of Oxford. I believe she lived to be close to 100 and was always sharp as a tack and the ultimate Southern Lady. JMW