Several well-known people
have roots in Arkansas. The list runs the gamut from Johnny Cash to Jermain
Taylor. Check here every Monday ( a day late today due to the 4th of July holiday) as we highlight a new Famous Arkansan each
week. Today, Meet: Paul “Bear” Bryant
coach, he was the coach.” -former USC coach John McKay
Born in Moro Bottom and
raised in Fordyce, Paul “Bear” Bryant (1913-1983) picked up his nickname when,
as a youth, he wrestled a bear at the Fordyce Theater. He was the head coach of
the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide from 1958-1983 and is one of the most
winningest college football coaches in college football history with 323
victories and six national championships. Five weeks after retiring as head
coach, he died of a heart attack.
Bryant left a legacy that
encompassed more than 37 winning seasons overall and five Associated Press
national championships at Alabama.
Bryant’s record in 38 years
at Maryland, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama was 323-85-17 (.780). He took
29 teams to bowl games and led 15 to conference championships. In the 1960s and
1970s, no school won more games than Alabama (193-32-5).
Bryant was born in1913 and was
the 11th of 12 children. By 13, he already stood 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds. He
earned the nickname that would stick with him for life by accepting a challenge
to wrestle a bear at a carnival.
In the 1960s, under Bryant’s reins, Alabama ruled
college football, winning national championships in 1961, 1964 and 1965. After
the 1969 season, Bryant was offered a $1.7-million contract for five seasons to coach
the Miami Dolphins. The money tempted him but he remained, saying he was secure
financially and would never leave Alabama just for financial reasons. Alabama’s
final national championships under Bryant came in the 1978 and 1979 seasons
when it went 23-1. In November 1981, a 28-17 win over Auburn was his 315th
career victory, enabling him to pass ( at the time) Amos Alonzo Stagg’s all-time record. Following an 8-4 season
in 1982, he retired from the game. Five weeks after retiring as head coach, he died of a