Famous Arkansan: Paul “Bear” Bryant
“He wasn’t just a coach, he was the coach.” -former USC coach John McKay
This year ( on September 11th to be exact) would have marked the 100th birthday of Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Born in Moro Bottom and raised in Fordyce, Bryant (1913-1983) is a legend in the realm of football. Known for his trademark black and white houndstooth fedora hat and stoic demeanor, many still consider him the greatest coach in the history of the game.
During his time (1958-1983) as head coach at the University of Alabama, he led the Crimson Tide to six national championships and 13 SEC championships. When he retired at the end of the 1982 season, just weeks before he died of a heart attack at age 69, he was the all-time winningest coach in college football history.
Bryant was born in 1913 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. He was as a member of the 1930 Arkansas state football champion “Red Bugs” and played football at the University of Alabama. Bryant remains an integral part of the Alabama football tradition and there is even a Paul W. Bryant Museum on campus. And Tide fans can still be seen wearing versions of his trademark hat as homage to his coaching legacy.
The Dallas County Museum in Fordyce is currently building a new wing that will focus on Redbug sports and will feature a “Bear and the Bugs” display detailing the history of the famous coach and the Fordyce Redbugs. Fordyce and Dallas County have the largest number of inductees in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame of any city or county in the state.