101 Bulldogs: A Centennial Celebration

Four girls try to match the mascot's smile in this shot from 1956.
Four girls try to match the mascot’s smile in this shot from 1956.

Football season is upon us and visions of our trusty mascot are everywhere to spur on school spirit. The bulldog is proudly displayed on uniforms, t-shirts, and collectible cups – even spray painted on the center of the field. The costumed Spike runs, jumps, and cajoles the crowds to cheer louder. We even have our own live mascot, Rex, who parades about during Homecoming, eager for belly rubs and treats.

It’s no surprise, then, that Samford’s best friend’s makeover is a weighty subject. As a celebration of the school’s 175th anniversary and part of Samford’s re-branding process, a new design of the Crimson Bulldog is being released today and tomorrow in special viewing sessions across campus. While you’re waiting eagerly to see the new canine face of Samford, take some time to learn about the reason behind our mascot and the stories it holds.

A 1920 Entre Nous boasts this cartoon of a bulldog for a title paper.
A 1920 Entre Nous boasts this cartoon of a bulldog for a title paper.

It all began in December of 1916, when the Crimson Bulldogs won out over the Baptist Bears in a school-wide vote. This decision may have been made in part because of Howard College’s then-arch rival, Birmingham Southern College, who championed themselves as the Panthers. In fact, Howard College used to be more feline friendly, playing as the Baptist Tigers several years prior to the vote until a quickly-growing school called Auburn came onto the college-football scene.

From there, it was love at first sight. The new mascot appeared everywhere, from the title pages of the Entre Nous and the cover of the student handbook to cameos with cheerleaders and sprints up and down the field during games. The image was so important that a stuffed felt bulldog was one of the few objects walked over from the old campus in East Lake to Homewood to represent the Howard spirit. Myralyn Allgood, alumna of 1961, recalls picking up the mascot for football games from the president’s house:

[The Wrights] were at every event, and they kept our mascot.  The Duke, he was called, the Duke of Samford, he was a bulldog. He lived at their house.  So my job before every football game was to go get him and bring him.  And we ran out on the field, and I got to take Duke, and he was always chewing on my socks.  I almost fell over him several times.  But it’s just that kind of relationship.

However, there’s no history without tragedy, and it struck during Billy Gamble’s time as superintendent of the physical plant on campus in the 1970s. He relates the story below:

Duke takes a rest from his job of encouraging the students and team.
Duke takes a rest from his job of inspiring the students and the team.

We had a bulldog always as the mascot of Samford University, and [Duke], I believe, was the name of the bulldog that was the current mascot, but he was getting kind of old. And somehow or other, somebody had donated another brand new young bulldog to take his place. And in the middle of a football game, we were going to have the change of the guard . . . it was early in August, or maybe September, but the day was hot, and the dog was dry… And finally by the time the sun went down, they carried old Beauregard back down to his lot up on the Wright’s. Sunday morning, before I could go to church, I had a call that said Beauregard died from heat stroke … And she wondered if I could get somebody from the Physical Plant and come by and get him.  So . . . me and Curt Stevens went to the Wright’s.  By the Physical Plant we found an old footlocker which made an excellent coffin for Beauregard. We went up and behind their garage or somewhere up there, and we dug a fitting grave for Beauregard . . . . We were ready to throw the first dirt back on top of the coffin when Mrs. Wright and Dr. Wright came out to hold a little service. And Dr. Wright made a very appropriate prayer and wished Beauregard well in dog heaven . . . . 

Fortunately, this tragic accident has never happened since, and the lineage of bulldogs continues today with Rex, who ascended to his rank in 2011 after his predecessor, Libby, retired. Libby was the first live mascot in the previous three decades.  Following her death in 2011, she became the second canine to receive an honorary degree from the university, specializing as a “Doctor of Canine Humanities”. Today, her successor carries on the tradition, and we can all agree that seeing Rex at the tailgates makes Homecoming an even more festive experience.

So wear the new Samford swag with pride – there are one hundred years of Crimson Bulldog history behind the new logo, which recalls Samford’s past glory while coupling it with Samford’s hopes for the future. And, as always, bow wow Bulldogs!

 

References:

Oral History interview with Myralyn Allgood conducted by Bryan Kessler, November 14, 2012.

Oral History interview with Billy Gamble conducted by Michelle Little, August 23, 2012.

Philip Poole. “Libby, Samford’s Bulldog Mascot, Dies.” Samford University. 30 September 2011. https://www.samford.edu/news/2011/Libby-Samfords-Bulldog-Mascot-Dies

“Bulldogs, Tigers, and Bears.” Samford University Library – Special Collections and University Archives. January 2008. http://library.samford.edu/about/sc/treasure/2008/bulldogs.html

“Lady Liberty ‘Libby’.” Samford University Library – Special Collections and University Archives. 2012. http://library.samford.edu/about/sc/treasure/2012/libby.html 

 

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