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Crawford Mims, Ole Miss football star, dies at 68

[04/23/01] Crawford Mims, star football player at Ole Miss in the 1950s who came to Vicksburg and became a business and civic leader, died Saturday, April 21, 2001, at Baptist Medical Center in Jackson.

He was 68.

“He did a lot for people no one ever knew about,” said Mims’ brother-in-law Kayo Dottley, who also starred at Ole Miss. “He had a big heart.”

A Carrollton native, Mr. Mims moved to Vicksburg after marrying the former Betty “Boop” Nosser, who died in 1999. She was a cheerleader at Ole Miss.

“I still remember when he started dating my little sister-in-law … ,” Dottley said. “We were just a real close family. I coached his kids in little league football. He was always there.”

Mr. Mims opened the first convenience stores in Vicksburg, a chain of Shop-A-Minits across the city and county. He was also owner and operator of Snak-A-Minit Restaurants.

During the 1960s and 1970s, he was a member and president of the board of the Vicksburg Municipal Separate School District, guiding the local process of racial integration that remained non-violent. He was a member of Hawkins Methodist Church and the Red Carpet Bowl.

Mr. Mims had been hospitalized since March 13 after having what would be the last in a series of surgeries on a brain tumor. Doctors called the family in more than once, thinking Mr. Mims wasn’t going to make it. Each time, he rallied. Dottley said he had made progress over the past few days, but “took a bad turn” on Friday.

“He came in this world fighting, and he went out fighting,” Dottley said.

Dottley was a senior when Mr. Mims was a freshman. That was before first-year players could play on the varsity team. But Dottley knew then he would be good.

“He came up as a fullback,” Dottley said.

But Ole Miss coach John Vaught converted him to guard. It turned out to be a good move for both.

Mims earned All-America honors from eight media outlets as a senior in 1953, making him one of the most decorated players in Rebel history. He was selected first-team All-America by The Associated Press, United Press International, Sporting News, Football Digest, the Newspaper Enterprises Association, Williamson and the Football Writers Association of America. As a junior, he played in the 1952 Sugar Bowl, where the Rebels were upset by Georgia Tech.

A year later, Mr. Mims was selected Most Valuable Player in the North-South All-Star game. He also played in the 1954 Senior Bowl and the Chicago All-Star Game.

Mr. Mims was an 18th-round pick of the NFL’s New York Giants, but his pro career never took off because of a knee injury, something he often later said was a good break since it allowed him to get his family started.

“There were so many wonderful lessons he tried to instill in us,” said Renee Mims, his only daughter. “If I could bottle and sell what he did for us, I’d be a millionaire.”

His son, Johnny Mims, said, “He loved his family. That was always first on his agenda.”

Mr. Mims was the son of a sharecropper in Carrollton.

“His only way out was football,” Johnny Mims said. “We were fortunate to have cars and clothes, but no matter what he gave us, he made us realize the value of a dollar.”

Another son, Peter Mims, said, “He was just a wonderful father. He wasn’t afraid to hug and kiss us, and we all try to be the same way with our own kids.”

Bubba Mims remembered his father’s work ethic and how humble he was despite all of his accomplishments. “He always said, Where there’s a bear, there’s a bear-catcher.’ ”

But Mr. Mims never lost the aggressive nature that made him successful on the football field and in the business world.

“He was a real competitor,” Dottley said, recalling some of their golf matches.

“We argued like little kids … but we always had the best time,” he said, choking back tears.

Vaught, who coached Ole Miss from 1947 to 1970, remembered Mims as “a special person, a special football player and a family man.” The Mimses named a son after the legendary coach who recruited him out of tiny J.Z. George High School in North Carrollton.

“I was surprised and very honored when he did that,” Vaught said by telephone from Oxford Saturday.

Of the “four or five” Vaught-coached guards who made All-American, Mims is “at the top of the list,” he said.

Mims came from humble beginnings, Vaught recalled.

“He’s a small-town boy who made a good life for himself,” Vaught said. “He was a fine gentleman.”

Mr. Mims is a member of the Ole Miss Halls of Fame and Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

Survivors include a daughter, Renee Mims of West Monroe; four sons, Gerald Crawford “Bubba” Mims Jr., Johnny Vaught Mims and Peter Mims, all of Vicksburg; Paul Mims of West Monroe; 17 grandchildren and three brothers, Troy Mims of Grenada; J.W. Mims of Greenwood and Marvin Mims of Holcombe. He was preceded in death by another brother, Lloye Mims, and his parents, Luther Lloyd and Jimmie Dee Taylor Mims.

Visitation will be from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at Fisher-Riles Funeral Home and funeral services will be 4 p.m. Monday at Hawkins Methodist Church. The Rev. Mitchell Hedgepeth will officiate. Burial will be at Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Pallbearers will be Bill McRight Jr., Rocky Nosser, Billy Joe Dottley, Johnny Pete McRight, Rusty Nosser, Larry McRight and Rowdy Nosser.

Honorary pallbearers will be Red Fuller, Ben Hand, Dr. Dave Dear, Charles Toney Jr., Bobby Hannah, Dottley, Vaught, and members of the Men’s Breakfast Club, the Moosenee Hunting Club and the Warren Central baseball team.

Memorials may be made to the American Heart Association, P.O. Box 16808, Jackson, MS 39236-6808; American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 1193, Vicksburg, MS 39181-1193; or Hawkins United Methodist Church, 3736 Halls Ferry Road, Vicksburg, MS 39180.