55-year Hi-Steppers’ leader bows out|[09/19/07]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A guest list of thousands for a retirement celebration may be considered excessive by some. But for those close to Anna Cowden Bee, director of the Hinds Hi-Steppers for 55 years before her retirement last month, the number seems fitting.

“Miss Bee” will be honored Thursday night during halftime of the football game between Hinds Community College and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The salute to the former director of the third-oldest precision dance team in the country will include current and alumni Hi-Steppers performing a dance routine, the presentation of a plaque and gifts from Miss Bee’s former Hi-Steppers and a resolution from the Hinds Community College Board of Trustees.

The celebration will continue after the game with a reception at Bee Hall, HCC’s dance education building renamed in her honor in 1993.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“This is really a way for the people Miss Bee has impacted to give their best wishes and send her off in a deserving manner,” said Cathy Hayden, Hinds public relations coordinator. ” Miss Bee has touched a lot of lives, and we expect quite a turnout.”

Hayden said about 5,000 invitations have been sent .

Miss Bee’s former office will be transformed into a Hi-Stepper museum, and she will be honored by the trustees as a professor emeritus.

“I’m quite humbled by all of this,” Bee said. “It’s rewarding that people appreciate what I have done, but honestly, these 55 years have hardly felt like a job. I loved my job so much I would have done it for free.”

During her tenure, Miss Bee and the Hi-Steppers performed for U.S. presidents, the pope and appeared in parades, festivals, sporting events and other functions throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.

She took pride in knowing that the dancers always maintained a tradition of being “lady-like” and their numbers were always done in good taste.

“With all of our dance routines, I took into consideration that a pastor was sitting at the 50-yard line,” said Bee, who began teaching dance at the age of 13 in her native Birmingham, Ala. “I would like to think that a pastor could watch us and never be offended.”

When reminiscing of her years at HCC, Miss Bee repeatedly uses such expressions as “blessed” and “divine intervention.”

“I have such a deep thanks and appreciation for everyone I’ve met here, and I thank God every day for the life he has given me,” said Bee. “I can honestly say I’ve never had one bad minute of work at Hinds,”

Miss Bee’s former Hi-Steppers said they, too, feel “blessed.”

“It’s hard to imagine a better role model for women than Miss Bee,” said Cindy Park, a Vicksburg native who was a member of Hi-Steppers from 1979 to 1981 and is now vice president of Alumni Hi-Steppers. “She was great at making girls feel proud and have a positive attitude about themselves. She was like a best friend to me, and I’m sure many other Hi-Steppers.”

Miss Bee said retirement from the job she loved was not planned. Her daughter, Marty Foote, suffered a stroke in January. Bee lives across the street from her daughter and wanted to devote more time to her. She also looks forward to spending time in retirement with the rest of her family, which she said includes her son, Alon,Jr., who is the president of AmSouth Bank in Jackson, his wife, three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

In addition to a life of dance, Miss Bee said she also has enjoyed being involved with pageants at the local, state and national level over the years. She spent nine years chaperoning the Miss Mississippi winner to the Miss America pageant, and in 1995 she was awarded the Miss America Pageant volunteer of the year award.