Colonel Reb hits the road Foundation makes Vicksburg first stop on tour of the state

Published 11:41 am Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Colonel Reb is back. Well, sort of.

The former Ole Miss mascot returned to Vicksburg as the Colonel Reb Foundation kicked off its road tour of the state Monday at Toney’s Restaurant and Lounge.

Colonel Reb was banned from the sidelines in 2003 and was replaced — after a 2009 student election — by the Rebel Black Bear, who made his debut on April 5 in Jackson.

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Vicksburg native Kayo Dottley, who played football for the Rebels in the 1940s and is a member of the M Club Hall of Fame, was passionate in his defense of Colonel Reb.

“I’m used to getting everything I want,” Dottley said with a laugh. “I want Ole Miss and… I want Colonel Reb as our mascot.”

The Colonel Reb Foundation, which was started by former student Brian Ferguson while he was at Ole Miss in 2003, dropped off a 4,000-signature petition at the office of Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones and put up a billboard on one of the roads near the university clamoring for Colonel Reb’s return.

But for the first time, the group is taking its show and cause on the road with additional stops scheduled for Natchez, McComb, Hattiesburg, Pascagoula, Biloxi, Meridian and Jackson.

Each stop will feature an appearance by Colonel Reb and a former Ole Miss great. Dottley spoke at the Vicksburg gathering, with Biloxi mayor A.J. Holloway, Kris Mangum, Red Owens and Ben Williams making appearances at the other stops.

“We’re getting on the road promoting the Colonel and promoting the pride that a lot of the fans have that have disagreed with the university,” said Ferguson, who is the foundation’s chairman. “Any time you alienate season ticket-holders and million-dollar donors, there is something wrong in that.”

The event was designed to bring together fans of the former mascot, who want to see him prowling the sidelines at Ole Miss again. The costume, bought by the foundation and nicknamed “Colonel Too,” has been making appearances at Ole Miss home and away sporting events as the group tries to get the word out that the fight has only began.

Vicksburg’s Dottley, who wore a golf shirt with the former mascot logo, is an outspoken advocate for returning to what he considers one of the core Rebel traditions.

“I love Ole Miss and anything I say is not a knock at Ole Miss, because that’s where my heart is,” the former Ole Miss All-American said. “A black bear means nothing to me. It can be a white bear, a green bear, but it won’t be Ole Miss. Maybe in 25 years from now, it will be Ole Miss. Right now, there will be Rebels and Rebels and they can take away anything they want, but they’ll never take the field as anything but the Ole Miss Rebels.”

“I don’t like it,” Vicksburg native and Rebel fan Diane Emfinger said. “As far as I’m concerned, we have no mascot. If we can’t have Colonel Reb, we don’t need a mascot.”

According to Jon Rawl, who works with the Colonel Reb Foundation, the stickers, black bear “hunting license” lanyards and T-shirts with “I killed the black bear” lettering inside a silhouette of the former Mascot have been hot sellers at the Grove and at other stops on the SEC.

“We had five rolls of the ‘Mike the Tiger supports Colonel Rebel’ in purple at the LSU game last year and they were gone in minutes,” Rawl said.

While the Ole Miss administration has tried to paint the issue in public statements as finished, the Colonel Reb Foundation wants to keep up the pressure. Rawl cites the return of Chucky Mullin’s number to Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium as proof that unpopular decisions can be reversed.