Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Navy 1
Lieutenant Commander 1
11 Sep 1913 2
Fordyce, Arkansas 1
26 Jan 1983 1
Jan 1983 2
Tuscaloosa, AL 1

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Personal Details

Full Name:
Paul William Bryant 1
Full Name:
Paul Bryant 2
Also known as:
Bear Bryant 1
11 Sep 1913 2
Fordyce, Arkansas 1
Male 1
26 Jan 1983 1
Jan 1983 2
Tuscaloosa, AL 1
Last Residence: Tuscaloosa, AL 2
Mother: Ida Kilgore Bryant 1
Father: Wilson Monroe Bryant 1

World War II 1

Navy 1
Lieutenant Commander 1
Service Start Date:
1942 1
Service End Date:
1945 1
Never quit. It is the easiest cop-out in the world. Set a goal and don't quit until you attain it. When you do attain it 1
Football Coach 1
Social Security:
Card Issued: Alabama 2
Social Security Number: ***-**-0506 2

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Bear Bryant died of a heart attack yesterday in Tuscaloosa, Ala., only 37 days after he had retired as head football coach at the University of Alabama with the most victories in college football history.

Mr. Bryant, who was 69 years old, entered the Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday night, complaining of chest pains. Dr. William Hill, the attending physician, said that Mr. Bryant had suffered a massive heart attack at 1:24 P.M. while undergoing X-rays.

''We did put a pacemaker through his chest and were able to restore a weak heartbeat,'' for about an hour, Dr. Hill said. Mr. Bryant was declared dead at 2:30 P.M.

Dr. Hill said Mr. Bryant had been in ''very good spirits,'' early yesterday. ''In the morning, he even joked about going to Las Vegas,'' the doctor said. ''And he said one thing he wanted to do was go back home to Arkansas and do some duck hunting.''

Mr. Bryant created national headlines only a month ago when he ended his 38-year career as the most successful football coach on any American campus, and one of the most colorful. He quit with a record of 323 victories, 85 losses and 17 ties at four schools: Maryland, Kentucky, Texas A&M and, for the last 25 years, at his alma mater, Alabama. Six of his teams at Alabama were rated No.1 nationally by the wire-service polls. And, when Alabama defeated Auburn, 28-17, on Nov. 28, 1981, for his 315th victory, he surpassed the record that had been set early in the century by Amos Alonzo Stagg. Impact on Sport Assured

But, despite his decision to retire, his impact on the university was expected to continue because of two other decisions: He remained as athletic director, and his job as coach was assigned to one of his former players, Ray Perkins, who resigned as coach of the Giants to return to Alabama.

Mr. Bryant's impact on football everywhere was assured through the scores of men who had played or coached under ''the Bear.'' In his time, he developed star quarterbacks such as Joe Namath, George Blanda, Babe Parilli, Ken Stabler, Steve Sloan and Richard Todd, now the quarterback of the New York Jets. More than 40 of his former players became head college coaches, including Jerry Claiborne at Kentucky, Howard Schnellenberger at Miami, Jackie Sherrill at Texas A&M, Pat Dye at Auburn and Sloan at Duke.

He also became instrumental in recruiting black athletes for Alabama. His first black player was Wilbur Jackson, a running back, in 1971. In his final season, 54 of the 128 football players at Alabama were black. Later, he remembered that he had wanted to recruit black football players at Kentucky, and said:

''They wouldn't let me. Then, at Alabama all those years, my hands were tied. To tell you the truth, Sam Cunningham did more for integration at Alabama than anybody else. He was a black running back for Southern Cal. Came down here in 1970 and ran all over my skinny little white boys. Scored three touchdowns.'' Last Game in Liberty Bowl

Two weeks after he announced his retirement as coach, the Bryant era ended on Dec. 29 when Alabama defeated Illinois in the Liberty Bowl, 21-15. It was the eighth victory of the season for Alabama after four defeats, the first time in 13 years the team had lost as many as four games. It was also his 29th bowl game, a record for a coach that included 24 straight at Alabama, and the last appearance in a stadium for the craggy-faced figure roaming the sidelines in the houndstooth hat.

Paul William Bryant was born Sept. 11, 1913, in Moro Bottom, Ark., which he described as ''a little piece of bottom land on the Moro Creek, about seven miles fourth of Fordyce.'' He was one of 11 children in a poor family, and he remembered that he had an inferiority complex and ''wasn't very smart in school, and lazy to boot.''

But he was big, eventually growing to 6 feet 4 inches. And he recalled that he acquired his nickname as a teen-ager in high school when he accepted a dare to wrestle a bear. How He Won His Nickname

''It was outside the Lyric Theater,'' he said. ''There was a poster out front with a picture of a bear, and a guy was offering a dollar a minute to anyone who would wrestle the bear. The guy who was supposed to wrestle the bear didn't show up, so they egged me on. They let me and my friends into the picture show free, and I wrestled this scrawny bear to the floor. I went around later to get my money, but the guy with the bear had flown the coop. All I got out of the whole thing was a nickname.''

As a strapping and aggressive tackle on the Fordyce High School football team, Mr. Bryant lived up to his nickname by winning allstate honors. Then he was recruited for the University of Alabama by Hank Crisp, an assistant to Frank Thomas, and played right end. His principal assignment, he remembered, was doing the blocking while Don Hutson, the left end, was the star pass receiver who later was elected to the college football hall of fame. But they thrived, winning 23 games and losing only 3, and they defeated Stanford in the 1935 Rose Bowl game, 29-13.

After his class had graduated, Mr. Bryant stayed at Alabama as an assistant coach. Four years later, he switched to Vanderbilt as an assistant to Red Sanders. But two years after that, in 1941, he joined the Navy and served in World War II, part of the time as a football coach at the preflight school in North Carolina. He was discharged in 1945, in time to become head coach at Maryland, where he opened his long and sometimes stormy career. An Instant Success

He was an instant success, partly because he had taken the precaution of bringing along several good players from the Navy preflight team. In his first game, Maryland whipped Guilford College, 60-6. That first season, Maryland won six games, lost two and tied one.

But he also was an instant center of controversy. He suspended a player for breaking training rules, was overruled by the school's president and promptly quit and took over as coach at Kentucky.

He stayed eight seasons, and his teams won 60 games and lost 23, appeared in four postseason games and won the school's only Southeastern Conference championship. The highlight was a 13-7 victory over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl in 1950 that broke a 31-game winning streak for Oklahoma.

After he left in 1954, he conceded that one problem had been a conflict of personalities with Adolph Rupp, the highly successful basketball coach. Conflict With Rupp

''The trouble,'' he said, ''was that we were too much alike. He wanted basketball to be No.1, and I wanted football No.1. In an environment like that, one or the other has to go.''

The next stop was Texas A&M, where Mr. Bryant stayed four seasons with a record of 25 victories and 14 defeats, and a Southwestern Conference title in 1956. He also developed John David Crow, a running back who won the Heisman Trophy as the nation's best player.But more controversy arose when the school was placed on probation for violating the rules on recruiting players, and Mr. Bryant acknowledged later that some of his players had been paid, though not by him.

Finally, he went ''home'' in 1958 to his alma mater, Alabama. ''It was like when you were out in the field, and you heard your mama calling you to dinner,'' he said, explaining his joy at returning. ''Mama called.'' Team Ranked No.1 in '61

Alabama had won only four football games in three years. But in his first season, the Crimson Tide won five games and lost four. And in 1961, he received his first No.1 ranking nationally. For the rest of his career, his teams averaged 8.5 victories a year and did not suffer a losing season.

Controversy followed him home, however. An article in The Saturday Evening Post said that he and Wally Butts, the coach at Georgia, had arranged to fix the result of a game in 1962. Alabama won the game, 35-0. Mr. Butts won a libel suit against the publisher, and Mr. Bryant won a substantial out-of-court settlement.

Although he acknowledged an obsession for winning, he was a forbidding figure when it came to training rules. Not even Namath escaped his discipline. In 1964, he removed Namath as quarterback for breaking training and kept him on the sidelines during the Sugar Bowl game. At other times, he also disciplined Lee Roy Jordan, Scott Hunter, John Hannah, Stabler, Sloan and even Perkins, the man who succeeded him as head coach. The View From the Tower

Mr. Bryant was a tireless worker who customarily rose at 5 A.M. and did not stop until late in the evening. He often supervised practice sessions from a tower overlooking two fields, one covered with grass, the other with artificial turf. One of his quarterbacks, Steadman Shealy, once said: ''There's something about him up in that tower that makes you want to run through a wall.''

He was married to his college sweetheart, Mary Harmon Black, who had been a campus beauty queen when he played football at Alabama. They had two children, Paul William Jr. and May Martin Tyson, and four grandchildren.

Mr. Bryant's stature at Alabama was so great that his salary became something of a protocol problem. Eventually, it reached $120,000. But, for years, the university made an effort to keep the football coach's salary below that of the school's president. The president made $100,000 a year; Mr. Bryant was paid $99,999.99.

Mr. Bryant's funeral will be Friday, with members of his 1982 team serving as honorary pallbearers. He will be buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham, Ala., following a 10 A.M. memorial ceremony at First Methodist Church in Tuscaloosa.

The world of football reacted with shock and sadness to the news of Bear Bryant's death. 


  Paul William "Bear" Bryant (September 11, 1913 – January 26, 1983) was an American college football player and coach. He was best known as the longtime head coach of the University of Alabama football team. During his 25-year tenure as Alabama's head coach, he amassed six national championships and thirteen conference championships. Upon his retirement in 1982, he held the record for most wins as head coach in collegiate football history with 323 wins. At the University of Alabama, the Paul W. Bryant Museum, Paul W. Bryant Hall, Paul W. Bryant Drive and Bryant–Denny Stadium are all named in his honor. He was also known for his trademark black and white houndstooth or gingham hat, deep voice, casually leaning up against the goal post during pre-game warmups, and frequently holding his rolled-up game plan while on the sidelines.

Before arriving at Alabama, Bryant was head football coach at the University of Maryland, the University of Kentucky, and Texas A&M University. Of the schools he coached, Maryland is the only one not currently a member of the Southeastern Conference

Paul Bryant was the 11th of 12 children who were born to Wilson Monroe and Ida Kilgore Bryant in Fordyce, Arkansas.[1] His nickname stemmed from his having agreed to wrestle a captive bear during a theater promotion when he was 13 years old.[2]

He attended Fordyce High School, where 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) tall Bryant, who as an adult would eventually stand 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m), began playing on the school's football team as an eighth grader. During his senior season, the team, with Bryant playing offensive line and defensive end, won the 1930 Arkansas state football championship.

Bryant accepted a scholarship to play for the University of Alabama in 1931. Since he elected to leave high school before completing his diploma, Bryant had to enroll in a Tuscaloosa high school to finish his education during the fall semester while he practiced with the college team. Bryant played end for the Crimson Tide and was a participant on the school's 1934 National Championship team. Bryant was the self-described "other end" during his playing years with the team, playing opposite the big star, Don Hutson, who later became an NFL Hall-of-Famer. Bryant himself was second team All-SEC in 1934, and was third team all conference in both 1933 and 1935. Bryant played with a partially broken leg in a 1935 game against Tennessee.[2] Bryant pledged the Sigma Nu social fraternity, and as a senior, he married Mary Harmon.[2]

Bryant was selected in the fourth round by the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1936 NFL Draft, but never played professionally.

After the 1941 season, Bryant was offered the head coaching job at the University of Arkansas. However, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Bryant joined the United States Navy. In 1942 he served as an assistant coach with the Georgia Pre-Flight Skycrackers.[3]

Bryant then served off North Africa, seeing no combat action. However, his ship, the converted liner USAT Uruguay was rammed by an oil tanker near Bermuda and ordered to be abandoned. Bryant disobeyed the order, saving the lives of his men.[4] Allen Barra claims that two hundred others died in the collision.[5][dubious – discuss]

He was later granted an honorable discharge to train recruits and coach the North Carolina Navy Pre-Flight football team.[6] One of the players he coached for the Navy was the future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Otto Graham. While in the Navy, Bryant attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander

Bryant took over the Alabama football team in 1958. When asked why he came to Alabama, he replied "Momma called. And when Momma calls, you just have to come runnin'." After winning a combined four games in the three years prior to Bryant's arrival, the Tide went 5–4–1 in Bryant's first season.[11] The next year, in 1959, Alabama beat Auburn and appeared in a bowl game, the first time either had happened in the last six years. In 1961, under his leadership, with quarterback Pat Trammell and football greats Lee Roy Jordan and Billy Neighbors, Alabama went 11–0 and defeatedArkansas in the Sugar Bowl to claim the national championship.

In 1962, Bryant denounced The Saturday Evening Post for printing an article that charged him with encouraging his players to "engage in brutality" in a 1961 game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.[16] The magazine also claimed that Bryant and Georgia Bulldogs coach Wally Butts had conspired to fix their 1962 game together in Alabama's favor.[17] Butts, also on Bryant's behalf, sued Curtis Publishing Co. for defamation.[18] The case went to the Supreme Court. As a result of Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts 388 U.S. 130 (1967),[19] Curtis was ordered to pay $3,060,000 in damages to the plaintiff.

After the 1982 season, Bryant, who had turned 69 that September, decided to retire, stating, "This is my school, my alma mater. I love it and I love my players. But in my opinion, they deserved better coaching than they have been getting from me this year." His last regular season game was a 23–22 loss to Auburn and his last postseason game was a 21–15 victory in the Liberty Bowlin Memphis, Tennessee over the University of Illinois. After the game, Bryant was asked what he planned to do now that he was retired. He replied "Probably croak in a week."[12] His reply proved ominous.

Four weeks after making that comment, and just one day after passing a routine medical checkup, on January 25, 1983, Bryant checked into Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa after experiencing chest pain. A day later, when being prepared for an electrocardiogram, he died after suffering a massive heart attack. First news of Bryant's death came from Bert Bank (WTBC Radio Tuscaloosa) and on the NBC Radio Network (anchored by Stan Martyn and reported by Stewart Stogel).[13] On his hand at the time of his death was the only piece of jewelry he ever wore, a gold ring inscribed "Junction Boys".[14] He is interred at Birmingham's Elmwood Cemetery. A month after his death, Bryant was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, by President Ronald Reagan.[15] A moment of silence was held prior to Super Bowl XVII, played four days after Bryant's passing.

Pat Trammell and Paul "Bear" Bryant

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