George Bryan: A mover, shaker and, above all, a kind gentleman


George Bryan: A mover, shaker and, above all, a kind gentleman

George Bryan: Businessman, philanthropist, visionary, who brought U.S. Women’s Open to West Point in 1999. (Photo courtesy of Old Waverly)

Former Mississippi athletic director Larry Templeton remembers vividly a crisp, clear fall day back in 1984, when his good friend and former MSU classmate George Bryan took him on an excursion into the backwoods of Clay County near West Point.

Says Templeton, “We were in George’s old Bronco on an old dirt loggers’ road, and George pulled over in the middle of all this wilderness. We got out and George said, ‘The fifth green will be over there and the sixth tee will be just across the way over there.’ I said, ‘George, you got to be kidding me. You are out of your mind. You are smarter than this.’”

Four years later, Old Waverly, one of the grandest golf courses in the Deep South or anywhere, opened, with the fifth green and sixth tee right where Bryan had said they would be. Instantly, Golf Digest rated it as one of the best 100 golf courses in America.

Yes, and 15 years later, Bryan brought the U.S. Women’s Open to West Point and the Golden Triangle. The tournament was attended by 130,000, covered by international media, and telecast around the world. It was a feat that seems even more amazing in retrospect than it did at the time.

“That’s the thing about George, he had vision few people in this world have,” Templeton says. “He could see the possibilities when nobody else saw them and then make those possibilities into realities.”

Rick Cleveland

George Wilkes Bryan Sr., a gentleman, business leader and visionary, died Jan. 6 at his home across the road from Old Waverly. He was 78, and he leaves behind legions of friends and admirers across the country and particularly in the Golden Triangle.

As this writer and others who knew him learned many times over, anything George Bryan had a hand in was going to be first class. Bryan will be remembered as much for his human kindness as for his business successes and his vision. Says Archie Manning, the and NFL football hero, “I can only hope to be as kind to people as George Bryan always was.”

When Manning had first signed with the New Orleans Saints he became friends with Bryan, and Bryan Foods became his first major endorsement as a professional athlete. About that time, Manning was taking up the sport of golf.

“My first tournament was this four-ball at Shady Oaks in Jackson,” Manning says. “I didn’t know much about the game. Some guy across the fairway asked me what kind of ball I was playing. I picked it up and read the writing on it. I said, ‘I’m playing a Bryan Bacon.’”

Bryan began his career at his family’s business, West Point-based Bryan Foods, even before he began attending Mississippi State. He graduated from State with a degree in business administration at about the same time Sara Lee Corp. acquired Bryan Foods. Bryan steadily rose through the ranks in the meat industry, eventually serving as CEO of Sara Lee and chairman and director of the American Meat Institute before retiring in 2000. He made millions. He gave much of it back.

Throughout, Bryan never forgot where he was from or where he received his education. He gave back to West Point, Clay County, Mississippi and Mississippi State.

“It is difficult to overstate the impact of the loyalty and generosity of George Bryan and his family to Mississippi State University,” says MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “… George and Marcia (Bryan’s wife) left an indelible imprint on MSU.”

The Bryans surely did. Says Templeton, “George put his money where his heart was.”

The Bryan Athletic Administration Building, a $5 million facility opened in 1995, was made possible largely due to the generosity of the Bryan family. The Bryan Building houses MSU’s athletic administration offices as well as MSU’s athletic ticket office, the Bulldog Club, media relations, business and student services offices.

Bryan was a philanthropist in other ways. He served as general campaign chairman for the United Way of the Mid-South and as president of the Chickasaw Council Boy Scouts of America.

To know Bryan was to know how he exuded charm and kindness in everyday dealings with those he encountered, be they the cooks in the kitchens of Old Waverly, the wait staff, the golf course workers or the caddies in the 1999 U.S. Women’s Open. Quite simply, he treated others the way he would want to be treated himself – always with a personal touch.

Besides the U.S. Open, Bryan also brought the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship to Old Waverly and the club also has hosted Southeastern Conference golf championships. Bryan also co-founded Mossy Oak Golf Club, another world class golf course, which opened across the street from Old Waverly in 2018.

Bringing the U.S. Open to rural Clay County might well be Bryan’s crowning achievement. World Golf Hall of Famer Judy Bell of Colorado Springs was the president of the USGA when the decision was made to play the U.S. Open in Mississippi.

“George Bryan was a fine, honest man,” Bell says. “When he came to us and made his pitch, he exuded honesty and class. He was so sincere. There were three or four of us who made the ultimate decision and it was unanimous. Everything he said he’d do, he did. It was a special event, a memorable tournament. George made it happen. He was all class.”

So much had to be accomplished to make the ’99 Open a reality. Hundreds of miles of highways had to be expanded to four lanes. New roads had to be built. Motels and hotels had to be expanded and renovated. Parking lots had to be established. All i’s had to be dotted, and all t’s crossed to meet USGA specifications.

The ’99 Open has had lasting ramifications for the Golden Triangle and North Mississippi.

Says Templeton, “I’m not sure that anything has had more to do with the development of North Mississippi than when George brought the Open to Old Waverly.”

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Jim Carmody, a huge part of state’s football history, is dead at age 89


Jim Carmody, a huge part of state’s football history, is dead at age 89

Jim Carmody, a renowned defensive football mastermind and a prominent figure in the football histories of Southern Miss, and Mississippi , died Wednesday after a brief illness. Carmody, a Madison resident, was 89.

“Big Nasty” was Carmody’s nickname given to him by his defensive players at Southern Miss, but the moniker had more to do with the way his defenses played. They swarmed to the football and hit hard, whether he was coaching at State, Ole Miss or Southern Miss — or in the NFL. At Southern Miss, where he was first the defensive coordinator (1978-1980) and then the head coach (1982-87), his defenses were called “The Nasty Bunch” — a nickname that endures to this day.

Rick Cleveland

Carmody served two different stints at all three of the state’s largest universities — and he was part of monumental victories at each. Perhaps the most memorable of all was in October of 1982 when he was the head coach of a Southern Miss team that defeated Alabama and the legendary Bear Bryant 38-29 at Tuscaloosa, thus ending Bryant’s 59-game home winning streak. It was the first time a visiting team had won at Alabama in 19 seasons.

Reggie Collier was the star quarterback of that USM team. “Coach Carmody demanded a lot of you, expected a lot out of you,” Collier said Thursday afternoon, shortly after learning of Carmody’s . “He was very up front with his players. You knew where you stood. You wanted to do anything you could to please him. I loved the man. I loved playing for him.”

Southern Miss had winning seasons in five of Carmody’s six years as head coach, playing most of the more difficult games on the road. He was also part of program-defining victories at Ole Miss and State. A sampling follows:

  • In 1977, when he was the defensive coordinator at Ole Miss, the Rebels knocked off eventual national champion Notre Dame 20-13 at Mississippi Memorial Stadium. Carmody was the architect of a defensive game plan that stymied the heavily favored Fighting Irish in one of the signature football victories in Ole Miss history.
  • In 1989, two years after leaving Southern Miss, Carmody was the coordinator of a Mississippi State team that knocked off nationally ranked Southern Miss and Brett Favre 26-23 before a standing room only crowd at Hattiesburg. Southern Miss had defeated Florida State the week before and had defeated Mississippi State eight consecutive times. Said Rockey Felker, the head coach of that State team, “We were the tougher team that night in Hattiesburg and it was because of Jim Carmody. He taught toughness. He instilled toughness.” While Carmody was at Southern Miss, the Golden Eagles won eight of 10 games against State. When Carmody moved to State, the Bulldogs were 2-0 against USM.
  • In 1992, still later in his career, Carmody came back to haunt State, this time at Ole Miss. The Rebels won that Egg Bowl 17-10 when Carmody’s defensive front held State out of the end zone on three consecutive goal line stands, 11 plays, all from inside the 10-yard-line. “That was unbelievable, really,” Carmody once told me. “I have never seen anything quite like that sequence before then or since.”

Carmody was part of Mississippi sports history in other ways. In 1987, Carmody’s USM team was the first historically white university to play against one of state’s historically black universities. Southern Miss defeated W.C. Gorden-coached Jackson State 17-7 before an overflow crowd in Hattiesburg. Carmody had pushed for the game to be played and afterward had nothing but praise for the JSU Tigers, whom he said, “were well-coached and talented and could beat a lot of the better teams on our schedule.”

Early in his career, Carmody coached on Paul Davis’s staff at Mississippi State (1964-66) and helped the Bulldogs to their first victory over a John Vaught-coached Ole Miss team 20-17 at Oxford in 1964, “Man, that was a big deal back then,” Carmody once told me. “It was on national TV and Coach Vaught had just dominated State for years and years. I remember they let classes out at State the following Monday.”

As it happens, Paul Davis was on Bear Bryant’s last staff at Alabama. In the photo that accompanies this column, you can see Steve Carmody shaking hands with Davis in the background, while Jim Carmody and Bear Bryant shake hands in the foreground.

Jim Carmody coached the late, great Ben Williams both at Ole Miss and then with the Buffalo Bills of the NFL. “Jim came to Ole Miss in my junior year (1974) and we got better real fast,” Williams once told me. “He knew how to motivate and he knew so much about technique. He made me a better player.”

Years later, when Williams was playing for the Bills, the team had an opening for a defensive coach. Williams said he told Buffalo head coach Chuck Knox, “You hire Jim Carmody and we will win our division next season.”

Knox hired Carmody away from Southern Miss. And the Bills led the league in defense and sacks and won their division. Ben Williams made All-Pro.

Jackson lawyer Steve Carmody (the oldest of Jim and Noonie Carmody’s four sons) was a fine center on the Southern Miss team that knocked off Bear Bryant and Alabama.

“He was tough, but fair. He treated me the way he treated all his players,” Steve Carmody once said of his father. “It was really neat to see your dad at work every day. Not everybody gets a chance to do that. I thought he was so successful for two reasons. One, he was so smart. And, two, he always was so thoroughly prepared. Nobody was going to out-work my dad.”

Jim Carmody was once asked about his working two different times at the three Mississippi universities, surely something nobody else has ever done. Carmody laughed before answering, “I guess that says that I didn’t burn any bridges.”


A memorial service for Jim Carmody will be held Jan. 12 at 3 p.m. at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and in Jackson. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame or the Jim Carmody Scholarship Fund at Southern Miss.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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