What the presidents said about Bear Bryant

I was working on some research this morning and instead of staying focused on the work, I branched out and found a host of other interesting items. Here are a few quotes from presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan about legendary Alabama Crimson Tide coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant.

Gerald Ford, Remaks in Mobile, September 26, 1976:
You don’t know how pleased I am, how honored I am with the comments by my long-time friend, Bear Bryant. He is right. We graduated–he from the University of Alabama, and I from the University of Michigan. He got into coaching, and I did. He did a lot better in coaching than I did, but let me say that I am a good Monday morning quarterback when it comes to reading the paper and seeing what ball teams win and what ball teams lose.

I don’t offer the advice because I played and coached, and I found that, you know, there is nothing like the coach who is there and the players who have to play. But I have great respect for the players that are successful and the coaches who are successful. And I want to commend all of you here in the great State of Alabama for not only having a great university and a great university at Auburn, but I want to commend you for having, I think, one of the outstanding coaches, not only from the point of view of technically being a great coach but being a great leader of men, and that’s what really counts. Thank you very much, Bear.

Ford at the Annual Awards Luncheon of the NCAA (Ford was presented the Theodore Roosevelt Award, January 7, 1975:
But I am sure I don’t have to tell any of you, in this audience particularly, the problems of being an athletic director or head coach. For instance, I see my good friend Bear Bryant1 down here. I was talking to Bear and he said, “We both had the very same experience on New Year’s Day.” I said, “How is that possible? I was skiing and you were at the Orange Bowl.” He said, “That is what I mean. We both hit the top, and after that it was all downhill.” [Laughter]

You know, I think Alabama played a superb ball game, but Notre Dame just seemed to have something a little extra. You could tell, as I watched it anyhow, that Notre Dame was feeling pretty confident. I heard later they brought in Earl Butz to give the blessing.

Gerald Ford at the Awards Dinner of the American Football Coaches Association, January 9, 1975:
As a resident of Washington, the District of Columbia, on at least a temporary basis, I want you to know what a real thrill it is to have all of you here. Washington is a real football town, and you can’t imagine the excitement seeing John McKay fly in over the Potomac, Ara Parseghian drive in over the Potomac, and Bear Bryant walk in over the Potomac.

Reagan awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom, February 23, 1983:

And the next is a posthumous award to Paul W. Bryant, and Bear Bryant’s granddaughter, Mary Harmon Tyson, will accept the medal on behalf of her family.

In many ways, American sports embody the best in our national character—dedication, teamwork, honor and friendship. Paul “Bear” Bryant embodied football. The winner of more games than any other coach in history, Bear Bryant was a true American hero. A hard but beloved taskmaster he pushed ordinary people to perform extraordinary feats. Patriotic to the core, devoted to his players and inspired by a winning spirit that never quit, Bear Bryant gave his country the gift of a legend. In making the impossible seem easy, he lived what we all strive to be.

Reagan on visiting Bryant at a practice:

Now, I have to leave soon, but I can’t go without talking a minute about a great man that I was proud to call friend—Bear Bryant. He was sort of the essential American. And, you know, a few years back, I set a kind of a record here at the University of Alabama. I was here to go to a formal dinner where I was to be the after dinner speaker. And Bear invited me to come out and visit practice out here—football practice.

Well, the only way it could be worked out and the timing and all was that I had to put the tux on first. So, there I was out on the practice field throwing a ball around with about 65 fellows, and I was in black tie. [Laughter] Bear got quite a kick out of this. But he really started to laugh when it began to rain. [Laughter]

Ronald Reagan on Paul W. “Bear” Bryant’s death, January 26, 1983:

Today we Americans lost a hero who always seemed larger than life. Paul “Bear” Bryant won more college football games than any other coach in history, and he made legends out of ordinary people. Only 4 weeks ago, we held our breath, then cheered, when the “Bear” notched his final victory in a game named, fittingly, the Liberty Bowl.

He was a hard, but loved taskmaster. Patriotic to the core, devoted to his players, and inspired by a winning spirit that would not quit, Bear Bryant gave his country the gift of a life unsurpassed. In making the impossible seem easy, he lived what we strive to be.


Add Yours
  1. 2

    lol. well to be honest, picking on Chizik is like the US picking on Portugal.

    As for Kiffin, I’ve refrained from really picking on him lately because he hasn’t done anything funny.

    He needs to hurry up…I’m getting bored! 🙂

  2. 4

    yeah but Kiffin’s old lady is still smoking hot!

    Bear Bryant was a great Man. he influenced the lives of so many people it is unfathomable.
    He is and was my role model of what a man should be like. I constantly quote him to my players.
    I am sure that some historical re-visionists would like to paint a darker picture of the man. But I was alive and I remember him well.
    He was bigger to me than John Wayne. A man’s man. yet cery charitable and humble about his accomplishments.
    There will never be another Paul Bryant.

  3. 5

    i always tell detractors and remind friends coach bryant had no skeletons in his closet.

    there was no closet.

  4. 6

    finebammer, how do you know he had no skeletons in his closet? Just because you didn’t personally witness anything? Bear was a great coach and by all accounts a good and decent man. However, there were plenty of allegations about Bear regarding infidelity, heavy drinking, and cheating. I don’t think that made him evil, I think it just made him human. Just about everyone has some skeletons in the closet, i.e things they aren’t very proud of that they would rather remain hidden. The funny thing with you bammers is that you don’t even want to acknowledge that the man was human. To me, the fact that he accomplished so much despite his flaws is part of what made him great. When you bammers put him on this God-like pedestal, you don’t even realize that you’re minimizing how great his accomplishments really were.

  5. 7

    Yea FB evryone has a closet, if they dont they are crazy. And way to Mess a GREAT ARTICLE up!

    Oskie Says:
    May 14th, 2009 at 2:15 pm
    Best post I’ve seen in here. I’m amazed you were able to resist a Kiffin or Chizik potshot!

    uncalled for!

  6. 9

    and once again, julio, you leave more documented proof what a dumbass you are.

    didn’t say the man didn’t have fault.

    (as over twenty years after the man’s death, you aubies love to remind us.)

    they were out there for everyone to see.

    coach bryant lived in a glass house. very few can perform at the elite level coach bryant did in those circumstances.


    work on it, julio.

  7. 10

    Finebammer, I apologize. I didn’t realize that Bear committed adultery in the wide open public. See, I thought he had enough class and respect to actually do that type of thing behind closed doors (some might even call it “closet doors”). But because you say “he had no closets”, I guess that would make that impossible. I guess he was also publicly instructing boosters to buy recruits at Tex A&M, and I guess I missed those episodes of the Bear Bryant show where he put down the coke and golden flakes and slammed Early Times right there in front of the camera.

    closet/definition. work on it, finebammer.

  8. 11
    E.G White

    Ok, if Bear actually fooled around – and to discover that you would have to ask Mary Harmon or his purported floosies – still, that and a love for the grain beverage was his personal business and not the affair of others. As for cheating, he was never caught , tried or convicted. But I wonder what Shug Jordan, Johnny Vaught, Johnny Majors, General Neyland, Darrell Royal, John Mckay, Bobby Bowden, Ara Parsigian, Tom Osborn, Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes, Joe Paterno, Ray Goff, Lou Holtz or Barry Switzer were all doing at that time? Offering incentives to student atiletes was a common closed door practice from WW2 through the late 70’s. Don’t be condeming Bear for something that was common practice by everyone. In the context of his profession, his university, his influence on student athletes and his public life – he was a great man! RTR!

  9. 12
    E.G White

    One other thing. The honorable remarks by the various presidents were nice, but personally I never worship anyone for their position, eg: president, king, emporer, etc. they all put their pants on one leg at a time and wipe the stinky off their asses just like me. So those quotes, while nice don’t mean much. What does mean much is to be honored by your peers who have attained an unmatched level of success in their profession. In that context the quote that is of the most importance and honor does not come from a damn politician, but from the greatest professional coach of all time. Vince Lombardi when asked after winning the Super Bowl how it felt to be the best football team in the world, said: ‘I don’t know. We haven’t played Alabama yet.’ – That was the legacy of a Bear Bryant coached Alabama team! RTR!

  10. 13

    EG, you’re really showing your ignorance with this quote: “As for cheating, he was never caught , tried or convicted.” Do you seriously not know that he was caught cheating at Tex A&M and put on probation? Do you seriously not know that Bear admitted that he knew the players were being paid? Don’t take my word for, read about it in Keith Dunnvant’s book (and Bear’s autobiography for that matter). For a guy who claims to know a lot about Bear’s history, that was a pretty stupid thing to say.

  11. 14
    E.G White

    Uhh I do believe we were talking about Alabama. I know about Texas A&M, and I don’t give a shit. That’s a different world over there. Tex A&M is the Barners of Texas. When Bear arrived they were hopelessly desperate. The Alumni told him just tell us what players you need and we’ll make sure you get them! Then when he beat the hell out of Texas guess what Texas did? At Alabama he had the Texas of this state and didn’t have to stoop to such obvious tactics. The subject here is Alabama, not Maryland, Kentucky or Texas A&M! By the way bet you didn’t know that Bear did a ‘Junction’ when he arrived at Kentucky and it was much worse than the publicized one at Junction, Texas. Shows the difference in football importance between the 2 states. Nobody gave a shit about busted up Kentuckians, and yet George Blanda came out of it. I ain’t stoopid dude. Just can’t cover every detail typing on this damn cell phone. RTR!

  12. 15

    EG…so you say that A&M was the Auburn of the State of Texas, and that UA is the Texas of this state, and then you ask guess what Texas (Alabama) did when A&M (Auburn) beat the hell out of them…hmmmmm, for once I agree with your point. Bama did accuse Auburn of cheating and everything else under the sun when Auburn beat the hell out of the,.

  13. 16
    E.G White

    Yes they did. I agree. And there’s always going to be those accusations. It’s human nature. However a couple of points to consider: 1. Bear turned Auburn in for cheating because they were. Auburn said ‘Bama’s doing the same thing’. Sound familiar? 2. In the current situation (Albert Means aftermath), you think maybe Bama might have had just a little motivation to accuse Auburn? – Since just a few years ago Auburn boosters had PAID Gene Jelks to lie to the NCAA, and now Auburn was one of the three orange colored schools involved in the Albert Means conspiracy against us. Ya think???

Comments are closed.