Friday, December 19, 2014

Bear Bryant Remembered On 30th Anniversary Of His Death
By Ashley Thompson

Bear Bryant died of a heart attack in 1983 but his legacy still lives on in this state.

January 26 1983 is a day some people will never forget. Mike King was in New York City when he got word of Bear Bryant's passing and says the news came as a shock.

"I mean, it was just hard to believe," says King. "When I was growing up, I went to all the Auburn-Alabama games and Alabama won most of the games. I mean everybody just, Bear Bryant, they thought he could walk on water." 

Bear Bryant's funeral was held in Tuscaloosa. Mike Washington, a former Alabama defensive back, was there and says so was just about everyone else.

"All of the professional athletes that he had coached and just about all the players that ever went to the University of Alabama and probably half of Birmingham and all the students from the University of Alabama was there," he says.

Following the funeral, a procession into Birmingham took place. But Washington says even with heavy traffic and large crowds, people continued to pour into town for a chance to pay their last respects.

"Interstate 65 was shut down," he says. "I mean it was just packed with cars and people going up there. They might have been five miles away from the funeral, there was so many people there but people went there. It was a sight. It really was."

Bear Bryant retired from coaching in 1982 after 25 years at Alabama. When asked what he would do in retirement, he said 'Probably croak in a week.' Just four weeks later, he was dead. Some think there may have been more behind this comment.

"My thought  was football had been so much a part of his life that when it wasn't there anymore, there wasn't much worth going on," says fan Mike King.

But even today the Coach's influence is still seen around the state and in the world of college football, some say Bear Bryant changed the game.

"I think he did everything for college football," says fan Charles Smith. "I think that he kind of turned the whole game around because of his personality and his demeanor."

"Coach Bear Bryant is the man. He's the legend," says Mike Washington.

During his time at Alabama, Coach Bryant won six National Championships and 13 conference championships. Bear Bryant is buried in Elmwood Cemetary in Birmingham.