Birthday: September 11, 1913
Died At Age: 69
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Paul William Bryant
Born in: Fordyce
Famous as: Football Player, Coache
political ideology: Democratic Party
Spouse/Ex-: Mary Harmon
father: William Monroe
mother: Ida Kilgore Bryant
Died on: January 26, 1983
place of death: Tuscaloosa
U.S. State: Arkansas
education: University of Alabama
awards: 1961 - Paul
Paul William “Bear” Bryant was a college football coach who had an illustrious career as the head coach of the University of Alabama football team, a post he held for 25 long and productive years. Lauded for being the most successful coach in the history of collegiate football in the U.S., he led his team to a record 323 wins. He was as much respected for his moral strength and courage as he was for his discipline and direction that made him a strict albeit much loved coach. Bryant, dressed in his trademark black and white houndstooth hat and sports jacket, watching the teams intently from the sidelines was a frequent sight during the warm ups and the games. A passionate football player from childhood, he led his team to victory in the Arkansas state football championship during his senior year in high school. In spite of being a brilliant player, he never played professionally and chose to become a coach upon his graduation. He served as the head football coach at the University of Maryland, the University of Kentucky, and Texas A&M University before coming to the University of Alabama for his historic innings as the most successful coach American collegiate football has ever seen.
Childhood & Early Life
Bryant was the son of Wilson Monroe, a farmer, and Ida Kilgore. He had 11 siblings of whom three died in their infancy.
He acquired the nickname ‘Bear’ after he agreed to wrestle a captive bear at a carnival when he was 13.
He attended Fordyce High School where he started playing on the school’s football team as an eighth grader.
He helped his team win the 1930 Arkansas state football championship during his senior season and earned a scholarship to play for the University of Alabama in 1931.
Since he had left Fordyce High School before graduating, he enrolled at a Tuscaloosa high school to finish his education.
In spite of having played in his school’s 1934 National Championship team and being selected by the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1936 NFL Draft, he never played professionally.
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He became a coach at the Union University in Jackson after his graduation in 1936.
He was offered the position of an assistant coach under Frank Thomas at the University of Alabama. He held this post for four years till 1940.
During the World War II he joined the United States Navy. He reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander and was discharged from the Navy in 1944.
In 1945, Bryant became the head coach of the Maryland Terrapins. In his first season he led the team to a 6-2-1 record. However, he quit after a single season over a dispute with the president of the school.
He was appointed the football coach at the University of Kentucky in 1946. He coached the team for eight seasons during which he led them to victories in the Southern Conference (1950) and Sugar Bowl (1950).
He was offered the head coaching position at Texas A&M University in 1954. In spite of an inauspicious start, he led the team to victory in the Southwest Conference championship with a score of 34-21 in 1956.
During this time the football team of Alabama, his alma mater, was performing very poorly. So, he took over the team in 1958. He changed the team’s fortune upon his arrival and led them to a win over Auburn the very next year.
Alabama played in the Super Bowl in 1961 and went 11-0. They defeated Arkansas to claim the national championship. They won the Sugar Bowl again in 1963.
The team went undefeated in 1966 and beat the Nebraska team 34-7 in the Sugar Bowl.
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The team’s performances over the next few years were disappointing. In an attempt to revitalize his team, he adopted the newly designed wishbone formation instead of Alabama’s old power offense.
Bringing about this change enabled him to make the latter half of 1970s a successful one for Alabama. His team defeated the No. 1 Southern California in Los Angeles in 1977 and also beat the Buckeyes in 1978 and finished the season 11-1.
Alabama beat Penn State 14-7 in 1979 to win the national championship. His team registered a 24-9 win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl and ended the season with a 12-0 record.
He announced his retirement after the 1982 season.
Bryant was Alabama’s head football coach for 25 years during which he led them to win six national titles. His all-time record as a coach was 323-85-17. He had 37 winning seasons out of his 38 seasons as a head coach.
Awards & Achievements
He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Mary Harmon in 1935 and had two children with her.
He died of a heart attack in 1983 within weeks of his retirement.
The Paul W. Bryant Museum was opened in the campus of the University of Alabama in 1988 in his honor.
A U.S. postage stamp was issued in his honor in 1996.