This week we look back at the storied career of USM football coach, P. W. Underwood in this MSMO classic from March of 2016.
After playing football for Southern Miss, P.W. Underwood returned to Hattiesburg as an assistant coach in 1963. In this episode, he remembers the team ranked number 1 in defense, three years out of four.
When Underwood was named head football coach for Southern Miss six years later, he knew some changes needed to be made. At that time USM was known as The Generals and the mascot was a character named General Nathan after Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. That year Underwood signed Willie Heidelburg, the first black player for a major Mississippi school and felt it was time to find a new mascot and establish some new traditions. He recounts the programs and processes he put in place to accomplish those goals.
After a humiliating loss to Ole’ Miss the year before, USM was given no chance of winning their 1970 rematch. Coach Underwood recalls how the Eagles were able to beat the odds.
This week, for our 50th Anniversary, we begin to document the story of us with a short series of episodes based on interviews conducted this spring of former directors and staffers. Unfortunately, our first director, Dr. Orley B. Caudill, Sr., passed away in 2015 at the age of 97. But luckily for us, his son, Brandt Caudill was willing to share his memories of his father and he had plenty of good stories!
Orley Caudill was working as a grocery store manager in Wenatchee, Washington when WWII erupted and soon found himself in the Army, guarding the Pacific coastline from possible Japanese invasion. He transferred into the Army Air Corp and served in the Pacific Theater as a navigator, bombardier, and radar operator. Caudill saw plenty of action. On one mission, his crew’s B25 bomber limped home with 450 bullet holes!
After the war, Caudill remained in the Air Force and flew night bombing missions during the Korean War. On one mission, their pilot was awarded the medal of honor and Caudill a bronze star. Caudill became an Air Force Public Information Officer and was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base for several years. He then served in Paris, taking his young family with him. Later, he served in the Pentagon before a final tour of duty in Vietnam. All told, he flew 120 combat missions!
By the time Caudill retired from the Air Force after 27 years, he had earned a Ph. D. in Political Science and moved his family to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to teach at USM in 1968. In 1971, he became the first director of the newly formed Mississippi Oral History Program and kept a grueling pace of 100 interviews per year until he retired in 1986.
In this episode Brandt Caudill recounts his father’s 27 year career in the U. S. Air Force. He recalls his father’s decision to move to Hattiesburg and teach Political Science at USM. Caudill also remembers his father’s love for oral history and the famous Mississippians he interviewed. Finally, he reflects on his father’s natural curiosity and zest for life throughout his 97 years.
The University of Southern Mississippi was still the Mississippi State Teachers College when Bernard Reed Green graduated in May of 1934. In this episode, he recalls his decision to come back that fall as the Freshman Football Coach. According to Green, his coaching style differed from that of Coach Pooley Hubert, the man who hired him, and how that difference had a positive impact on the team’s performance. He explains his philosophy and why he made a practice of recruiting new players from local junior colleges.
In 1942, as the United States prepared for war, Mississippi Southern College as the school was known by then, suspended all intercollegiate sports activities. Green remembers how he found jobs for his football players so they could remain in school. With so many students serving in the military during the war, Mississippi Southern faced the possibility of having to permanently close its doors. Green recounts how he and others lobbied the Pentagon for an officer training school to be located on campus. He explains that hosting the OTS and allowing the officer trainees to live in the empty men’s athletic dorm known as The Rock, enabled the institution to remain solvent during those lean war years.
PHOTO: Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame (Wikipedia)
Powell Ogletree was hired as the first Southern Miss Alumni Association Secretary in 1953. In this episode, he shares his memories of those early days spent recruiting new students, compiling alumni rolls with current contact information, and raising money for scholarships. One of Ogletree’s first tasks was to organize the group into local chapters. He explains why they chose March 30th as the day each chapter holds its annual meeting.
According to Ogletree, a successful athletic program plays an important part in recruiting new students to a university. He remembers the many hours spent driving Coach Pie Van to various events and how the Alumni Association pushed for radio and tv coverage of Southern Miss football.
The USM Foundation was formed on October 29, 1959 to raise money for academic and athletic scholarships. Powell Ogletree discusses serving as its Executive Secretary and how the foundation has grown over time.
PODCAST EXTRA: USM celebrated its 75th Anniversary with a 2 ½ yearlong fundraising campaign between 1985 and 1987. Ogletree highlights the goals, preparations and outcome of the extended event, as well as, his decision to retire afterwards.