As a young man Archie Manning excelled both athletically and academically in the small Delta town of Drew, Mississippi. Upon graduating from high school with valedictorian honors, Manning began his college football career in 1967 at the University of Mississippi. Under the guidance of legendary college coach John Vaught, Archie Manning and the Ole Miss Rebels achieved national recognition. Prior to the start of Manning’s senior year in 1970, the Rebels became one of the national favorites in college football. Perhaps more importantly, however, was Manning’s importance to his home state. During a time when many Americans viewed Mississippi as the nation’s bastion of racism, violence, and poverty, Manning’s rising football career, coupled with his personal character both on and off the football field, provided Mississippi with a symbol of success and pride. “The Ballad of Archie Who,” written in 1969 by a postman in Magnolia, Mississippi, and recorded by country singer Murray Kellum and his “Rebel Rousers” band, essentially enshrined Manning as a Mississippi folk hero, particularly to white Mississippians. Although Manning eventually finished his collegiate career on a seemingly down note, he ended his time at Ole Miss with a litany of school and conference records. He spent fourteen seasons in the National Football League, most of which were with the New Orleans Saints, and was recognized as the National Football Conference (NFC) Player of the Year in 1978. For many Mississippians, Archie Manning remains a folk hero and the state’s top athlete of the twentieth century.
To read “Archie Manning: The Story and Significance of a Mississippi Icon,” go to http://mshistorynow.mdah.ms.gov/.
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Established in 2000, Mississippi History Now produces articles on various topics concerning Mississippi history, along with corresponding lesson plans. The publication is funded by donations from individuals and businesses, as well as grants from the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH), and the Mississippi Historical Society. MDAH also provides the server and the webmaster for the site.