The current cheerleaders, four boys and four girls, were elected under tense circumstances. Martin Luther King had been assassinated the weekend before the scheduled election, and on the day prior to the voting a group of black Ole Miss students, 50 to 75 of them (there are about 100 in the student body of 6,000), marched in a solemn procession up a street where campaigning cheerleaders were promising voters such things as a free supply of Rebel flags. "We shall overcome," chanted the Negroes. "Black Power."
"There was a riot," says Johnny Morgan, who was campaigning as Johnny Rebel. "These kids will tell you there was no riot, because you're a Northern reporter, but I'll tell you there was. I was in there throwing eggs. After the march the niggers went to The Grill and spread all around instead of going in back and sitting down together. They'd sit at tables where there were couples. One guy turned over a table on a nigger and walked out. Man, I was a physical wreck. The election had been going just right, and we figured just how many cards we needed printed up, and then these niggers came down and the administration decided to dismiss classes. You couldn't find a soul around here. The election was postponed until after the Easter holidays. I had to go get more cards printed up."
After the effort and expense of winning, Ole Miss cheerleaders have been known to semiretire. Some have not shown up at bowl games until halftime. Last spring others refused to appear at basketball games because they could find more excitement elsewhere. But this year's cheerleaders are more devoted. They have four cheers instead of the previous two, and at a college cheerleading clinic held in July in Hattiesburg they won four ribbons and a spirit stick and were named the most improved group.
Nonetheless, Ole Miss will gladly leave the acrobatics to Georgia. What it likes to boast about are its parties and its beauties. The "Top Beauty"—a title won in another campus contest—is Jane Carol Foshee. She is a cheerleader and is being touted in Oxford as the next Miss America. "Jane Carol is not only beautiful outside but beautiful inside," sighs one coed. Ole Miss has its own entry in the Miss Mississippi contest, and twice its representative, Miss University, has gone on to be Miss America: Majorette Mary Ann Mobley won at Atlantic City in 1959 and Linda Lee Mead in 1960. While volleyball and tennis trophies captured by Ole Miss sororities are wedged away in bookcases, the beauty cups shine on the mantelpiece.
Not entirely coincidentally, Jane Carol Foshee belongs to Chi Omega, the sorority of the two previous Miss Americas. She received invitations from all 10 Ole Miss sororities on campus but felt "more at home" with the Chi Omegas. Though she is just 19, she is already a beauty-pageant veteran, having been Miss Hattiesburg High and Mississippi Junior Miss. Her rendition of Second Hand Rose, complete with an ostrich feather shawl and lace bloomers, has become increasingly polished.
Contesting with Jane Carol at beauty-conscious Ole Miss is Zetta Mae, the defeated homecoming queen candidate. Zetta Mae has been a cheerleader for three years and twice has been voted a "Favorite" in yet another campus election. "Zetta Mae is sexy," says Head Cheerleader Bodie Catlin. "She catches your eye real quickly. Jane Carol is the kind of girl you'd bring home to your mother."
It is pointed out with pride at Ole Miss that few beards are seen. "There are some strange guys in the art department," it is confessed, "but they are pseudo hippies." "The big thing here is to look cool and have a sharp date," says Johnny Morgan. "The college crowd, when they go to a game, don't want to yell. They don't want to blow their cool." But they do want to wave Rebel flags—the school provides $2,000 in the $5,000 cheerleader budget specifically for flags—and they do risk enough cool to belt out their favorite cheer:
Are you ready?
Who the hell are we?
Hey! Flim flam
What a shock it would be to Ole Miss students if they knew that another of their four cheers—
Whomp 'em up
Side o' the head
Whomp 'em up
Side o' the head