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Cofield on Oxford — Dean of the Freshman Class

James "Blind Jim" Ivy Photo by J. R. Cofield
James “Blind Jim” Ivy
Photo by J. R. Cofield

Grandfather Cofield took this last photograph of Mr. James “Blind Jim” Ivy in front of the Lyceum in September, 1955, just a few weeks before Dean R. Malcolm Guess, dean emeritus, received the sad telegram from Chicago that Blind Jim, 85, had passed away at his son’s home there. With the news that the “Honorary Dean of the Freshman Class” would be returned for burial to Oxford, his homecoming marking the first Homecoming game he’d missed in 60 years, a ceremony was held at halftime with funds donated by fans presented to the family for Jim’s funeral. Flags on campus flew at half staff for three days.

Jim was blinded in his teens when coal tar got in his eyes while helping to paint a Tallahatchie River bridge. His first appearance on campus happened in 1896 when he wandered into an Ole Miss baseball game at the university’s field. Texas had Ole Miss down pretty good and when the students told Jim the score, he started jumpin’ up and down and yelling for Ole Miss to whip the Texans. Lore says our boys, sparked by Jim, mounted the comeback. Whatever it was, the team did come back and destroy Texas. And from that game on James Ivy took his place in Ole Miss’ rich heritage.

Blind Jim at Hemingway Stadium Photo by J. R Cofield
Blind Jim at Hemingway Stadium
Photo by J. R Cofield

Jim’s love for, and from, the freshman class came about when tradition decided that the Class would be the ones to lead Jim around campus. As the years went by, Jim and several Ole Miss families could boast he’d been led by 3 generations of the family’s freshman. Many times Jim could recognize alumni walking toward him by their footsteps and would be the first one to speak.

At the beginning of the baseball seasons, Jim would give pep talks to the new students telling them, “We’re going to win all our games. I’ve been to more Ole Miss games than anybody else, and I’ve never seen the Rebels lose yet!”

John Cofield is a HottyToddy.com writer and one of Oxford’s leading folk historians. He is the son of renowned university photographer Jack Cofield. His grandfather, J. R “Colonel” Cofield, was William Faulkner’s personal photographer and for decades was The Ole Miss yearbook photographer. Cofield attended Ole Miss as well. Contact John at johnbcofield@gmail.com.

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