Sunday, August 7, 2022

Mississippi’s Greatest Athletes: Philadelphia’s Bernard Blackwell


Bernard Brown Blackwell, from the Neshoba County town of Philadelphia, was a four-sport letterman at Ole Miss, where he specialized in football (1944-47).

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 1.26.53 PMHe started every game at left guard for four straight seasons, finishing in 1947 on Johnny Vaught’s first Rebel team. He made All-American in 1947 and signed a professional football contract with the New York Giants.

But Blackwell was destined to coach and at age 21 he became the youngest head coach in Mississippi junior college history, taking over the reins at Northwest in Senatobia. His other coaching assignments were at West Tallahatchie, Greenville, and Pascagoula, before joining the staff at Mississippi College from 1963 until 1991.

Blackwell served as executive secretary of the Mississippi Association of Coaches from 1963 to 1991 and was instrumental in forming the MAC Hall of Fame.
MAC membership grew from about 300 to more than 2,000 under his leadership. Blackwell remained at Mississippi College as assistant to the president through 1976 and was director of alumni affairs until his death in 1993 at the age of 73.

The Bernard Blackwell Classic — the Mississippi high school all-star football game — is named for him.


Courtesy of Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum director Rick Cleveland, author of Mississippi’s Greatest Athletes. Cleveland can be reached at

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