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Vassallo: 1930s Students Left a Lasting Legacy

Our recent story on the Cardinal Club’s plaque in front of Fulton Chapel attracted a great deal of interest.

Jane Montgomery Ford with Ole Miss' quarterback Chad Kelly.
Jane Montgomery Ford (Barnes) with Ole Miss’ quarterback Chad Kelly.

Two of the names on this famous landmark, George Spencer Barnes and Mahlon E. Webb, are not only stories of success, but a never ending Ole Miss legacy as their families continue to support the Red & Blue to this day!

I had the pleasure to catch up with two of these gentleman’s daughters in an attempt to learn more about these students now permanently enshrined in Ole Miss history, thanks to the Cardinal Club of the late 1930s.

George Spencer Barnes, photo courtesy of Jane Montgomery Ford.
George Spencer Barnes, photo courtesy of Jane Montgomery Ford.

Starting with Jane Montgomery Ford (Barnes) who lives in Columbus, is a 1973 graduate of Ole Miss. Jane like her brother came to Ole Miss as did her two children. Jane’s father, George Spencer, started Ole Miss at 16. He spent two years at the med school here in Oxford (1930s vintage) before transferring to Tulane where he became a physician. George Spencer met Jane’s mother (Anne Montgomery) and his future spouse on a flight in the mid ’40s while Anne was a Delta stewardess. They married in 1947 following WW II. Dr. Barnes practiced medicine in Columbus for over 50 years.

“Spencer” as he was best known left us in 2006 following a wonderful life story usually that only happens in fairy tales.

Mahlon E. Webb with the 1930s plaque.
Mahlon E. Webb with the Cardinal Club’s plaque.

Following Jane, I met with Lucretia Tillman, daughter of another Ole Miss great, Mahlon E. Webb. Mahlon graduated in 1948 from Ole Miss. Born in 1914, he passed away at the age of “98,” fulfilling an incredible life! Lucretia was raised in Water Valley and was the only child (of four) who ventured to Oxford where she and her husband reside today. Mahlon dropped out of school in order to go with the railroad and to save enough money to continue his education. Returning to Ole Miss, he accelerated his academics, becoming a pharmacist. During his senior year at Ole Miss, he worked at Avent Drugstore on the Square before opening Webb’s Drugstore in Water Valley that he owned for 30 some years. Mahlon was known for helping students by financing their education which he did frequently. Lucretia and her husband, Jim, and children Scott and Jill are Ole Miss alums continuing the third generation.

Mahlon E. Webb
Mahlon E. Webb

Because of space limitations we could not go into any detail about these two gentleman’s love for Ole Miss and athletics. Lucretia shared something I had never heard previously in that the Cardinal Club hosted visiting athletic teams while on campus.

Without a doubt these two incredible individuals, George Spencer Barnes and Mahlon E. Webb, influenced many, many young people and that influence is continuing today, soon to be extending 80 years! When you stop to think about it, a great life that is focused on “good things” is a gift that never quits giving. Jane and Lucretia can certainly attest to that! God bless both of these ladies and all the wonderful contributions their fathers and other family members have made to this very special place called Ole Miss.

Steve Vassallo

Steve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.com or call him at 985-852-7745.

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