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Top Stories of 2017: The Story Behind Ole Miss' Most Beloved Poem

The man who penned “The Heart of Ole Miss,” the beloved and oft-quoted poem about the University of Mississippi, initially thought so little of it, he tossed it in the wastebasket after reading it in public.
Frank E. Everett, Jr., an Indianola native who earned his bachelor’s degree from Ole Miss in 1932 and his law degree in 1934, served as Colonel Reb and student body president during his time at the university. He went on to become a partner with the Vicksburg law firm, Brunini, Everett, Beanland and Wheeless. He was a past president of the Ole Miss Alumni Association and was inducted into the Ole Miss Hall of Fame.
Everett wrote the poem in the early 1970s for a meeting of the Warren County Alumni Club, held at the Downtown Motor Inn in Vicksburg. But he apparently never envisioned that the poem would become so popular, according to his friend, Ed Canizaro.
“I was at the Warren County Ole Miss Alumni Banquet when Mr. Everett read the poem for the first time,” Canizaro told HottyToddy.com in 2013. “It was wonderful. Joann Sharborough called Mr. Everett the next day to get a copy of the poem. He had thrown it in the trash and had to retrieve it. I am happy to say [we] have a copy of the complete original poem.”
Many Ole Miss alums have memorized a couple of non-consecutive lines of the poem:
“The University is respected, but Ole Miss is loved … The University gives a diploma and regretfully terminates tenure, but one never graduates from Ole Miss.”
What some don’t realize is that the full composition runs at a length of almost 600 words. In fact, Everett’s ode to Mississippi’s flagship university reads almost like a biblical psalm, so we thought it appropriate to share its complete text during Thanksgiving week. After all, there would be no HottyToddy.com without Ole Miss—and we are thankful for the opportunity to serve our readers every day:
The Heart of Ole Miss
There is a valid distinction between “The University” and “Ole Miss,” even though the separate threads are closely interwoven. The University is buildings, trees and people. Ole Miss is mood, emotion and personality. One is physical and the other spiritual, one tangible and the other intangible. The University is respected, but Ole Miss is loved. For anyone without that love it does not exist. The University is geographical, but Ole Miss is universal. There are many universities, but there is only one Ole Miss.
What then is Ole Miss?
Ole Miss is intimate and personal with a special meaning to each one. It is as elusive to define as capturing a cloud.
Ole Miss is agony and ecstasy, with no middle ground. Anything less than glorious triumph brings sheer misery and utter despair.
Ole Miss is the citadel where beauty dwells.
Ole Miss is lacy moon shadows on the great white columns of the Lyceum.
Ole Miss is the Grove where in the Spring the soft whispering breeze sings through the high lifted branches of the trees its sweetest songs, and where on crisp Autumn Saturdays are lavishly spread the most massive picnics ever conceived.
Ole Miss is a six year old, proudly labeled with a big “18” on his back. Ole Miss is in Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field, Atlantic City and Tulane Stadium or wherever its people are, together or alone.
Ole Miss is in a service club in distant Heidelberg where among hundreds more, a young soldier far from home scribbled his name on the wall with the sole identification “Ole Miss, By Damn!”
Ole Miss is a lonely white cross in an endless row of crosses on a remote and rocky mountainside at Casino.
Ole Miss is an impromptu reunion at a South Pacific crossroad somewhere between Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima.
Ole Miss is a smile of recognition, an excited embrace, a warm handshake, a friend in every town, village and hamlet from Tunica to Tylertown and Pontotoc to Pascagoula.
Ole Miss is a quiet little bald man from the red hills of Georgia smiling near the visitors’ gate at Sanford Stadium in Athens wearing a battered old button with wrinkled red and blue ribbon hungry to hear voices and see faces from home.
Ole Miss is an eager freshman yelling, shouting and jumping with uncontained excitement in the line ahead of me at Legion Field in Birmingham. I was numb and silent with apprehension. He demanded, “Who are you for?” I said, “Son, I was for Ole Miss before you were born.” Looking at my gray hair he said, “I guess you are right” and stuck out his hand. We shook and the generation gap dissolved. Ole Miss knows no boundaries of age.
Ole Miss is the deep throb of drumming music that beats a battle song—the lithe steps on long young limbs that measure the marching cadence heralding that the Rebels are on the move again. 
Ole Miss is Bourbon Street at its best, or at its worst.
Ole Miss, too, is a quiet meditation under blue skies on Sardis Lake or in an ancient country church at College Hill. 
Ole Miss is an unbreakable unity, a lasting living bond between those past, and those present, and those to come.
Ole Miss is a million memories, a million dreams, a million hopes, a million aims blended into one viable regenerating totality of experience and aspiration. 
The University gives a diploma and regretfully terminates tenure, but one never graduates from Ole Miss.
In short, Ole Miss is us!

Rick Hynum is editor-in-chief of HottyToddy.com. Email him at rick.hynum@hottytoddy.com.

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