Thursday, September 29, 2022

Sue Dabbs

By Sarah Bullock

Journalism Student

Sue Dabbs Photo provided

For years, while men wrote about sports in Mississippi, there were no women sportswriters in the state. Sue Dabbs made history and changed that.

In the 1960s, Dabbs became the first female sportswriter in Mississippi and worked at the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson after growing up in a sports-oriented family.

“To be honest with you, I did not start as a sportswriter,” Dabbs said. “I was the first lady hired as a copy clerk. Finally, after about three or four years covering high school sports, they let me be a sportswriter.”

Dabbs knew early on that she was destined to be a sportswriter. Writing during her high school years kickstarted her drive to be in sports.

Working at the Clarion-Ledger as a sportswriter and also at the Pearl Press as a sports editor, Dabbs never had a problem walking in and feeling comfortable as the first woman in the field. She knew a lot about sports, and that was all that mattered.

“I mean, I got along with everyone. I did not have any problems,” Dabbs said, explaining how she felt that she belonged from the start.

Dabbs attended Delta State University and covered the women’s basketball in the 1970s, when the teams won three consecutive national championships and made history as the first women’s team to play in Madison Square Garden.

“I wanna say that was 1975, 1976, and 1977, and Langston (Rogers) met me on the plane because he was at Delta State,” Dabbs said. “We went to Pennsylvania because they had the National Championship at Penn State one year, and the paper sent me up there.”

Rogers, who was sports information director at Delta State, later became sports information director at Ole Miss. He now serves at Ole Miss as a special assistant to the athletics director for history.

“The success of Delta State’s team, which won three straight National Championships and was coached by Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Margaret Wade, provided Sue Dabbs a chance to cover women’s basketball for the Clarion-Ledger on a national scale,” Rogers said. “It also came at a time shortly after the passage of Title IX when many colleges and universities started bringing in women’s sports teams under its Department of Athletics. This was before the NCAA regulated women’s basketball, which was then under the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW).

“Although Delta State’s men’s teams were NCAA Division II, the women’s basketball team was Division I in the AIAW and competed against UCLA, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee, LSU, Jackson State, Alabama, Penn State, and Kentucky, just to name a few,” Rogers continued. “The team played in Madison Square Garden, the Louisiana Superdome, Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, the Palestra in Philadelphia, the Orange Bowl Classic in Miami, and two tournaments in Hawaii. Sue Dabbs accompanied the DSU women to many of those locations, and her efforts brought the readers of the Clarion-Ledger a first-hand report not only of Delta State, but also of women’s basketball teams in the state of Mississippi.”

Dabbs has met many people throughout her life and makes it a point to be kind to everyone she sees. Her bright personality warms any room she enters, and her stories entertain listeners.

A devout Ole Miss fan, Dabbs remembers the 1972 Ole Miss football game against LSU. She tells a story with a smile and a laugh, even as she remembers such a heart-breaking loss for her and her mother, who also attended. Ole Miss was ultimately defeated 17-16 by LSU when the Tigers scored in the final four seconds of the game.

“We were leaving the stadium, and of course they’re constantly telling us where to go, and Momma turned around and she said ‘We are already there.’ I said ‘Momma come on, don’t say anything to them, just keep walking.’”

After the Pearl Press closed around 1980, Dabbs tackled other professions. She set up Goodwill stores in Jackson, worked at a cement plant in Brandon, and cleaned houses. A woman of many talents, she isn’t afraid of hard work.

“I’ve liked everything I’ve ever done,” Dabbs said.

Born in Becker, Miss., as an infant Dabbs moved with her family to Columbus and later lived in Jackson until 2006 when she moved to Oxford. She continues to attend Ole Miss games and always purchases season tickets.

“Momma said I have been an Ole Miss fan since I was six,” Dabbs said. “We lived in Columbus and of course, Mississippi State was right down the road. She said ‘Well why Ole Miss?’ and I said ‘I like their colors better.’ I’m a diehard fan.”

She is also a person who has made a difference in her state and in her profession.

“Sue Dabbs was truly a trailblazer when it came to the possibility for more women in the future to gain the opportunity to cover Mississippi sports teams on all levels,” Rogers said. “She opened the door for those women who came after her, and the impact she had on sports journalism in our state in the 1970s is still felt today.”

Dabbs has no regrets and is content with how her career and life turned out. She made history while paving the way for current and future women’s sportswriters, and if anyone was going to break into the field, it was Sue Dabbs.

“I had a great life,” she said. “If I die tomorrow, I’m happy.”


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