Article Category: Funereal Friday

The “Bear”

Posted Friday, Jan 08

Southern Calls Vol. 3, March 2014

After the 1982 season, Paul William “Bear” Bryant, 69, announced his decision to retire, stating, “This is my school, my alma mater. I love it and I love my players. But in my opinion, they deserved better coaching than they have been getting from me this year.” After the last game of his career, a 21-15 victory over the University of Illinois in the Liberty Bowl, Bryant was asked what he planned to do now that he was retired. He replied, “Probably croak in a week.” 

His reply proved ominous. Four weeks after making that comment, and just one day after passing a routine medical checkup, Bryant checked into Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa after experiencing chest pain. A day later, January 26, 1983, when being prepared for an electrocardiogram, he died after suffering a massive heart attack. On his hand at the time of his death was the only piece of jewelry he ever wore, a gold ring inscribed “Junction Boys.”

A moment of silence was held prior to Super Bowl XVII, played four days after Bryant’s passing. A month after his death, Bryant was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, by President Ronald Reagan. 

He is interred at Birmingham’s Elmwood Cemetery.

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