Birth of Bear Bryant

US #3148 was issued at the Paul W. Bryant Museum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Football star and coach Paul William “Bear” Bryant was born on September 11, 1913, in Moro Bottom, Arkansas.

Bryant received his nickname when he was 13 years old and had agreed to wrestle a captive bear for a carnival promotion.  While his mother wanted him to be a minister, he knew he wanted to be a coach.

US #3148 – Mystic First Day Cover

Standing at 6’1″ when was in eighth grade, Bryant joined his high school football team.  By his senior season, he was playing offensive line and defensive end and helped his team win the Arkansas state championship.

Bryant went to the University of Alabama on a scholarship in 1931 and played end for their team, the Crimson Tide.  In 1934, the team won the national championship.  The following year Bryant played with a partially broken leg.  In 1936, the Brooklyn Dodgers selected him in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, but he didn’t end up joining the team because he wanted a career as a coach.

US #3148 – Colorano Silk Cachet First Day Cover

After accepting a coaching job at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, Bryant spent four years as assistant coach at the University of Alabama.  During that time, the team earned a 29-5-3 record.  He then went to Vanderbilt University as an assistant coach, though he did serve as head coach in a game when the regular coach was out for surgery.

In 1941, Bryant was offered the head-coaching job at the University of Arkansas.  However, Pearl Harbor was attacked shortly after and he declined the offer so he could join the Navy.  During World War II, he served off the coast of North Africa, but never saw combat action.  However, when his ship was hit by an oil tanker and he was ordered to abandon it, he refused.  Instead, he emptied the forward fuel tanks, shifting the ship’s ballast, and prevented it from sinking.  Bryant was then given an honorable discharge and hired to train and coach recruits for the North Carolina Navy Pre-Flight football team.

US #3148 – Classic First Day Cover

Bryant had his first head-coaching job in 1945 at the University of Maryland.  Though he led to them to a 6-2-1 record, he butted heads with the school president and left after a year.  Bryant then moved to the University of Kentucky where he coached for eight years. During Bryant’s time there, the team made its first bowl appearance and won its first Southeastern Conference title.

In 1954, Bryant moved to Texas A&M University where he served as head coach and athletic director.  During his time there, Bryant had an overall record of 25-14-2.  Then, Bryant returned home to coach the Alabama Crimson Tide in 1958.  It was here that Bryant achieved his greatest success.  Coaching there for 25 years he built an impressive record, winning six national titles and 13 SEC championships.

US #3148 – Fleetwood First Day Cover

Bryant earned a reputation as a demanding coach and a strict disciplinarian.  His sense of fair play and his active interest in the players’ lives outside of football, however, inspired his teams to do their best.  Over the course of his career, he had a record of 323 regular season wins, 85 losses, and 17 ties, breaking the record at that time for the most victories.

Bryant had smoked and drank heavily for much of his life, leading his health to decline in the late 1970s.  He then opted to retire after a rough season in 1982, 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 his final game, he was asked what he was going to do in retirement, and he replied, “Probably croak in a week.”  Four weeks later, he died of a heart attack on January 25, 1983.  The Super Bowl held four days later included a moment of silence in his honor.

US #3143 is similar to #3148 except it lacks the red bar over Bryant’s name on the top right.

Bryant earned a number of awards and honors including 12 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year awards, three national Coach of the Year awards (later renamed the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  A museum, hall, and stadium are named in his honor at the University of Alabama.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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  1. The only reason I gave 1 star is that zero stars is not an option. Today is the 19th anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the brave passengers of the 4th plane that took control of their plane and crashed it into a field in Pennsylvania-and you idiots decide to honor a football coach!!!!!

    1. Haven’t we heard enough of the twin towers to last forever? Why call them idiots? Rude. I, for one, was glad to read about Bear Bryant.

    2. Incredibly rude and irresponsible comments. When discussing idiots, I suggest you look inward. To be reminded that there are other events to have taken place, broadens our prospective of history.

  2. The pain does not diminish, loosing almost 3000 of our best, our brightest, and our most dear, changes, but does not diminish. Please say a prayer.

  3. I agree (partially) with Lyn. Seems a better choice could have been made on this of all days, but the use of the term”idiots” strikes me as a bit harsh. What this country needs is more understanding and tolerance of opposing views, not more vitriol.

  4. We all remember 9/11 for the attack on our soil. Our hearts go out to those we lost and their loved ones. Each year as I listen to the names of those lost I remember that day vividly.
    I feel the story of Bear Bryant was a break from the grief we feel on this anniversary.

  5. I agree with George. This day is always in our hearts. For me and my colleagues it was day of trying desperately to get out of downtown DC on foot. So to read about something else I feel does not diminish this day. It was a choice and not necessarily a poor one.

  6. Discussing another event that occurred on this day does not diminish what happened 19 years ago today in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. I am a New Yorker who lived through the attacks, I know what today is, I know where I was 19 years ago – reading about Bear Bryant doesn’t impinge on my ability to remember the brave souls who perished nor does it take away from their memory. I appreciated this article and look forward to tomorrow’s.

  7. Please stop with the name calling. We do not have to model such abhorrent behavior. I watched 9/11 memorials and enjoyed reading about Bryant.

  8. I think the proper place for sports in the postal system is DOA. Sports is something the Soviet Union, Hitler, and the like use. Producing stamps about sports figures is a pure waste of time. Relative to sports and sport figures, how many people’s faces and occupations do we celebrate on stamps? Not many people who have been plumbers or librarians or electricians or insurance salespersons or cement workers or carpenters or weavers or the like have had their faces on stamps. Who cares how many championships a coach won.
    Rather tell me who the identifiable living young man is/was, whose face appears above the coach’s left shoulder on the stamp. Is he still alive? Where is he now? What is he doing/did do for a living? Did he become as famous as the coach? Why, or why not?
    Give anybody the annual money to recruit really top high school athletes, and they would become well-known coaches. Even I could teach them to become the best football players, waterpolo players, etc. Maybe if our schools paid the other professors commensurate to what they lavish on coaches, we could have millions of top scientists instead of a few ten thousands of top sports players graduating annually (often with no real sports prospects). Anybody think the coach, Bryant, could have led or even been in the Manhattan Project? I’d rather have a thousand super top scholars looking to join the sciences and arts than about a thousand top athletes vying for the few professional spots available each year.

    One other thing, if only dead people can be on stamps as actual faces, do you now have to go out and find that identifiable man behind the coach’s left shoulder? I hope he finds out he was also on the stamp and demands 10 cents per stamp issued as his royalty, plus a million dollar penalty.

    Just saying.

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