By Jack Reed/Tupelo Mayor
I considered it one of the high honors of my life to have been asked by the Dowsing family to represent them as my friend and high school teammate Frank Dowsing was announced to be receiving the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame honor posthumously.
Frank Dowsing was a great athlete – one of the greatest in Mississippi sports history. He was an even greater person. Frank Dowsing possessed uncommon courage, a superior intellect, a rare combination of speed and strength, and an almost superhuman ability to achieve grace under pressure. Frank Dowsing contributed more than any other single human being, black or white, to the peaceful, successful integration of Tupelo, Miss., public schools; and through the schools, our whole community. He spent the next four years doing the same things for Mississippi State University, and through Mississippi State, our whole state.
As a Tupelo High School walk-on junior in the fall of 1967, one of two black athletes at an otherwise all-white school, and one of less than 10 black students period, he quickly proved that he was a man among us boys.
By the time he graduated (sixth in our class of 219 seniors) in the spring of 1969, Frank had earned All Big 8 first team honors in football (playing wingback and defensive end, that tells you something about speed and strength!). He was named first-team, All-State in basketball, having led THS to both the State AA Championship and the Grand Slam Championship. As an All-State track star, he set both North Half and State records in the 100-yard dash and the 200-yard dash, while anchoring a record-setting relay team.
He had done all of this while breaking down the color barrier in almost every game in every Mississippi town he traveled to as the first black athlete to compete in their previously all-white stadiums, gyms and tracks. Frank Dowsing was the Jackie Robinson of Mississippi.
Then, if that weren’t challenge enough for a 17- and 18-year-old, he became the first black signee at Mississippi State and did it all again, except this time it was in front of thousands at Scott Field and in SEC stadiums around the South. He became an All-SEC cornerback and then an All-American. He played in the Blue-Gray Game, the Hula Bowl and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles.
He also made one of the most storied single plays in Mississippi State football history in 1970 when he made a spectacular one-handed interception in the end zone of Vaught Hemingway Stadium to preserve an MSU upset win (19-14) over nationally ranked Ole Miss.
But perhaps more significantly, his senior year at State, he was elected Mr. Bulldog by his fellow students, the highest honor a student can achieve.
Frank Dowsing was, and is, a true Mississippi hero.
The recognition that accompanies the Hall of Fame will ensure that men and women and young people who love Mississippi sports will forever hear the Frank Dowsing story: The story of a young man that inspires all who knew him, and will inspire all who will now learn of him as he holds his rightful place in a marvelous institution – The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
Jack Reed Jr., is mayor of Tupelo. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.