During his January 27th call to the Paul Finebaum Show, “Al from Dadeville,” now thought to have been Harvey Updyke, claimed that while living in ignorance of the intensity of the Iron Bowl rivalry in Texas in 1983, a “good friend from Birmingham” sent him a newspaper clipping of an article “showing” Auburn students rolling Toomer’s Corner upon learning of Bear Bryant’s death on Jan. 26, 1983.
To his credit, Finebaum immediately rejected the suggestion that Auburn students would publicly celebrate an old man’s death. The back and forth over the veracity of Updyke’s claim actually nearly overshadowed his purpose in calling the show: bragging about poisoning the Toomer’s oaks as retribution for (1) Auburn fans taping a Cam Newton jersey to the statue of Bear Bryant outside Bryant-Denny Stadium for a Facebook photo op before the Iron Bowl, and (2) for Auburn students supposedly ding-donging that the wicked Bear was dead 28 years ago (something NBC’s Nightly News made no effort to verify in its report on the Toomer’s case Thursday evening).
But did they? And is there an article from a newspaper put out during what is surely the most scrapbook’ed week of Alabama journalism ever (but that somehow can’t be produced and scanned into a message board) that proves it?
Not that I can find, at least after a midnight run up to Auburn’s Ralph Brown Draughon Library last night*. Nothing in the Birmingham News, at least through January 30, or the Opelika-Auburn News, or the Auburn Plainsman. (Couldn’t check the Birmingham Post-Herald — for whatever reason, the Post-Herald microfiche was available only through 1972.)
Other than a quote of condolence from Pete Turnham, the state representative from Auburn’s House district, here’s the first reference to Auburn we could find in the Birmingham News coverage of Bryant’s death, from Jan. 27, 1983 (click to enlarge):
Here’s the January 27 front page, and Auburn-reaction stories from the sports section of the OA-News:
Coming out the morning after Bryant died, The Plainsman had little time to do anything other than jam a picture of Bryant onto the front page of it’s January 27 issue:
But nothing in the next week’s issue, or the next’s mentions anything about students— or even just a single student— rolling Toomer’s Corner after Bryant died. Related stories were instead filled with praise for Bryant…a little too much for my taste, but whatever:
The lack of anything in The Plainsman is the most telling.
Letters to the editor regarding rules and codes of conduct for Auburn students during this era were fantastically nitpicky. Alumni and townsfolk regularly took students to task for the tiniest offense to civility and class: too much cussing at games, not cheering loudly enough at games, poor behavior at concerts, you name it. It seems straight up impossible for Bryant’s death to have inspired an event at Toomer’s Corner significant enough to draw the attention of a major Birmingham newspaper yet escape the ire of Auburn alumni, as well as the opinion section of the Opelika-Auburn News.
So unless the Birmingham Post-Herald was just scooping the hell out of the competition with what “Al from Dadeville” implies is an actual photo of Auburn students celebrating Bryant’s death—and other paper’s just didn’t think that was a big enough deal to follow up on— we say go ahead and add a little snarl in your denials to the Bama fans in your life. It didn’t happen.
* If your name is Garrett Jackson, you dropped your wallet. It’s at the front circulation desk.
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More on Toomer’s Corner: Auburn grad attorney had no qualms defending Updyke / Toomer’s Oaks souvenirs will be branded ‘Auburn Oaks’ / Woodturned item made from Toomer’s Oaks will be on permanent display in Auburn art museum / Toomer’s Corner rollings didn’t start with Punt, Bama, Punt, says History / Did Auburn students celebrate Bear Bryant’s death by rolling Toomer’s Corner?
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It is sad to see all the lies… the true answer is yes! I was a grad student at auburn from 79-84. Even though there may have been mostly sadness from a majority of players, coaches and fans there was a group of students that did roll toomer’s corner after bryant died. One of my classmates was involved. This does not excuse the guy that poisoned the trees but it also should not be overlooked that both auburn and alabama fans can be dicks when it comes to winning or losing.
Col Tom says
No offense akauburn but you have a bad memory. There are no ‘lies’ – no one rolled the trees when he died – sorry to ruin it for you. Again, I lived a block from Toomer’s the day Bryant died, and had to walk through Toomer’s several times each day – including that day – no one rolled Toomer’s. You’re either trying to stir the pot, an Alabama fan or just delusional. In any event, you’re just plain wrong.
I think Bear Bryant would be honored if they rolled it when he died. I sure as hell would. It may show that they don’t like you but it definitely shows the resPect you. If I was a coach I would want every team to be happy when I was gone cause they knew that was the only way they could beat me. I’m sure Bear would agree but who knows. I think people just always want to look at the negative side.
I was at Auburn at the time the Bear died, and I don’t remember anything about such an incident. I would have remembered, because my father had died not long before, and he was a fan of Bryant.
I was also there and it didn’t happen! Maybe AKAUBURN’s roommate did, but he was the only one.
Tim Wickersham says
Bear Bryant was respected at Auburn. Only a jackass fool would even hint that Auburn students would celebrate his death. Get a life fool!!!!
Thanks for going the extra mile with this Jeremy. I find a certain satisfaction in knowing that my cousin has helped shine the light into ses pool of bammer propaganda. I’m now eagerly anticipating the next time this lie is mentioned to me by a crimson cryer….War Eagle.
Auburn students and redneck fans did gather there to roll the trees the day Bear died. The fact that you morons at the War Eagle Reader actually believe a newspaper article that supposedly showed “sadness” from AU students as a defense is a bunch of c–p. My son that day at school in Opelika was taunted by Auburn parents and fellow students because Bryant died. Bunch of classless Auburn rednecks. Your trees deserved to die
You Auburn people know d–n well you rolled the trees that day. Don’t tell me you were there. SOme of you who claim that were not even born yet. I was there and I DID SEE IT. You Auburn people are sorry and the trees should have been removed that day.
Sorry shelbytider, gonna have to challenge your story. I was also in Auburn on Jan. 26, 1983 (very much alive and in school at the time), and passed a block from Toomer’s Corner that cold afternoon. I saw several police cars parked at the corner (don’t know if they were city or campus police). Toomer’s was actually watched over by the law that afternoon. If anyone had tried to roll the oaks, they would have been immediately stopped by police. I’ll give you an out though: I think you are confusing the day that Bryant died with the day he announced his retirement — December 15, 1982. Auburn fans were happy that the dynasty was ending, and, if memory serves me correctly, they DID roll the corner that day. This came on the heels of the big rolling after AU defeated Bama 23-22 on December 3, 1982 (the ‘Bo over the top’ game), ending a decade of Tide domination. If you saw toilet paper in the trees that day (Jan. 26), you were probably seeing remnants from Dec. 15, or from AU’s 33-26 Citrus Bowl victory on Dec. 18, or from basketball victories over Kentucky, Bama and Georgia over the previous 2 weeks (yes, I looked it up). There was NO mass celebration of Bryant’s death at Toomer’s Corner on Jan. 26, 1983. It is an urban myth that certain Tide types find useful to keep alive.
Didnt happen. I bicycled through there in that day in the way to a late day EE lab. The feeling was shock, sadness and dismay at the loss of a legend….there was no celebrating. Period.
Jeff T. Mohon says
I was a student at Auburn at the time of Coach Bryant’s death, The trees were not rolled in celebration of his passing. Instead, a sense of shock settled over the campus. To say otherwise is a blatant lie.
bobby kirby says
It was raining the entire day that bryant died. The entire campus was mourning and sorrowful. In my bioloy class, when the news was found out. our professor stopped his lecture bowed his head and told us all A great man had left this world this day. remember what he has done for this state and dismissed us. There was nothing but honor and sadness on Auburn University that day.
Joe D. says
Bottom line for those saying it happened: if it did, students actually celebrating the death of a State icon would have absolutely been covered in a newspaper somewhere. So prove the claim or stop making up stories about how you were there or your son was there or whatever you want to say. Let that lunatic who destroyed a priceless monument show this “newspaper clipping” he supposedly has. I am not fan of either school but I call BS; the story sounds ridiculous and not a single shred of proof has been put forward.
Also, I have no connection to Toomer’s corner but that old lunatic should have been put away for a lot longer. Anyone who would do that over made up claims or because his team lost fair and square is deranged and should not be out in public.
Well put, Joe.
I was alive but I lived in West Alabama, I believe it happened fans are crazy now do I think the sentiment was all of auburn? NO but I have heard people say things about both schools that I feel is evil hearted so I don’t put anything pass fanatics!!