OP-ED: Football, Cheerleaders and the Band Played Dixie

By Calvin E. Johnson Jr.
OP-ED: Football, Cheerleaders and the Band Played Dixie
Do you remember the crisp-cool autumn days of high school and college football when….

The Ole Miss Cheerleaders and school Mascot Colonel Reb lifted the spirit of fans who waved Confederate flags and cheered to the band playing Dixie? Today, however, Colonel Reb has been replaced and flag waving discouraged. Some call for sensitivity and understanding toward some people but apparently this respect does not apply toward Southern American’s who love God and are proud of the old traditions of their native South land of which many books and movies are written about.

And, do you remember the aroma of hot dogs and fries and fairs during those lazy fall days when….

School bands from North and South of the Mason-Dixon Line played Dixie during school sports games? Do you know the history of the Dixie that is a joyful sound of inspiration and pride for many people?

In 1859, Ohio Native Dan Emmett first performed “Dixie” in New York City to an enthusiastic-cheerful crowd.

Two years later, on February 18, 1861, the band played Dixie at the Inauguration of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Montgomery, Alabama. 

And on April 14, 1865, after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender, President Abraham Lincoln said: “Now Let the Band Play Dixie; it belongs neither to the South, nor to the North but to us all.”-—New York Times Sunday Magazine, August 11, 1907. 

For 150 years American school bands have played Dixie including the Milton High school “Dixie Eagles” Band who performed Dixie at the invitation and inauguration of the late Lester G. Maddox as Governor of Georgia in January 1967. 

Dixie was played in 1976, during America’s Bi-Centennial birthday, at the Old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia and the late Johnny Cash sang Dixie at the Ford Theater in Washington , D.C. to then President Jimmy Carter and members of the United States Congress. 

Dixie has been performed by many great musicians including; Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Lawrence Welk, Louis Armstrong, Dinah Shore, John Phillip Sousa, Osmond Brothers, Boxcar Willie, Jane Froman, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Mitch Miller, Johnny Hartman, Patsy, The Rebelaires and in 1943 the late great Bing Crosby portrayed Dan Emmett in the wonderful Paramount movie “Dixie.”

Roz Bowie, a proud Black Southern Lady, sang Dixie in 1986 at the reburial of a Confederate Soldier in Columbia, South Carolina. 

So, what happened to the song Dixie that has lifted the souls of students, teachers, parents and fans? Many of our institutions of learning have stopped playing Dixie even though the song is universally loved. 

What happened to “Dixie" that was the official band music of the Confederate and Union Armies? What happened to this song that Northern and Southern children sang from their schools standard song book? 

Today, men and women serve overseas to free the people of Iraq and Afghanistan....But school bands are no longer allowed to play “Dixie" and "Under God" is under attack in the pledge of allegiance. 

In a cemetery in Mount Vernon Ohio lies Dan Emmett, the Composer of Dixie, whose headstone reads: "Daniel Decatur Emmett 1815 - 1904 whose song ' Dixie Land' inspired the courage and devotion of the Southern people and now thrills the hearts of a reunited nation." 

Three miles North of Emmett’s grave are the graves of Ben and Lew Snowden of a Black musical family. On their tombstone are the words “They taught “Dixie” to Dan Emmett.

Dixie is a song for all people of all races and backgrounds. Let the band play Dixie!
Calvin E. Johnson Jr. is a speaker, writer, and author of  “When America stood for God, Family and Country.” (looking for a publisher and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. He lives in Kennesaw GA, an Atlanta suburb.
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