Remembering Miriam Haywood
1949 Graduate, Lifelong Gamecock
To some, she was the "Little General." According to Jacksonville State University President Dr. William A. Meehan, she was "not large, but definitely in charge."
On Thursday, October 23, 2014, former JSU personnel director Miriam W. Haywood, one of JSU's most enthusiastic lifelong fans and supporters, was laid to rest. She passed away on October 19 at the age of 89.
Although she was small in stature, Mrs. Haywood leaves some mighty big shoes to fill at JSU. She worked for the university for more than 35 years and remained a very active alumna her entire life, making numerous lasting contributions to her alma mater along with her husband, James, also a JSU retiree who is now deceased.
The Haywoods started the Honorary Coaches Club, which evolved into the present Gamecock Club/J-Club. Mrs. Haywood also served as the JSU cheerleader sponsor for a decade and started the Gamecock Chicks, a group of females that functioned as pep squad, campus hostesses and tour guides.
A Lifelong Legacy of Giving
In addition to their time, the Haywoods made many large and small monetary contributions to the university. Perhaps the most significant was their personal commitment to help finance the educations of many young people.
While Mrs. Haywood was the cheerleader sponsor, she and her husband often financed airfare for the cheerleaders to travel to away games. The couple provided the university's very first Cocky mascot suit in 1966. They purchased many items for the university, from the Good Luck Gamecock and the American flag at the stadium to the dogwood trees surrounding Bibb Graves Hall.
The Haywoods were instrumental in raising funds for the construction of the university's marble monolith on Pelham Road and spearheaded a successful drive to raise money to re-establish the athletic training table for the football team. As their final gift to the university they loved so dearly, the Haywoods bequeathed their estate to help fund a bell tower.
Mrs. Haywood was a charter member of Alpha Xi Delta, JSU's first sorority, and the first Alpha Tau Omega fraternity Sweetheart, having helped establish the chapter. On November 20, 2009, the Haywoods were presented the Jimmy Bryan Award during the Jacksonville State University Athletic Hall of Fame banquet. They received the award for their exemplary contributions and years of dedication to the success of JSU athletics.
The Ties that Bind
Ward Pell, the widow of former JSU football coach Charley Pell, was particularly close to Mrs. Haywood. In fact, in 1979, when the Pells relocated to the University of Florida so that Coach Pell could lead the football program there, the newly retired Haywoods followed them to Gainesville.
Mrs. Pell says knowing Mrs. Haywood was like having a mother, a best friend and a sister all in one. As they did with many other families, the Haywoods adopted the Pells and their children as their own.
"They adopted us in '69, and God knows we needed it," Mrs. Pell recalls with a laugh.
"She was just such an incredible individual. She did like to supervise and tell folks how to do things, which is why she's often referred to around the J Club as the 'Little General,'" Mrs. Pell says.
"She and James helped a lot of young people go to college at Jacksonville State. They subsidized scholarships; they did anything that was needed to take this school to the next level. They were so caring of young people and the education of young people."
Kaci Ogle, JSU's alumni director, remembers Mrs. Haywood as the backbone of the Football J-Club, without whom the organization will never be the same.
"For years she cooked meals and desserts for [the club's] monthly meetings. She absolutely loved those guys," she says.
"She was a very proud Gamecock and wanted everyone else to show their pride as well. She will be greatly missed!"
Dr. Meehan recalls the Haywoods' shared enjoyment of cooking. Mr. Haywood served as JSU's dining services coordinator and was known for his lavish culinary spreads. Mrs. Haywood could be counted on to decorate for each occasion.
"Both Miriam and James loved to cook. They even had their home remodeled so they could have his and her kitchens. Miriam was famous for her banana pudding among other wonderful dishes.
Many of the men in Gamecock family will say they have never had better banana pudding than Mrs. Haywood's," he adds.
"I know that we would not have the Coxwell Room and the adjacent players honors court without her leadership. She was a 'Bantam Hen' and one heck of a Gamecock! She will be greatly missed," Dr. Meehan says.
Funeral services for Mrs. Haywood were Thursday, October 23 in Jacksonville. Many in attendance wore JSU red as a tribute to their friend and sang in unison as the JSU fight song and "I'll Fly Away" played during the recessional.
Memorial donations may be made to Miriam Haywood Chimes, c/o the JSU Foundation, 700 Pelham Road N., Jacksonville, AL 36265.
May we all live our lives as did Miriam Haywood-full speed ahead wearing Gamecock red!