Hinds Hi-Steppers celebrate 50-year reunion
CLASSIC POSE – A 50-year reunion of the Hinds Hi-Steppers was recently held to honor Anna Bee, who has been the director of this select group since 1952. This photo of Mrs. Bee was taken in 1953 with a small Brownie camera. Submitted photo
special to The Star
Oct. 7, 2002
Last Thursday in a rainstorm from Isidore, Harriet and Chatt McGonagill departed Meridian and drove to Jackson en route to Raymond (home town of Hinds Community College, formally Hinds Junior College). They were the guest of Earl and Bobbie Leggett. The purpose of the trip was to attend a 50-year Hinds Hi-Steppers reunion in honor of Anna Bee, who has been the director of this select group since 1952.
Harriet and Chatt met at Hinds Junior College also in 1952. He and Earl Leggett were roommates and on the football team. At the same time Harriet was a member of the famed Hinds Hi-Steppers.
Earl and Bobbie also met at Hinds. This was the first time that Harriet and Chatt had revisited the campus where they first met, and their first time to see their old friends and classmates since saying farewell 50 years ago. Needless to say, each had a feeling of anxious anticipation.
As they turned in through the iron gates and entered the winding drive up a gentle rise to the Leggetts, they spotted the magnificent home on the gentle rolling slopes dotted with giant old oaks. The Leggetts met them with an exuberant welcome, and after only a brief time they were as comfortable in their host's presence as though the 50 years that had separated them had suddenly disappeared.
For those football fans, you may recall that Earl Leggett went on after Hinds won the Little Rose Bowl to play football for LSU.
After LSU, he was the NFL Chicago Bears first round draft choice in 1957. For the next 12 years he played for the NFL, primarily for the Bears. He was playing for the Bears when they won the World Championship Game against the New York Giants in 1963 (before the Super Bowl).
After his retirement as an NFL player, he became a defensive line coach for the NFL.
His retirement as an NFL coach in 2000 marked the end of his professional football career that spanned more than 43 years. He modestly admits that during this career he has won three Super Bowl rings.
He was recently inducted into the 2002 Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
For one of the great athletes of our time with such an illustrious career, he is shrouded with an air of humility.
While in their home he toured Harriet and Chatt through his trophy room that contained almost 50 years of accolades preserved primarily by Bobbie throughout their many moves.
Chatt and Harriet recalled later that during this tour, he never once talked about himself. It was always about other players and coaches, and particularly players that he had coached who went on to make the National Football Hall of Fame and Pro Bowl, such as Howie Long.
In a book that Howie wrote, he acknowledged that Coach Leggett not only taught him football but also about the true values of life.
Earl is quick to acknowledge that Bobbie has been the bulwark of their home life. He credits her for being a great mother for their four children and maintaining a loving home throughout his years of being away.
After retiring from the Washington Redskins in 2000, Earl and Bobbie built their retirement dream home just outside of the sleepy little town of Raymond.
Throughout Harriet and Chatt's stay with the Leggetts, several of the original 1952 Hinds Hi-Steppers were there as well.
Maiden names of those present from this group were: Mary Smith, BeeBee Spell, Rosa Taylor, Martha Gillespie, Lynda Payne, Mary Ann Baird and Harriet Russell. Jim and Pat Corbit, another past Hinds couple, had traveled from New Jersey to be there.
Earl and Bobbie kept the delicious food coming while Harriet and the former Hi-Steppers recalled many stories of their younger days and the many trips they made together.
This period of recollection continued into the Gala event honoring Mrs. Anna Bee on Friday night when she recognized their presence by asking the 1952 group to stand.
Harriet presented her with a picture album containing photos she had taken with her little brownie camera during a 1953 bus trip to Colorado for a Hi-Stepper performance.
The Hind's Hi-Steppers are the third oldest precision dance team in the nation. The group has performed at numerous World's Fairs, three Gator Bowls, the Sugar Bowl, the first Hall of Fame Bowl, the Blue-Gray Bowl, the Junior Rose Bowl, half-time of the first New Orleans Saints games, and even on the steps of the Capital for the United States Congress.
The group has performed alongside celebrities such as Bob Hope, Elvis Presley, Jerry Clower, Doc Severinson, Richard Nixon, Michael Landon, John Glenn, and Miss Americans Mary Ann Mobley, Lynda Mead and Cheryl Prewitt.
They have been pictured in National Geographic Magazine and had a write-up in Time. All of this was under the direction of Mrs. Bee. Their many performances across the United States have won the Hi-Steppers the name of Mississippi's Goodwill Ambassadors.
After bidding farewell to the Leggetts, Harriet and Chatt made one more drive through the campus where they first saw each other more than half-century ago.
Although most of the campus had changed, they remembered where the lamppost stood where he first stole a kiss one night as the raindrops sprinkled on her upturned face.
Since this conduct was against school policy for young girls, it was just a brief contact. It was a moment that each has recalled many times. Tropical Storm Isidore had provided the raindrops and memories completed the scene.