Contact: James Carskadon
STARKVILLE, Miss.—A new plaza at Mississippi State University’s Davis Wade Stadium now commemorates the legacy of MSU’s first African-American student-athletes, Frank Dowsing Jr. and Robert Bell.
MSU officials held a dedication ceremony Thursday [Nov. 23] to dedicate Dowsing-Bell Plaza, located on the north side of Davis Wade Stadium. The plaza includes a plaque detailing the on- and off-field legacies of Bell and Dowsing, both of whom played football at MSU from 1969-1972.
“They came here and exemplified great courage of being the very first two African-American student-athletes in the history of this great university,” MSU President Mark E. Keenum said. “Not only were they on the team, they were stars on the team and helped our program go to great heights during their tenure.”
In 1969, Dowsing, a prep star from Tupelo, and Bell, a native of Meridian, enrolled at MSU and were members of the Bulldog freshman football team. A year later, they joined the varsity squad and guided State to its first winning season in seven years.
“Robert Bell and Frank Dowsing will forever be remembered as great teammates, scholar athletes and pioneers who changed the course of MSU history with their incredible courage,” MSU Director of Athletics John Cohen said.
Dowsing was a two-time All-Southeastern Conference defensive back selection in 1971 and 1972. As a senior, Football News named him a first-team All-American. That same fall, he became the first player in MSU history to earn the prestigious honor of National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete.
Dowsing, who was voted Mr. Mississippi State in October 1972, finished his career at the time as the school's all-time leader in interceptions with 10. He died at the age of 42 on July 11, 1994.
The ceremony, taking place prior to the annual rivalry game between Mississippi State and Ole Miss, also marked the 47th anniversary of one of Dowsing’s most memorable moments as a Bulldog—an interception in the endzone to seal a 19-14 victory for MSU in the 1970 Egg Bowl.
Bell, an inspirational leader on the defensive line, was a regular starter and a fan favorite. An honor student at Meridian High School, he went on to earn three letters for the Bulldogs.
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.