The Tupelo Spirit is a living, breathing essence inside almost everyone who lives here in the All-America City. From our research here at the Oren Dunn City Museum, we’ve discovered that Tupelo folk have always exhibited the Tupelo Spirit – some more than others – since the city was founded nearly 150 years ago.

But what is the Tupelo Spirit? It is community building, service above self and cooperation. It is moving the great city of Tupelo forward.

Recently, I visited the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, searching for Tupelo names, and I ran across a 2010 inductee, Frank Dowsing. The more I researched, the more he stood out as exemplifying the Tupelo Spirit. He took a step as a high school student being one of the first African American students to desegregate Tupelo High School, and, in turn, desegregating the Golden Wave football team in 1968. He earned Big Eight honors in football, basketball and track.

After finishing sixth in his graduating class of 217 people, Dowsing signed to play football with Mississippi State University, one of the first two black athletes recruited that year to play for the Bulldogs. His academic prowess earned him the honor of being the first MSU player named as a National Football Foundation National Scholar Athlete. His kindness, his leadership led students on campus to vote him Mr. MSU in 1973, again, the first African American to achieve such an honor. In September of this year he was inducted into the MSU Sports Hall of Fame.

Dowsing turned down a professional football career after the Philadelphia Eagles drafted him upon graduation. Instead, he went to medical school in Jackson. He did not finish. He moved to California and went to work for Bell Telephone. Shortly before his death in 1994, Dowsing moved back to Tupelo, where he became an active part of his faith community.

Certainly, this man is worthy of being recognized in his hometown museum as truly embodying the Tupelo Spirit. The Oren Dunn City Museum is creating special exhibits of those individuals, like Frank Dowsing, who are representative of the Tupelo Spirit in outstanding ways.

We want your nominations, past and present, of who you believe stands a little taller than the rest of us. Email me at leesha.faulkner@tupeloms.gov with your nomination. Tell us why in 100 words or less. We’ll research that person’s background to find evidence that supports your nomination.We look forward to hearing from you.

LEESHA FAULKNER is curator of the Oren Dunn City Museum. You may reach her at leesha.faulkner@tupeloms.gov.

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