Ole Miss Basketball Legend Country Graham Passes Away
Oct. 14, 2001
OXFORD, Miss. - Bonnie Lee "Country" Graham, who compiled one of the greatest careers in Ole Miss basketball history, passed away here Saturday morning following a lengthy illness. He was 87 years old.
Services will be Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. at Waller Funeral Home in Oxford. Visitation will be an hour before the service. He was a member of the Oxford-University United Methodist Chruch.
A native of Baldwyn, Miss., Graham was the Rebels' first basketball All-America in 1938 and is still the winningest coach in Ole Miss basketball history with 144 victories.
"The University of Mississippi extends its deepest sympathy to the Graham family, and will be forever grateful for the many sacrifices he made for his beloved Ole Miss," said Athletic Director John Shafer.
The 6-foot-3 Graham played at Ole Miss from 1936-38, and pioneered the one-handed pivot shot. During his playing days, Graham scored 1,259 points - which still ranks 15th on the career scoring chart - with most of them coming on his patented hook shot called "Country's Fadeaway."
A 1938 All-Southeastern Conference pick, Graham averaged 16.6 points in his career and set 35 SEC scoring records at the time, despite playing during the last years of the center jump.
He led the Rebels to a 53-27 record in his three years, including the program's first 20-win season in 1936-37 (20-6 record). In 1937-38, Graham helped Ole Miss reach the finals of the SEC Tournament and led all scorers in the tournament with 71 points.
Graham was also a three-year letterwinner from 1936-38 as an end on Harry Mehre's Rebel football squad. The 1938 team posted a 9-2 mark.
"Country" began his coaching career as head football and basketball coach at Jones (Miss.) Community College, winning state championships in both sports.
From 1950-62, Graham served as the head basketball coach at Ole Miss and compiled a 144-167 record. During his coaching stint, Graham guided the Rebels to three-straight state championships and coached All-Americans Denver Brackeen (1955) and Joe Gibbon (1957).
Graham also served as an assistant football coach from 1952 to 1960. He retired from Ole Miss in 1974 as Assistant Professor of Physical Education.
He was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1963 and was a charter member of the Ole Miss Athletic Hall of Fame in 1986. Graham was also named to the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel Star's All-Time Southeastern Conference third team in 1974, and in 1978 was chosen by Sports Illustrated as one of the seven outstanding players in America for the decade of the 1930's.
A poll of alumni, faculty and sportswriters selected him as the Most Outstanding Player in Basketball at Ole Miss from 1893 to 1950. In 1999, he was presented the Mike Campbell Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding performance as an Assistant Coach in football.
Although his coaching career ended following the 1961-62 season, Graham stayed in Oxford and continued his association with the Rebel basketball program. He always stopped by practices and attended games up until 1998. Prior to the start of the 1997-98 season, the renovated media room/players lounge at Tad Smith Coliseum was named in his honor.
He is survived by his wife, Marie Martin Graham, one daughter, Janis Graham Dowe, three grandchildren, Lori Dowe Etheredge, Tracy Dowe Hubbard and Steven Dowe, and great grandsons Parker Graham Hubbard and Carson Wade Ethredge. He is also survived by two brothers, Dee Graham and Cecil Graham, and a sister, Hattie Saucier.
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