"THE ROCKETTES OF THE GRIDIRON"
The World-Famous Dixie Darlings, created in 1954 under Southern Miss' fourth president, Dr. Robert Cecil Cook, have represented the spirit and tradition of Southern Miss since their inception.
University band director Dr. Raymond Mannoni (founder) wanted to start a drill team of young women to perform with the Southern Miss band. He wanted a group patterned after the Texas Community College Kilgore Rangerettes. The members were chosen by Dr. Mannoni partly from their performances in high school as dancers or cheerleaders, beginning with 16 regular dancers. By year's end that number had doubled.
Following the first week of practice and having been called the Dixie Maids, Mannoni decided he did not like that particular title. After several suggestions he narrowed it down to two names: the Dixie Dancers or the Dixie Darlings. Dixie Darlings, referred to as DD's, was chosen, and the team was ready to perform for the first time at the MSC-Alabama game at Montgomery in September 1954.
During the 50's, 60's and 70's the DD's performed at many nationally televised events, including the Sugar Bowl, Blue-Gray Bowl, Senior Bowl, the All-Star Football Game in Chicago, and the Redskins game in Washington, D.C. The media often referred to them as the "Internationally-Famous Dixie Darlings." In recent years the DD's have marched in the New Year's Day Parade in London, England, and performed at the Green Bay Packers game to honor Brett Favre on his birthday.
The demanding practice schedule for the Dixie Darlings was due to Mannoni's desire to have a top-notch halftime performance. Mannoni was a real perfectionist, and just because a Dixie Darling had performed at one game or event was no guarantee they would be in the starting lineup the next time, which was evidence of Mannoni's desire for quality performances. Tryouts were held before each game, a tradition that continues to the present day.
1954 Founding Members: Ann Bond, Ann Briggs, Ann Lynch, Anne Miller, Barbara Rhodes, Betty Farnham, Betty King, Carolyn Cochran, Delia Ann Noble, Fredde Mincher, Jan Stockstill, Jean Freeman, Jeanel Hewes, Jo Ellen Pirtle, Joyce Dawson, Joyce Scimeca, Julia Ann Russ, Kay Crenshaw, Lady Dell Mechatto, Lydia Besse, Mary Ann Smith, Mary Brown Nowell, Mary Frances Locke, Mary Lou Key, Miriam Middleton, Nancy Powell, Pat Harris, Patsy Stegall, Scottie Cooner, Sue Odom, Sue Smylie, Terry Marbut.
The Dixie Darlings Alumnae Association was founded in 1994 by Anne Sharp Larman and with the help of Dee Kelly Ervine, it has grown to over 1250 members. Every year at Southern Miss Homecoming the alumnae perform with the current team and have become a standout performance in the stadium. In 2004 for the Dixie Darlings' 50th Anniversary 254 DD's marched and danced on the field at Homecoming halftime...the youngest 17, the oldest 71.
The DDAA is dedicated toward fundraising for DD Scholarships and also for breast cancer research. Our motto: "ONCE a DD...ALWAYS a DD. STILL KICKING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS!!!