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8 June 2005

Southerners Opening Season
with New Uniforms

JSU students Jacob Strickland and Belinda Pruitt model the new (left) and old (right) Southerners band uniforms.

By Randy Wilson
JSU News Bureau

For the first time in more than a decade, the Southerners are getting new uniforms. At the beginning of the 2005 academic year this fall, the uniforms will feature two designs in one outfit, thanks to an innovative insert.

Made by Demoline at a cost of $400 each, the uniforms will come with two vestees (inserts) for changing the band’s look as needed, according to Mr. Kenneth Bodiford, director.

"There is only one [jacket] and it is red," said Mr. Bodiford. "However there are two separate vestees. One insert is white for the traditional look at football games, and one insert is black with silver sequins for exhibitions [night performances]. The red jacket carries most of the traditional look."

Both looks will feature black pants.

"Styles are constantly being updated, and we wanted to update ours," said Mr. Bodiford. "Yet, we wanted to maintain our traditional ties."

Several uniform styles were considered before the final design was selected. Three designs were developed and circulated among band members to gather comments and suggestions before the final decision.

"One of the main things I was interested in for the new uniform," said Mr. Bodiford, "was a shorter jacket to make the students look taller."

The new jacket will also be wider in the shoulders. In an effort to maintain the traditional appearance of the Southerners, the white vestee will be worn during football games, and the black one with sequins will be worn at exhibitions. The uniform’s pants are black in the same style worn by JSU bands in the ’70s and ’80s.

The Southerners trace their uniforms’ style back to the Jacksonville State Teachers College marching band of the late 1940s. According to the book, The First Hundred Years: The History of Jacksonville State University by Effie White Sawyer, J. E. Duncan was the first band director. The band was formed during an expansion of the music department under the tenure of Dr. Houston Cole, who was president of the university from 1942-1971. The original band uniform featured light blue pants worn with a matching jacket, and red stripes accented the sides of both.

After Director Duncan, Dr. John T. Finley joined the Music Department in 1951. Under his leadership, the band continued to expand, and the style of the uniform changed again. Unfortunately, no color photos depicting the changes could be found when we researched this article. Under Dr. Finley, the Southerners established their now famous symphonic sound. In 1956, the Marching Ballerinas were organized and the band began attracting more attention. The band received its name, the Southerners, in 1958.

Incidentally, Norman L. Padgett is credited with naming the band. The band’s charter president, Harold Summerville, class of ’60, of Bowden, Ga., recalls, "On April 21, 1958, I presented a letter of appreciation to Norman L. Padgett. It was signed by Dr. Finley and [me] at the beginning of band rehearsal that day thanking [Mr. Padgett] for his submission of the name The Southerners."

Under the leadership of both Dr. Finley and Dr. David L. Walters, the Southerners earned a reputation for themselves in the marching band universe. Along with their distinctive sound, the Southerners became known for the unique style of their uniform.

The Southerners are frequently invited to perform at exhibitions all over the United States. One of the most notable is the Bands of America Grand Nationals, which is held annually in Indianapolis. The competition features the best high school marching bands in the country, who come together to compete for the title of National Champion. At the end of the competition, before an audience of 50,000, the Southerners perform as an example of what marching bands can accomplish with dedication, persistence, and good old hard work.

As for the latest uniform design, students and band members seem to welcome the change, which — according to our best research — represents only the fifth round of new uniforms in university history.

"The new pants will make the uniform more comfortable," said Betty Cole of Jacksonville, a member of the Southerners who plays the baritone. "After ten years, it was time for a change."

"I love ‘em." said Stan Renda of Trussville, who plays tuba. "They have a more modern, sleek look."

"They look sharp," said Matt Novak of Atlanta, who plays cymbals. "They will give us a more up-to-date look."

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