Volume LVMay 2008Number 2

"Twelve Mighty Orphans":
The inspiring true story of the Mighty
Mites who ruled Texas football
By Jim Dent Reviewed by Cathy Giaimo, Assistant Librarian

The Depression was a difficult time in the life of this country. Ask any member of that generation, and you will hear a variety of tales of the ups and downs of that period and making do without. Recently the public has rediscovered some of the events that had caught people's excitement during this period as noted in the recent books/movies "Seabiscuit" and "Cinderella Man" - stories about the underdog overcoming his circumstances and coming out on top. It is in this vein that sports journalist Jim Dent's book "Twelve Mighty Orphans" is written.

Mr. Dent begins his book with the story of Jeff and Hardy Brown, Jr., and their two younger siblings in the summer of 1928 in West Texas. They were left orphaned after their father, a bootlegger and a Mason, was killed; and they were abandoned by their mother shortly afterwards. It was to their good fortune that Mr. Brown's dues were paid up, and that their eldest sister shipped them off to the Masonic Children's Home in Fort Worth.

It is here at the orphanage that the story takes off and the reader is introduced to high school football Texas-style, the orphanage's new coach Rusty Russell and its football team the Mighty Mites. This is first and foremost a football story of a team that had only guts and determination in their favor. They were undersized and underweight compared to their competitors. If they were lucky, they had hand-me-down uniforms and makeshift equipment. Russell, considered an outstanding young coach at the time, was determined that they succeed. He felt the lessons these boys learned on the field would serve them well as they grew older. Against all odds, from 1927 through 1942, they were challenged by better-equipped high school teams and won an astounding number of games, 127-30-12. Along the way, their scrappiness attracted a huge following in Texas and eventually across the U.S. The only thing that managed to elude the Mighty Mites was a state championship.

These young men learned plenty during their years at the Children's Home and they became successful in their own rights. These being the war years, some enlisted in the military and others went on to college, in some cases, on football scholarships. A few, including Hardy Brown, Jr., went on to play football professionally.

The Library has other sports-related biographies available for borrowing. Check out the Circulating Library at www.pagrandlodge.org or, if you can't locate what you like, please call (800) 462-0430, ext. 1933 to find out what else is available.


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