Celebrating 100 years of on-campus Baylor bears
In the early 20th century, Baylor had no mascot. Sports teams were sometimes called the Bulldogs, the Baptists or the Green-and-Golders, but nothing was official. In 1914, Baylor asked its students what the university’s mascot should be. Responses ranged from the “Baylor Bookworms” to the “Buffalos,” “Eagles,” “Antelopes” — and of course, the “Bears.”
The bear won, receiving more than half of the 406 votes cast. It wasn’t until the fall of 1917, however, that Baylor saw the arrival of the first live mascot to campus.
In April 1917, the United States joined its allies to fight in World War I, and the atmosphere on the Baylor campus was drastically changing. Many male students were enlisting for military service, and military camps had opened across the country, including Camp MacArthur in Waco. The soldiers used Baylor’s Carroll Field to practice drills, slept in Baylor dorm halls, ate in the Baylor cafeteria, and were generally welcomed by Baylor students, who hosted entertainment and social activities for the visitors.
This Baylor-MacArthur hospitality hit a new height during the Baylor-A&M football game on November 10 at the Cotton Palace Grounds. Not to be outperformed by A&M’s famous band and cadets, the Baylor band was joined by a 45-piece brass band from Camp MacArthur. Then at halftime, students came onto the field to do what they called the “Bear Trail”: snaking around the field, following one after another. And leading the Bear Trail? A truck covered with Baylor and bear decorations, with a chair on the bed of the truck — in which a real, live bear was sitting.
Ted (AKA “Bruin,” as he was often called) was owned by one of the Camp MacArthur soldiers, and was promptly adopted as the unofficial Baylor mascot for the day. But over the next few weeks, students couldn’t get past the idea of having a real bear on campus. So two months later, when the bear’s owner and his battalion received orders for overseas duty, the soldiers gave their bear to the university, making Ted the university’s first live mascot.
Since Ted’s arrival, more than 50 North American black bears have called Baylor home. And since 1974, their official name has begun with “Judge,” in honor of Baylor’s bear from 1961-71, who was named for the university’s then-new president, Abner McCall. Today, Baylor has its two beloved sister bears, Judge Joy Reynolds (“Joy”) and Judge Sue Sloan (“Lady”), who came to Baylor as cubs in 2001 and 2002.
In the past, Baylor’s live mascots have appeared at games and other campus events, walked around campus, and lived in local zoos, pens and the bear pit. In today’s Bill & Eva Williams Bear Habitat — which is actually a Class C specialty zoo — Joy and Lady are cared for by members of Baylor Chamber, each of whom is trained multiple times a year by a professional bear trainer. Each bear has a dedicated member who is solely responsible for her, caring for her and spending time with her, as well as an entire Bear Committee to train them and upkeep their habitat.
Sic ’em, Bears!
You might also like:
* Celebrating Joy and Lady – THE Baylor Bears! (Jan. 2015)
* A Century of Sic ‘Em: Celebrating 100 years as Baylor Bears (July 2014)