If you were a football fan at Southern Miss in the 1970s, odds are you’ve run into Ray Crawford, also known as “Two Bits.” Ray “Two Bits” Crawford has been a legend among Southern Miss sports fans for decades. His iconic chant, “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar, all for Southern Miss, stand up and holler” earned him the nickname as he would arrive at the stadium and get the crowd on their feet.
“I needed a way to get people involved. The two bits cheer was about the only one I knew at the time, and like anything, the more we did it, the more the crowds got involved and the more it caught on,” Crawford said.
His outfit set him apart from any other fan. Two Bits could always be found wearing a hat covered in buttons and memorabilia from various games over the years, a vest covered with ticket stub and a bullhorn used to lead the crowds. Crawford, now 84 years old, reflected on the meaning behind Two Bits and everything that the University of Southern Miss means to him.
“Life to me is a journey, and an important journey at that,” Crawford said. “I always had a great feeling about Southern Mississippi, and I’m a life member of the Alumni Association. … Most of my memorabilia I’ve given away, or it has been auctioned away by the Alumni Association to raise money for Southern.”
Crawford said that Southern Miss was the perfect college for him.
Crawford’s work desk holds an assortment of magazines and newspaper articles that he has been featured in over the past few decades. Memorabilia also sits on the desk like a football signed by the University of Southern Mississippi football team in 1976 and the Two Bits hat.
The straw hat, now dried, faded and brittle to the touch, is decorated in an assortment of buttons from past football games, pennies, stickers, slogans and local politicians. The hat is a testament to the legacy that Two Bits has created over the years.
“It’s been worn down through the weather through the rain and the heat. As a matter of fact, the oldest ticket I have on here was when we played Hawaii in the 60s,” Crawford said.
Each item placed on Crawford’s hat holds a special meaning to him. Crawford uses the Lincoln Head Penny as a motivational tool when he gives his “penny speech.”
“I gave my ‘penny speech’ to the football team at Southern,” Crawford said. “We went to play Auburn, and we weren’t supposed to win, but if you flip over the penny, you’ll see ‘In God we trust.’ Trust in God is a trust in your fellow man. That is what the country was founded on: liberty. You’re at liberty to choose if you fail or go forward if you get knocked down or get up.”
The main takeaway from Crawford’s ‘penny speeches’ is that one makes a difference.
“If you had 99 cents, you’d never have a dollar if you never went and got that other penny. An old steam engine would never gather enough steam if it were one degree off, you are the one that makes a difference in your life, one extra yard, tackle, play you can win the game,” Crawford said. “I remember giving those pennies out and one young man upon returning from Vietnam had a hole drilled through his penny. Thinking of how much difference one makes helped him make it back.”
Crawford suffered a heart attack as he was recovering from stage four throat cancer. His battles in his age have pulled his efforts away from the football field and towards an avenue he did not expect.
“God pulled me from the stadium to the pulpit,” Crawford said. “Last 20 years, the Lord called me into the ministry. It’s a wonderful opportunity to look back in my life and see where I might have made a difference. I get 10 or 15 calls a week to get the cheer going today, but it’s a lot of work getting up those steps nowadays.”
For 50 years, Crawford handed out $2 bills in the football stands with the message that “If you never spend it, you’ll never go broke.” Today, Crawford has integrated his $2 bills into his ministry by saying, “Remember my sermon and remember that God is always with you.”
Video shot and edit by Blair Ballou.