Purple and White

As far as anyone has been able to determine, the school colors of purple and white were never officially selected – they just happened. They were the colors named by Basil Brewer in Old Missou when he wrote the school song in 1902, and they stuck. Everyone must have thought they were okay, because they seem to have been accepted along with the song.

School Songs

The School had no official song until Basil Brewer (1901), was inspired to write one while working as a Student Assistant in the

Science Department the summer of 1902. According to him it happened this way:

“I was called upon to substitute for Professor Weatherly, head of the Science

Department. In between classes, I attended music classes now and then,

and at one of these sessions, the subject came up that the college had no school song.

The Princeton song, “The Orange and the Black,” always had been popular,

and in between classes on the laboratory table, and as I recall it, in one to two days’

time I wrote the words of “The Purple and the White.” A year or two later, the name was

changed to “Old Missou,” the change being, you might say, by common consent.” 


“Old Missou” and Old Missouri

And Normal Number One*

Fondly cling we to the memory

Of Old Misouri’s son

Gladly thee our hearts we tender

By the dim and flick’ring light,

Every lad a proud defender

Of the Purple and the White.


In debates or feats athletic

The broader fields of life

Midst the shifting scenes of progress

Where the fiercest fights are rife

Taught by many a glorious vict’ry

From many a hard fought fight

They have learned they have to reckon

With the Purple and the White.

Hark the sound of yells exalting

From out the Tigers’ den!

Did ye hear the shout of triumph

‘Twas Warrensburg’s brave men

Far above them hark the tumult

Like the triumph of the right

As we give the Kirksville Normal

And the Purple and the White.


Through Harvard, Yale, or Princeton

Should we onward still pursue

As adopted “sons of Eli”

To the violets prove true

Shall we never cease to love thee

To tremble with delight

As we mark the gallant flutter

Of the Purple and the White.


*This line, by 1917, had changed to

“Our hearts the school has won.”


Click HERE to hear the tune of “The Orange and the Black!”

In 1996, it was decided that not only was “Old Missou” outdated and gender-biased,

it was also confusing since “Mizzou” is the University of Missouri’s nickname.

And then there was the fact that the song had not been played at Commencement

and otherceremonies and programs for several years or at sports events for at least

five. So, at the urging of Student Senate, President Jack Magruder asked the

Traditions Committee to review the situation. Three years later, in 1999,

the new alma mater, music by Claude T. Smith, arrangement & lyrics by

Thomas J. Trimborn, Associate Professor of Music, was finally selected

and presented to the University. 

In the heartland of America,

In the place we are all as of one.

Namesake of our Alma Mater fair

‘Tis Missouri’s pride and favorite son.


Spirit his o’er our University,

Let our song ever decree.


Gaining knowledge, wisdom, truth today.

Courage for life, set forth, decide.

Keep the Truman dreams alive!


For the future we shall pass the torch,

Strive to always follow paths of right.

With ideals to stand the test of time,

Soar on eagle’s wing our dreams take flight.


Spirit his o’er our University,

Truman’s song of harmony.


With a pledge of our allegiance firm,

Ne’er the road of life divide.

Keep the Truman dreams alive!


Click to hear the current school song:

Keep the Dreams Alive

Spike the Bulldog

According to President Emeritus Walter H. Ryle, the term “bulldog” was first used in connection with the school’s football team in 1909 when Coach O.C. Bell called his players bulldogs – it wasn’t an official term, just a description.  

In 1915, after several losing seasons – and no wins at all in 1914 – a committee, including student Walter Ryle, was formed to see what could be done about reviving school spirit. The student body had stuck with the team, according to team member and later coach H.L. “Curly” McWilliams. “That 1914 team … did not quit. They instilled a spirit of enthusiasm in the student body …” who gave them a hearty send off to every game played away from home and were at the train to greet them when they returned.

The students had become discouraged, though, and the committee decided that some type of emblem to inspire enthusiasm was needed. They suggested that the bulldog be adopted as the team mascot “because of his tenacity and ability to hold on and fight desperately until the end. A bulldog does not quit…” The exact words that McWilliams later used to describe that 1914 team. The next spring, the baseball team played under the Bulldog name for the first time and the football team began using it a year later.

Fun Traditions

Lore has it that the concept of the gum tree originated in the 1920s when it was against the rules to chew gum in class. You had to get rid of the stuff somewhere, so students who had classes in Pickler Memorial Library found the perfect repository. An antique suit of armor was on display just inside the front door and good ole Oscar, as the armor was affectionately known, was just standing there, all hollow and so very convenient. 

In later years, Oscar was replaced by a tree on the east side of the Quad, handy to both Kirk Building and Ophelia Parrish. Some folks said that adding your gum to the sticky mass would bring good luck. Others were more specific and swore that a contribution on the way to an exam was the way to ensure an A (or at least a passing grade).

That particular gum tree met its demise at the hands of axe-wielding vandals in October 1999 – but you can’t keep a good tradition, even a slightly disgusting one, down! Within days a new tree had been appointed and anointed. This tree, unfortunately, was recently lost due to the Summer 2012 drought (it was cut down in 2013)–but the tradition still continues on, as yet another tree has become the designated “gum tree.” As for the original, it made its farewell appearance as a “float” in the 1999 Homecoming parade.



In 1930, the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats lost their annual football game with the Northeast Missouri State Bulldogs by a score of 20-7. In recognition of that resounding defeat, Northwest’s President, Uel Lamkin, sent Northeast’s President, Eugene Fair, a polished hickory stick which would become the trophy of the annual game between the two schools – the president whose team won the game each year would take possession until the next meeting. President Lamkin got the stick back in 1931 with a 7-0 win, and it has continued to travel between Kirksville and Maryville ever since.

The stick, which came from the farm in Harrison County where President Fair was born, is about two & a half feet long and tapers from a diameter of 1½” to about 1”.  It was polished and lettered in the wood shop at Northwest and lists the scores of all the Northeast-Northwest games that had been played (1908-30), up to the time of its creation.


For information concerning this exhibit contact: speccoll@truman.edu