Henderson State University Traditions


The term “Reddies” most likely originated from the bright red warm-up jackets of the early football teams. In 1908, publications referred to the athletic teams as “Red Jackets,” which also brought to mind the idea of yellow jackets, who “rout intruders or opponents…with purposeful determination…by jabbing their barbed stingers into available victims” (Bennie Gene Bledsoe’s Henderson State University: Education Since 1890, Volume I). The Oracle almost immediately adopted the affectionate diminutive, “Reddies,” which came to refer not only to athletes but also to the entire student body. In 1921, some students campaigned for an appropriate mascot. Crawford Greene, editor of the Oracle, responded:

Let It Be

On several occasions the matter of a symbol for the Reddies has been brought up, and by men older and knowing more than we; but very wisely and rightly each time, in our opinion, the question has died for want of interest.

A Tiger is a tiger, a Bulldog is a bulldog, a Panther is a panther, a Wildcat is a wildcat, a Razorback is a razorback – but a REDDIE is God’s noblest work, a MAN, superior to all the other animals possessed, to be sure of that do-or-die spirit, an indispensable ingredient to his composite self. No mere beast has ever symbolized the wearer of the “H.” None can. Long may we keep it so.

Reddie Spirit

The Reddie Spirit was born in 1914 on a cold winter night when the school caught fire. The students pulled pianos and books from the library. Instead of closing the doors to the school, students held classes under the pine trees, some of which still stand on campus today.

Pine Tree Speech

The Pine Tree Speech is always held on the first Monday of the school year and is an invitation for all first-time students to become Henderson Reddies. 

Alma Mater

Henderson-Brown College President James W. Workman (1928-1929) composed the words and melody of “Alma Mater, Henderson” as he walked around campus one day in 1929.

Breathe, stalwart pine trees,

Mem’ries of living shadows;

Whisper acorn bearers,

From thy living fountains;

Beauty and friendship,

Eternal as the holly,

Into all thy children,

Alma Mater, Henderson!

School with a Heart

Henderson’s slogan is said to date from the morning of the Great Fire on February 3, 1914. After the flames had subsided, the sorrowful but thankful students gathered under the pines on the west campus where they pledged to renew their allegiance to “the old school with a heart.” “When the ashes and wreckage of the old building were buried at the foot of the pine trees, here, so the saying goes, is the Heart of Henderson.” The legend also holds that if any fortunate couple should discover the “Heart,” they will also discover eternal happiness. President James Workman popularized the slogan. Henderson has long had an interest in and love for its students and faculty (Bennie Gene Bledsoe’s Henderson State University: Education Since 1890, Volume I).

Lady in Black

A tradition linked to homecoming, the legend of the Lady in Black began around 1912. The legend had its origin in a tale of love, death and the supernatural told to the students by Professor Mary Sue Mooney. The story centered around a beautiful young Henderson senior girl who was betrayed by her lover, a Reddie athlete, for a freshman girl. In an aura of dejection, the heartbroken young lady jumped from “the bluff” to her death. Dressed in black, she returned the following year, and each year thereafter, during the week preceding the game, seeking revenge among the freshmen girls. An outgrowth of the legend is the yearly enactment by a senior woman of the revenant’s stalk for revenge. Anticipation of the Lady in Black’s return, which is accompanied by clanking chains and flickering candlelight eventually led to chaos in the women’s dormitory.

Bench 13

If a man wants to ask a lady to marry him, legend has it that she can’t say “no” while they are on Bench 13. (See “School with a Heart”)

Battle of the Ravine

Each fall, longtime rivals Henderson State and Ouachita Baptist battle heatedly during this well-attended football game. Members of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry guard all Henderson State entrances and prominent locations.


Many Henderson traditions take place during Homecoming.

  • Homecoming Bonfire - Members of the Interfraternity Council have the task of building and guarding the bonfire each year. The bonfire is symbolic of the fire in 1914.
  • Heartbeat of Henderson - Members of Phi Lambda Chi begin the heartbeat of Henderson the moment the bonfire is lit. The drumming does not end until kick-off of the homecoming game.
  • Heart and Key Ceremony - Homecoming Queen Candidates are presented to the student body at this ceremony. Heart and Key membership inductions take place at this ceremony.

That Old Reddie Spirit

Henderson’s official fight song was introduced in 1923 by cheerleader Anna Lee Chidester. Sung to the tune of “That Old Time Religion,” it is affectionately known as “The Reddie Hymn.” Originally, the song was introduced because of a lack of school spirit being displayed at football games. At the time, cheerleaders were positioned at points throughout the bleachers to lead the fans in song.

Gimme that old Reddie Spirit

Gimme that old Reddie Spirit

Gimme that old Reddie Spirit

It’s good enough for me!

Heart and Key

This organization is the keeper of all traditions. Students are initiated into Heart and Key based on their service to the campus community. This is one of the highest honors afforded Henderson State students.

Welcome Week

The Student Activities Board welcomes students back to campus with a week full of activities to help integrate students into campus life.

Greek Week

Greek Week brings all the Greek organizations together for a week of fun. Activities in the past include the lip sync contest, search for the red “E”, Barbeque, Greek Olympics, all Greek step show, and the Greek Awards Assembly.

Spring Fling

Near the end of the spring semester, the Student Activities Board schedules a week of activities to get students into a good frame of mind for finals.