Hey! Do you hear the one about the Auburn Homecoming Queen? I know it is only natural, after years of Auburn jokes, for you to anticipate some corny punchline like, “They really had to struggle to keep her from grazing on the grass in Jordan-Hare Stadium” but to paraphrase my friend Lee Corso of ESPN College GameDay, “Not so fast, my friend … hold it right there!!”
No, don’t you even dare – it is far better than that. Molly Ann Dutton, pretty, vibrant and very black, became Auburn University’s 100th Homecoming Queen last Saturday during halftime of the football game against Western Carolina. When she was introduced the sellout crowd at the shrine of a stadium, the War Eagle faithful roared as though their beloved Tigers had just scored a touchdown.
Then they roared all the more when the senior from Gardendale was presented the ceremonial silver bowl from Governor Robert Bentley and university President Jay Gogue. But when her mother, an excited and joyful and very white Peggy Dutton rushed out with a hug and a kiss, there were some who watched, and wondered. As they there are wont to say, “Huh … What’s this?”
Auburn is indeed special, with a keen fervor and a shared bond between all brothers and sisters that borders on religion, but this is also the Deep South. While they smirk on “The Plains” when reports come that black girls are banned at sororities in Tuscaloosa, they still want to learn the inside story of How This Homecoming Queen Exactly Came To Be.
Gather around – the lore just got a lot richer.
It seems just over 20 years ago – Molly Ann is 22 – her biological mother was the victim of a vicious sexual assault in California. Young and married when the attack occurred, her husband couldn’t cope with the tragedy and told his wife she must either have an abortion or become divorced. Face it, in sexual abuse there are multiple victims and no victim should ever be judged.
So the young mother made a decision no young mother should ever have to make and moved to far-away Alabama rather than abort the child inside of her. When she got to Alabama, a “bless-ed” soul (“bless-ed is such an Auburn word they ought to trademark it) directed her to the Lifeline Christian Services office in Birmingham where she was soon introduced to a board member named Peggy Dutton.
The Duttons, anchors on the board, had two children of their own – and had already adopted three others – but what difference would just another make? Molly Ann became the youngest child in the family two days after she was born. Every day since she has been a joy, to say the least. (“And, oh, wait ‘til you meet the others!”)
Molly Ann explained the Auburn way, “When you come in as a freshman, you’re exposed instantly to various campaigns for student government and such, but I never imagined I would walk that journey personally,” she told reporters this week.
A horticulture student, Molly Ann’s campaign was first based on saving our planet, or something similar, but then she shared a better story with her closest friends, one that began with an attack in California she very obviously cannot recall. “Everybody encouraged me to go through with this. I knew this would be an amazing opportunity to share this story. I just had no idea how big it would become.”
So with a campaign that featured green-and yellow T-shirts proclaiming “Light Up LIFE” and literature educating young women about options that are available during crisis pregnancies, her story swept the campus as though by firestorm. “Because that resource was made available to my mother, she decided to give birth to me,” Dutton told the students, “and here I am talking to you guys 22 years later.”
Well, by Tuesday radio host Glenn Beck had called and a sea of media stories had been generated. “I never imagined — it shows how much the public wants to receive life. It has been viral. I wasn’t given this story to just share on Mondays through Fridays. It will continue to spark and glow,” she promised.
“If you ever find yourself in a situation or have a sister or a cousin or a best friend that is in trouble … there are resources there. I am just pleased I was given the grace to carry the story … my story is the voice for the voiceless.”
Now, did you hear the story about the Auburn Homecoming Queen? It takes 22 years to tell it … and here I am talking to you guys.
At Jordan-Hare Stadium last Saturday the sellout crowd went absolutely bonkers. War Eagle!
Governor Robert Bentley, left, and Auburn University president Jay Gouge, right, pose with homecoming queen Molly Anne Dutton and her mother Peggy during halftime of the football game last Saturday.
- Photo2 by UA