RIP, Farley Salmon: an Ole Miss legend
Five feet, eight inches tall and 145 pounds was tiny for a big-time college football quarterback, even back in 1948 when Farley Salmon quarterbacked the Ole Miss Rebels to eight victories and one defeat.
Salmon, who died Sunday at the age of 88, made up for his size with speed, quickness, smarts and no small amount of grit. He was a winner.
Several years ago, I interviewed Gene Phillips, who was Salmon’s fraternity brother and close friend. Phillips was talking about his first day at Ole Miss when he stopped by to watch the football team practice.
“This little bitty guy — he probably weighed 145 pounds, tops – kept breaking through the line and just taking off,” Phillips says. “He went 70 or 80 yards about three times that day. It was sort of amazing to watch. They couldn’t touch him. He was shifty and he was fast.”
He was Farley Salmon, and he was a character.
In a 2007 interview, Salmon told me, “If I hadn’t been shifty, I would have been killed.”
Farley “Fish” Salmon could be a chapter, himself, in Ole Miss football history. He was one of the players who helped convince Ole Miss administrators and alumni to promote John Vaught to head coach when Red Drew left for Alabama in 1946. Then, Salmon helped Vaught convince Charley Conerly to return to Ole Miss instead of turning pro in 1947.
Listed generously at 150 pounds, Farley Salmon was the first split-T formation quarterback at Ole Miss and guided the Rebels to an 8-1 record after taking over from his good friend and fellow Clarksdale native, Conerly, in 1948.
“I wasn’t much of a passer, certainly not like Roach (Conerly) but I could run some, I reckon,” Salmon told me back in 2007.
He was a break-away runner and an accurate passer. He was a leader.
“We lost one game in ’48 and that was to Tulane,” he says. “I remember getting down to New Orleans and riding down Canal Street and seeing this big sign painted that said, ‘Sink Salmon.’
“And I’ll be damned if they didn’t.”
Salmon also lettered twice in basketball at Ole Miss, but football was his sport. For two years he was a running back while the great Conerly took the snaps. In 1948, after Conerly had moved on to the NFL and the New York Giants, Salmon became the SEC’s first split-T quarterback, even though it seemed he could barely see over the center’s backside.
“One thing Coach Vaught always told us was that he’d take speed over size any time,” Salmon said. “He always recruited speed first.”
Raymond Farley Salmon was a life-long resident of Coahoma County. He passed away at the Mississippi Veterans Home in Oxford. He was born Nov. 20, 1926, and graduated from Clarksdale High mid-term in 1945 in an accelerated class designed for students who wished to serve the U.S. in World War II. Salmon served in the Army Air Corps.
In 1993, he was inducted into the Ole Miss Athletic Hall of Fame and into the Clarksdale/Coahoma County Sports Hall of Fame in 2014. In 1996, he was honored by the Ole Miss Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame with its Distinguished American Award.
He married the former Stella Garrett Connell of Clarksdale in 1951. He founded Salmon Sales Company, an agricultural chemical business in Clarksdale and was later a sales executive with Display Sales of Minneapolis, Minn. At the time of his retirement, Farley was director of Sunflower Landing in Clarksdale, a substance abuse treatment center for adolescents.
Farley was a communicant of St. George’s Episcopal Church in Clarksdale, where he served as a vestry member, Senior Warden, lay reader, and Eucharistic lay minister. He was a past-president of the Clarksdale Chamber of Commerce and a member of the American Legion.
In addition to his wife of 64 years, he is survived by three children, Terre Sullivant (Henry) of Memphis, Tenn., Farley “Fel” Salmon, III of Jackson, Miss., and Caroline Mayo (Cal) of Oxford, Miss.; eight grandchildren, Connell Sullivant NeSmith (Eric) of Athens, Ga., Henry “Hank” Sullivant (Daisy) of Athens, Ga., Farley Salmon, IV (Suzanna) of Atlanta, Ga., Bryant Salmon of Jackson, Miss., Virginia, William, Callie and Thomas Mayo of Oxford, Miss; and three great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother, William Thomas (Billy) Salmon.
Visitation will be in the parish hall at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Clarksdale Wednesday, June 10 at 12:30 p.m. A memorial service will follow at St. George’s Church at 2:00 p.m.
Memorials may be made to St. George’s Episcopal Church in Clarksdale, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Oxford, the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation in Oxford, or to the charity of the donor’s choice.