Why a Missouri school’s teams were named to honor a South American revolutionary

Cameron Smith
August 7, 2013

If you had a South American revolutionary as the inspiration behind the best mascot in Missouri in your office pool, go ahead and pat yourself on the back.

One of these teams is called the Cardinals. The other has a much more unique South American mascot — Webb City Booster Club
One of these teams is called the Cardinals. The other has a much more unique South American mascot — Webb City Booster Club

Yes, inexplicably there is a team called the Bolivar (Mo.) High Liberators. Yes, they are named after former Venezuelan political hero Simon Bolivar. And yes, the town started with a much more traditional mascot -- the Tigers -- before taking on the Liberators mantle.

According to USA Today, the impetus for adopting the Liberators came from the 1948 dedication of a statue to Simon Bolivar in Bolivar Missouri by then President Harry S. Truman and Venezuelan President Romulo Gallagos. Evidently the presidents were inspired by the fact that the town was named Bolivar to mark the town’s name with a statue of the famous politician and military leader who shared its name.

Flickr
Flickr

Three years later, the local high school voted to change its mascot from the Tigers (let’s face it, there are plenty of Tigers) to the Liberators (much more unique).

The nickname stuck and remains today, when it stands as the state’s single-best school moniker.

Other Great Missouri Mascots of Note:

The Liberators may have the strongest thematic case to be the state’s best mascot, but there are plenty of one-of-a-kind team nicknames in the Show Me State. Chief among them are the Hickman (Mo.) High Kewpies.

The team was named after a secretary’s doll that was somehow placed in the middle of a basketball court during a game … and then had the entire game played around it. A strange tactic for sure, but certainly a memorable one.

The Maryville (Mo.) High teams are named after a fictional breed of dog. There is no such thing as a Spoofhound, but longtime Maryville football coach L.E. Zeigler saw a plaster dog called a Spoofhound at a carnival once and berated his players with the term (he apparently felt that Spoofhounds were lazy), only to have the nickname stick for the entire athletic department.

It’s rare that a school can get away with a mascot that for all intents and purposes is derogatory, but the Unionville (Mo.) Putnam County High Midgets appear to have accomplished just that. The school is thought to have taken on the nickname because it fielded very short teams in a certain span. That’s a reasonable genesis for the nickname. Whether that is reasonable justification to use the term Midget as a mascot is another question entirely.

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