The First Indian


The first Gaffney Indian, Dean McKinney.

Kennedi Branch, Staff Writer

Before the football season of 1957, Dean McKinney was told he was no longer eligible to play sports for Gaffney High School. McKinney had already earned a total of 8 block G’s throughout 3 years of his high school career. When the cheer coach at the time, Ms. Herald, heard that McKinney wasn’t able play ball that coming season, she told McKinney that she had been wanting to create a mascot, but she hadn’t had an opportunity. Ms. Herald told him, “It is the time, and you are the one.”

McKinney was the face of Gaffney High School. As the Gaffney Indian, his job was to hype up the Indian crowd. He spent his Fridays running through the auditorium of what is now Gaffney Middle School getting the excitement built for the Friday night football games.

After school, he would ride around Gaffney in an old Mercury with an old siren blaring… well, he did this until he got pulled over… dressed as the Indian.

On Friday nights, Senior announcer Mike Daniels would say, “Here comes the Gaffney Indians led by Chief Tom Tom,” which then became the name of the Indian. As the Indian, McKinney had to responsibility to ride in parades with the cheerleaders, go to all the ballgames with the cheerleaders, and on Saturday, he was invited to Gardner Webb as the Indian.

As McKinney reminisced about his senior year as the Indian, he talked about one specific game, Gaffney at Shelby, which was Shelby’s Homecoming Game. During halftime, all the cheerleaders from both team got together to drink Pepsi and eat crackers. While the cheerleaders were away, Miss Shelby was riding in a 1956 convertible, with no one to open the door for her. McKinney saw and decided to walk to her to open the door and help her out of the car. Without meaning too, McKinney gained publicity for his kind, manly gesture, and earned a kiss on his cheek from Miss Shelby herself.

Dean McKinney was the very first Gaffney Indian, but not only that, he was one of the first mascots in the entire state of South Carolina. McKinney said, “We really had a good time, I just happened to be the first one.”