Lively Tales About Dead Teams

1971-72 Southern Belles


1971-72 Southern Belles Yearbook
12 pages

I’m wondering if anybody out there can provide some more information on this barnstorming women’s basketball/comedy team of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

There’s not a whole lot of info out on the interwebs about the Southern Belles, but here is what I can piece together from this yearbook and a few small town Google News archive notices from the late 1960’s:

The Southern Belles were based out of Caraway, Arkansas and seemed to be an offshoot of the better known All-American Redheads barnstorming team.  The Redheads toured the country with a basketball & comedy act from 1936 to 1986.  Originally formed to promote a chain of hair salons in Missouri and Arkansas, every member of the Redheads was required to have red hair (whether natural or dyed) and the women played in full make-up, taking on men’s teams almost exclusively. Southern Belles coach/owner/booking agent Ben Overman coached the Redheads during the early 1970’s and his wife Pat Overman was a top performer for both the Belles and the Redheads.

Like the Redheads, the Belles played upwards of 200 exhibitions a year, primarily against amateur men’s teams sponsored by Lions Clubs, factories and unions.  The Belles toured the country for seven months each fall and winter in  a 15-passenger stretch station wagon.

The editors of the Belles yearbook were quite fond of capitalization: “Darlings of the Hardwood”, “Queens of Big Time Basketball”, “America’s Greatest Professional Girls Basketball Team”, and “America’s Female Basketball Wizards”.  Like the Redheads, the Belles dressed in red, white and blue and offered a half-time show of clowning, juggling and trick shots while their male opposition rested.

By December 1972, Ben Overman was coaching the All-American Redheads and I can’t find any further mention of the Belles after 1972.  I suspect the Belles folded around this time, but would love to hear from anyone who can flesh out the story of this barnstorming women’s team.


Written by AC

July 19th, 2012 at 1:45 am

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9 Responses to '1971-72 Southern Belles'

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  1. The picture above is my Nana! Her name is Emma Lucille Whetsel, her maiden name was Thomason. If you’d like to get in touch with her you can email me and I will give you more information!

    Johnna Whetsel

    19 Sep 12 at 11:24 pm

  2. Hi, I played with Lucy for Two years, she was a sweet girl. My maiden name was Gaither, she should reemember me.

    Kathy Frisbee

    23 Feb 14 at 1:02 am

  3. My aunt played with the Southern Belles. Her name is Juanita Sherrod. She was my Dad’s sister. She recently passed away. She is the one on the right on top of the car. I would like to get in touch with any of her teammates and would love to hear more about this basketball team.

    Teresa L Buckles

    Teresa Buckles

    8 Feb 15 at 5:31 pm

  4. My sister Madaline Hoing played with the Southern Belles for one year. Still have one of the brochures above and also a newspaper article with her pic.

    Sibyl Spencer

    12 Apr 15 at 5:28 am

  5. I am pretty sure the girl on the far left is my aunt Connie Sanders. She was 6’2 1/2

    Alex Sanders

    10 Sep 15 at 2:24 pm

  6. I have a book coming out on this team and others

    “Barnstorming America, Stories from the Pioneers of Women’s Basketball” this fall.

    Ben was a coach of the Red Heads. he married one of the players, Pat Rimer. They then started the Belles a few years later. pat played for a couple of seasons before going back to the Red Heads. Ben would eventually park the Belles limo and return to the red heads as well and finish up his career

    link to order book:

    john molina

    10 Jun 16 at 9:11 am

  7. The girl at the left front of the car is my sister Phillis Brown. She is 6’2 and from Dyess, Arkansas. She now lives in Starkville, MS. Her married name is Springer.

    Albert Brown

    28 Sep 16 at 9:30 pm

  8. The book John Molina referred to above is now available. Also, two former Southern Belles from the ’60s who also played with the Red Heads–Sandy Mann and Glenda Ledbetter–will be appearing Friday Dec. 23 at the NE Arkansas Invitational Tournament to sign books and greet fans. It would be great if other Southern Belles in the area would stop in and say hi.

    Charlie Francis

    22 Dec 16 at 2:00 pm

  9. I got to meet Lucy at the Final 4 in Dallas. What a special person. it was an honor, as well as meeting the other Belles.

    I maybe doing a follow up as well.

    john molina

    28 Apr 17 at 2:20 am

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