Apache Belle Inducted into State Hall of Fame

The legacy of long-time director and choreographer of the world-famous Apache Belles Ruth Flynn will become a part of Texas history when Mrs. Flynn is inducted into the Texas Dance and Drill Team Educators Association's Hall of Fame later this week.

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place at the conclusion of the state convention and clinic, Jan. 10, at the Marriott Westchase in Houston.

The Hall of Fame Award is the most prestigious award achieved by an individual of the dance/drill team field in Texas. Recipients are selected upon the basis of their contributions to dance and drill team activities and their outstanding accomplishments with dance and drill teams in Texas.

"I am flattered to be recognized in this way by an organization for which I have the utmost respect," Flynn said. "It is particularly humbling to be inducted into the same hall of honor that includes Mildred Stringer and Alfred Gilliam. They set the standard for the Belles and it is a pleasure to have followed in their footsteps."

Flynn joined Tyler Junior College in May 1984 and became the full-time director and choreographer of the Belles in September of 1985.

She was present at the TDEA conference in 1996 when Stringer and Gilliam were among the first  group of Texas dance and drill pioneers to be inducted.

The Apache Belles, popularized in the 1950s by their integration of grace, charm and beauty with crowd-pleasing team dance routines, first performed in 1947 as the Apache Roses.

In the years after the introduction of director Mildred Stringer and choreographer Alfred Gilliam, the Belles came to be known as goodwill ambassadors for TJC and the city of Tyler, their first national exposure occurring on Jan. 1, 1949, when they participated in the Cotton Bowl half-time show.

A regular feature at many Dallas Cowboys football games during the 1960s and '70s, the Apache Belles have performed during half-times of more than a dozen college bowl games, for the NFL's Houston Oilers and at two Super Bowls.

In the mid-1950's Look magazine and a short movie special produced by Paramount, "Drilling for Girls in Texas", featured the high-kicking Belles. They have also appeared live on network television, are regular features in Houston's annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, Christmas parades in Tyler and Dallas and opening ceremonies of the Texas State Fair in Dallas and the East Texas State Fair in Tyler.

More than 3,000 ladies have served as Apache Belles during their days at TJC. "Belle Babes," a group of "future Belles" ages 4 to 15, cultivates fresh talent and plants the seeds for the continuation of the legacy. Each year approximately 80 Belle Babes prepare and perform with their mentors, representing Apache Belles of the future.

The Belles and Band have performed in Ireland, France, Germany, Mexico, Ireland, Washington, D.C. and DisneyWorld. They have appeared for events featuring nine U.S. presidents and numerous Texas governors. They have entertained audiences during half times at two National Football League Super Bowls; NCAA Sugar, Gator, Bluebonnet and Orange Bowls; games of the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Oilers; for the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs; and at Texas Rangers baseball games.

"Being a Belle means a lot of travel and performance opportunities but it is also a tremendous responsibility for our girls," said Flynn.

"We uphold a history of servitude and hospitality in addition to being performers, so overall the expectations are very high.

"When their two years are finished, our girls have built bonds and matured in ways that affect the rest of their lives. We say 'Once a Belle, always a Belle.' That's why our alumni following is so strong. The Apache Belles are a Tyler Junior College tradition."

The Belles were a recent half-time feature for a Dallas Cowboys football game at Texas Stadium, performing with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders in a tribute to the long-time stadium home for America's Team on Dec. 13.

Fred M. Peters

Director, Marketing & Public Information Tyler Junior College