Maggie Bowen will become the first Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer who will be inducted as a competitive swimmer.

Editor’s note: On July 30, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame inducts its Class of 2022. Today, we begin a series detailing the achievements of the eight inductees, beginning with world champion swimmer Maggie Bowen.

Little Maggie Bowen, future world champion swimmer, was six years old — two years younger than older sister Mimi, who already was winning medals for the Jackson Sunkist swim team. 

Baby sister wanted no part of it — the swim team, that is. Seems Maggie didn’t want to get her face wet. She would not put her face under the water, which was fine with her parents who never forced the issue.

Rick Cleveland

Mimi apparently had other ideas. One afternoon, the two were playing on the shallow end of the pool. Maggie was perched on her older sister’s shoulders until … Mimi went under water, taking Maggie with her. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Maggie Bowen, now Maggie Bowen-Hanna, went on to become the greatest swimmer in Mississippi history. Yes, and on July 30, 36 years after her sister dunked her and 21 years after she became a world champion, she will be inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

“I feel so honored and so blessed,” Bowen-Hanna said in a phone conversation from Louisville, Ky., where she now lives. “It’s been so long ago that I was a competitive swimmer. And I know swimming is not one of the really popular or well-publicized sports in Mississippi. To be remembered in this way after all those years, well, it just feels like a huge, huge compliment.”

Another way to look at it: This probably should have happened years ago. We could spend the rest of this column – and this week – listing all the awards, medals and competitions Maggie Bowen won. So let’s just hit the highlights:

  • In 2001, swimming at the world championships at Fukuoka, Japan, she won the gold medal in the 200-meter individual medley and silver in the 400 medley. She was the best in the world at what she did. How many Mississippians can say that?
  • At Auburn, where she swam with older sister Mimi, who was also an NCAA champion, she was a 21-time All American and SEC Women’s Swimmer of the Year three times.
  • In 2001, she was the Clarion-Ledger’s Mississippi Sports Person of the Year.

She came hauntingly close to making the U.S. Olympic team three different times, missing by as little as 15 hundredths (0.15) of a second. That was when she was a freshman at Auburn.

Bowen-Hanna, on the winner’s stand in 2001.

“That was such an intense moment of frustration for me,” Bowen-Hanna said. “At the same time, I don’t think I would have had the same amount of success that I had as a college swimmer – or been a world champion, for that matter – had I not experienced that profound disappointment. I had a whole new level of drive and motivation after that.”

Understand, even before that bitter disappointment, Bowen-Hanna was an intensely competitive person. “As strong-willed as they come,” her mother, Marty Bowen, says.

Bowen-Hanna came by it honestly. Her father, Bo Bowen, was an outstanding running back and a captain of the Ole Miss football team in 1969. Said Maggie of her father, “He is one of the most competitive people I have ever known. I would say both Mimi and I got a lot of that will to win and work ethic from him.”

Bo Bowen’s father, Buddy Bowen, was a standout on John Vaught’s 1947 SEC Championship team at Ole Miss and was drafted by the Washington Redskins. Maggie’s maternal grandfather, Johnny Black, played college football at Southeastern Louisiana.

“I definitely benefitted from a long line of athletic and competitive genes,” Bowen-Hanna said.

There’s also no overstating how much sister Mimi (now Mimi Bowen-Crush) has meant to Maggie’s success.

“I always wanted to go anywhere Mimi went. I would have followed Mimi anywhere,” Maggie said.

In fact, she did follow Mimi to Louisville, Ky, where both live and both actively support Mimi’s four children, all talented competitive swimmers. 

Maggie Bowen-Hanna says she rarely swims these days. She runs for fitness and says her swimming career seems long, long ago.

But, she says, “It’s so nice to be remembered all these years later.”

•••

The 2022 Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Induction Class includes Bowen-Hanna, basketball coach Kermit Davis, Sr., baseball standouts Barry Lyons and David Dellucci, golf champion Jim Gallagher Jr., football star Eric Moulds, and football coaches Bob Tyler and Willis Wright.

For ticket information, click here.


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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.