Marching In

On All Saints’ Day 1966, the Saints were born. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and a number of local politicians assembled at the Pontchartrain Hotel on St. Charles Avenue to announce the news New Orleans sports fans had long awaited: a professional football franchise was finally coming to town. The NFL named 27-year-old Texas oilman John Mecom Jr. the majority owner of the team. The team recruited a number of famous part owners, including musician Al Hirt, Xavier University President Dr. Norman Francis, and Louisiana Weekly owner C. C. Dejoie Jr., the latter two becoming the first African Americans to hold ownership stakes in an NFL franchise. Mecom created much of what would define Saints fandom for generations to come—including the black-and-gold color scheme and the Sir Saint logo—but only after the team got New Orleans Archbishop Philip Hannan’s blessing on the Saints nickname.

On September 17, 1967, a crowd of 81,209 fans jammed into old Tulane Stadium to witness the team’s first regular season game, against the Los Angeles Rams. On the first play of the game, Saints wide receiver John Gilliam returned the kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. Urban legend has it that the roar of the Uptown crowd could be heard in the Central Business District. During the franchise’s early years, though, the team gave fans little to cheer about—at least on the field. Mecom hired event producer Tommy Walker, who made the most of breaks in the action, putting together some of the more elaborate halftime performances in sports. The new franchise even attracted the interest of Hollywood, taking center stage in a feature film starring Charlton Heston.


Education Resources

  • Click here to listen to oral histories from John Mecom, the first owner of the New Orleans Saints. 
  • Click here to test your Saints trivia knowledge!


New Orleans Saints first-season-schedule commemorative doubloon
1967; aluminum
The Historic New Orleans Collection, gift of Eric J. Brock, 2009.0307.3

New Orleans Saints uniform design
The Historic New Orleans Collection, gift of the Press Club of New Orleans, 1994.93.40

Gumbo, the first mascot of the Saints
between 1967 and 1970
The Historic New Orleans Collection, gift of the Press Club of New Orleans, 1994.93.28