The Cascade Plunge


One of the last visible remains of the East Lake community as it existed during Howard College’s tenancy sold last week. The nineteen acres that house the ghostly remains of the Cascade Plunge – the splendor of the Cloud Room where East Lake residents danced the night away under wooden zodiac cut outs and the Olympic-size swimming pool where local teenagers spent sun soaked summer days – is now property of Habitat for Humanity. The Cascade Plunge was an entertainment park, a short fifteen minute walk from the Howard College campus in East Lake, that housed a ballroom and an 80 x 220 foot swimming pool fed by a natural spring.

Local advertisement for the Cascade Plunge Pool, 1946
1946 advertisement

Natural springs played a pivotal role in the development of the East Lake community and formed the heart of the city’s recreation. Coinciding with Howard’s relocation to the area, in November of 1887, the East Lake Land Company built a 34-acre lake, fed by springs in Roebuck. The company intended the lake to be the centerpiece of what was to be a resort town for the people of Birmingham. The community enjoyed East Lake Park for its “balloon ascensions, dances, . . . races, theatricals, and picnics.”Another local spring on the other side of East Lake fed the Cascade Plunge.

From 1925 to Howard’s departure from East Lake in 1956, the Cascade was a fixture for students as well as local residents. According to Alumni Chriss Doss ’57, the Cascade Plunge was “the premier of entertainment parks in Birmingham.” Writing in the 1880s, Mollie Vincent, a member of the Pierian women’s club of East Lake, detailed what would eventually become the site of the Cascade Plunge – the location “was approached by a meandering country road called the Georgia Road and Huntsville Trail. . . . The springs flowed from the ground under immense poplar and oak trees. This beautiful spot was a genuine oasis to the travelers . . . .”   As the community of East Lake grew, paved roads replaced the “meandering country road” and the Cascade Plunge had its own stop on the No. 27 Ensley No. 38 South East Lake street car line.

As a gathering place for the community, the Cascade Plunge hosted proms, conferences, swim meets, and beauty contests.  The Miss Cascade Plunge talent and bathing suit competition held every summer sent one lucky winner a year to Daytona Beach to participate in the Miss Dixie Queen of the South.  Swimmers from Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia came together at the Plunge to compete in the Southeastern Amateur Athletic Union meet.  Only one mile from the center of Howard’s campus, Alumni Jack Green ’50, described it as the “center of our summer activities for people that lived in that vicinity.” Rev. Green remembers the Cascade Plunge as a source of summer employment: “we had a concession stand there and big locker room and all of us guys that lived in Birmingham worked there one time or another because it was a huge entertainment center . . .”

Swimmers enjoying the Cascade Plunge swimming pool. Water from the natural spring flowed through the tiered concrete structure at the end of the pool.
East Lake mural located at the East 59 Vintage and Cafe that pays homage to the heritage of East Lake. "Old Main" from Howard College appears in the first "E" while the Cloud Room is depicted in the second "A."
East Lake mural located at the East 59 Vintage and Cafe that pays homage to the heritage of East Lake. “Old Main” from Howard College appears in the first “E” while the Cloud Room is depicted in the second “A.”
Rendering of the Cloud Room from a local mural in the East Lake community.
Rendering of the Cloud Room from the mural above.
Photo Nov 09, 10 08 44 AM
The Cloud Room today.

After Howard’s removal from East Lake in 1957, the Cascade Plunge continued on, even adding an Arnold Palmer miniature golf course. But by the 1970’s, it was headed into decline and eventually closed in the 1990s.  While there will never be another Miss Cascade Plunge crowned or another high school prom under the zodiac signs of the Cloud Room, Habitat for Humanity is returning something important to the community – ownership. The non-profit plans to construct 60 residential units. The fate of the pool and the current facilities is unknown, although the Birmingham Business Journal reported Habitat may look to partner with other local non-profits for solutions. These sixty new homes should result in a renewed interest in the community, sixty new families that will seek to create a vision for the new East Lake community.

The Cascade Plunge today.
The Cascade Plunge today.
The remains of the Arnold Palmer miniature golf course. Notice the sign in the upper right corner and the windmill in the center of the photograph.
The remains of the Arnold Palmer miniature golf course. Notice the sign in the upper left corner and the windmill in the center of the photograph.

Adapted from:

Looking Back,” The Birmingham News, October 18, 1959.

Vincent, Mollie E., “Fifty years ago out East Lake way,” 1947 from the Birmingham Public Library,   

“Habitat for Humanity plans to build 60 residential units in East Lake.” Birmingham Business Journal, October 26, 2015.

“Nashville Men’s Team Takes Lead as Magic City Women Set Pace.” The Anniston Star, August 25, 1934.

Oral history interview with Chriss Doss conducted by Chase Trautwein and Michelle Little, 2015.

Oral history interview with Jack Green conducted by Michelle Little, 2015

Bham Wiki: Bham Wiki’s “Cascade Plunge” entry

Throw Back Thursday: Miss September

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Miss September, Barbara Whatley, helps cheer the Bulldogs for their first football game in September.

Congratulations on making it through the first full month of classes for fall 2015. We welcomed 810 freshmen, celebrated a big win over Central Arkansas at our first football game, and campus shuttle services dropped us of at our door. We enjoyed lunch in our newly renovated caf, but the Brock School of Business students were the envy of the campus as they started classes in their new home, the $25 million “next generation building” Cooney Hall.

Here is a look back at the Entre Nous summary of September 1961 when the campus experienced its first sorority rush week and “the eighth wonder of the world” – the IBM machine.

The freshmen were cordially commanded to come to school five days early for the second annual freshman orientation. The purpose of this is to assure that all the rats are absolutely confused, so that they were numb by the time registration got here. Tests… pep rallys… talent shows… tests.. “cabbages and kings”… tests… games… sore feet… tests… tests… and the climax of the week… more tests.

The first official sorority rush week in Howard’s history saw girls rushing to ice water teas and parties. The eighth wonder of the world, the IBM machine, showed his stuff for the first time at Howard during registration. This machine is almost human… so human it can’t spell either, Final count… 2,o37.

Even the cars have to register at Howard and Pinky (sometimes known as the Sherlock Holmes of the Pinkerton Agency) in his block charger covered the campus with $5 tickets.

September brought new faces… green frosh… 18 new faculty members… a boa constrictor… and Duke, a new college mascot. He proved his fighting spirit by chasing the majorettes, the waterboy, and sometimes, the players.

The first football game proved the students to be more than fairweather friends as they sat under torrents of rain to cheer the team to victory.

The $950,000 Chapel and Religious Building was completed, and work begun on the addition to the Physical Education plant. At this time students began to take more interest in the national elections. 

Adapted from:

Entre Nous, 1961.

Kennedy, Kara. “Harry B. Brock Jr.’s Vision of a State-of-the-Art Business Eduction Building Dedicated at Samford.” Samford News Release, Sept. 4, 2015.


The Caf: Coat and Tie Optional

Howard College Dining Hall, 1914

The University’s food service is an ever-changing institution. In light of the most recent transformations in the Caf, the Bull Pup is looking back over the past century at the many different places Samford students have gathered after a long day of classes to break bread and make plans for the weekend. Constantly adjusting to student needs, trends, and space and funding availability, campus dining evolved from student run co-operatives to the modern centralized cafeteria.

The Dining Hall Council

Howard College students on the East Lake campus in the early 1900s were accustomed to more formal, restaurant-style dining.  By 1919 the college dining hall was student run on a co-operative basis.  Each dormitory and fraternity had a representative, with the exception of Sigma Nu, which maintained its own dining room.  The school dietician, Mrs. M. L. Harris oversaw the kitchen and aided in purchasing.  During World War I, students planted gardens and raised hens in efforts to become more self-sustaining.

East Lake Eateries

Charlie's Place
Charlie’s Place, East Lake

The East Lake campus, situated on a limited quadrangle in the eastern portion of Birmingham, was hemmed in by commercial property and residential developments. It lacked acreage necessary to construct larger buildings able to accommodate a cafeteria to serve the entire student body. Fortunately, America’s dining landscape expanded in 1930s and 1940s to include diners and small affordable eateries. Howard College students frequented local establishments like the Co-op, Charlie’s Place, or the Hash House. The Co-op was a quick stop for sandwiches, cold drinks, cakes and ice cream, while Charlie’s Place catered to, “male boarders and those desiring plate lunches.” When word got out on campus that the new proprietor of the Hash House was an excellent cook, male students hustled for a spot at the dining table for breakfast and dinner at the low price of fifty cents a meal. Lowell Vann ’57 recalled the fellowship at the Hash House:

Lowell Vann: Twenty-eight of us ate at the Hash House and felt very fortunate.  Breakfast and dinner.  Dinner was two tables, had 14 to a table, I think it was.  Twenty-eight people was all she would take and she had six or eight people, maybe ten, living . . . in the rooms upstairs, so they got in and that only left about eight more places for people to get in, but we had good fellowship around that table, lot of good jokes . . . .  Everyone would go into the parlor and [hear] “time for first table!” And [they] would go and eat and [then], “Get up and get out of here!”  And here comes second table.  Everything was passed around and if there was 14 of you, there were 14 pork chops or whatever, but it was good fun . . .

East Lake Cafeteria

East Lake Cafeteria on Second Avenue, 1946

  “The dining hall will mean a great deal not only to the students but to those who prepare the meals as well, for on completion the kitchen will be ranked as possibly the best equipped and most sanitary in the entire city of Birmingham. For the students it will be the ideal place to take visitors and friends.” – Samford Crimson 1946

By 1946, Howard had the economic stability to upgrade and expand the kitchen facilities and dining room. Even in its new location on Second Avenue in the former Home Economics classroom, the cafeteria was just large enough to cater to male students and faculty. The Crimson boasted the new equipment purchased from the War Surplus Equipment Agency in Mobile, “ would quicken the heart of any housekeeper.” The new building even allowed for a screened back porch, “to keep flies to a minimum.” In the spring of 1949, a “new rockola” brought music to the cafeteria for added atmosphere.

While most can appreciate music and efforts to keep flies at bay, some additions to campus dining proved more threatening. In 1949, the Co-op obtained a new vending machine. One student lamented, “Machine is replacing man. Proof of this now can be seen at the Co-op where a new coke and coffee vending machine has been installed. This contrivance is strictly modern… And the machine has brains. It can make change for a dime, change for a quarter, mix a coke and pour a cup of coffee…all at the same time.” 

“The Caf” on the Homewood Campus

With Samford’s move to Homewood in 1957, the cafeteria became a more centralized gathering place for students.  To accommodate a growing student body, changes came more quickly.  In 1961, students could buy a meal ticket for one dollar.  But by 1969 to counter financial losses, meal plans were required.  Students were limited to a “meat, vegetable, salad or dessert, bread, butter and beverage” for lunch.  At dinner, they were allowed both a salad and dessert.  An anonymous gift to the university brought air conditioning to the cafeteria in 1963. But cooler air did not allow cooler heads to prevail in 1972 when conditions drove the student body to protest.


In March of 1972, students planned a boycott in protest of poor conditions ranging from flies and dirty utensils to hardened meringues on day old pies.  Student leaders canceled the boycott once they worked with the administration to remedy their concerns and accepted that some issues were beyond control for a cafeteria that was designed to accommodate 600-800 students but was then serving 1500.  Student body growth and university food service capacities have not always been in sync.

The university initially envisioned the dining hall as an idyllic establishment that would bring students together – they probably did not imagine it would cause them to gather in protest.  Although students still like to complain about the caf, the 1919 Howard College Dining Hall Council could never have imagined the Class of 2019’s dining options in our newly renovated caf.  Regardless of how each generation of students and administration revamp food service on campus, community and friendship grow out of the places we gather to eat together.

Exhibition Station in our recently renovated Caf
Exhibition Station in our recently renovated Caf

Adapted from:

The Howard Crimson, October 29, 1946.

The Howard Crimson, January 7, 1947.

The Howard Crimson, March 4, 1949.

The Howard Crimson, October 28, 1949.

The Howard Crimson, March 21, 1958.

The Howard Crimson, October 3, 1958.

The Howard Crimson, December 15, 1961.

The Howard Crimson, August 16, 1963.

The Howard Crimson, September 19, 1969.

The Howard Crimson, March 24, 1972.

Bull Pup Student Handbook 1947-1948, 1950-1951, 1951-1952, 1991-1992.

Oral history interview with Lowell Vann conducted by Chase Trautwein, 2015.

Oral history interview with Bill Lankford conducted by Chase Trautwein, 2015.

Oral history interview with Sarah Arthur conducted by Chase Trautwein, 2015.

160 Year of Samford University, by Sean Flynt

Howard College Entre Nous 1925, 1946, 1949

Doak S. Campbell Report, Higher Education in Birmingham, Alabama, March 1946

Diners and Greasy Spoons in the 1930s and 1940s, New York Eater, June 14, 2012

Toward a History of Samford University, by James F. Sulzby

Bring a Raincoat and Try for Shoes with Traction: A Guide To a Folklore Lifestyle

Dr. Brown assists a student with her basket
Dr. Brown assists a student with her basket

History students are accustom to course instructions on methods of citation, operating microfilm machines, and avoiding passive voice.   Rarely do their professors email them suggesting they, “Bring a raincoat, wear something to cover your legs, and try for shoes with traction.” This past spring, another class of Folklore students traversed the South by car, in canoes, and on foot, immersing themselves in the folkways of the region. Dr. Jim Brown often quips, only half-jokingly, that folklore is as much a class as it is a lifestyle. For students, this lifestyle of weaving, fishing, singing, and canoeing lasts for a semester. For Dr. Brown, it has been a lifestyle for over 40 years. Since 1973, Dr. Brown has shaped a course that communicates his love for the people and places of the South through experiential learning that focuses on folk orature/literature, material culture, and music.

The study of traditional folkways was not always an interest for Dr. Brown. He says that “as a teenager, I was running away from that as fast as I could run . . . I just didn’t move in those circles. I was heading toward the big city . . . It was kind of quaint and interesting but I was not going that direction at all.”

In college, the study of history drew Dr. Brown away from engineering because he “was trying to get some perspective on the craziness of American life in the Sixties.” Though Brown specialized in Russian history, Alabama folkways captured his attention soon after he arrived at Samford in December of 1970.

As Dr. Brown and his wife traveled from east Tennessee to Birmingham, he was skeptical about the flat terrain of north Alabama. Brown says we “hit the floodplain across Decatur and Athens, we thought that was too flat, too much sky, we can’t live down here,” but as the plains turned into the rolling hills of central Alabama, Dr. Brown began to feel more at ease. The plains of north Alabama were not the only thing that made Brown uneasy about moving to this state. Brown came to Alabama “scared to death of George Wallace,” but eventually “got to know Alabama . . . below the level of state politics. I got out in the countryside.” This was a place he could live. Even more, this was a place he could love and study.

Folklore began as an experimental course taught during Jan Term of 1973. This first class focused on German folklore from the Grimm brothers to Hitler. Folklore began to morph in the first decade of Dr. Brown’s arrival at Samford. Nearly every major component of the class emerged within his first ten years in Alabama as he built relationships with the people and places of the South. For Brown, people and place, and the interaction between the two, form the backbone of this course stating, “one of the tenets of the course is how removed we moderns are from direct connection with the natural world.”

As Dr. Brown traversed the countryside of the South, he met Henry Upchurch, who first introduced him to basket making using Alabama’s native white oak; Carol Welch, one of Cherokee’s most accomplished basket makers, who taught Brown how to weave a traditional basket using river cane; Mott and Morgan Lovejoy, who took Brown fishing on the Cahaba River for river redhorse (Moxostoma carinatum); and, Rose Bryan, who welcomed Brown into her traditional country store in Freeny, Mississippi. All of these individuals had a unique relationship to their natural environment and community that Dr. Brown sought to communicate to his students.

What also makes Folklore so unique is Dr. Brown’s approach to education. He says that “the best, most lasting education comes from experiencing things.” Weaving river cane baskets, canoeing down the Cahaba River, fishing for redhorse, and singing Sacred Harp in a country church will linger in students’ minds long after graduation. By experiencing various cultures through their folkways, “you see the culture more from the inside . . . you sort of walk a mile in their shoes.”

Spring 2015 Folklore students at Pine Grove Church for Sacred Harp singing.
Spring 2015 Folklore students at Pine Grove Church for Sacred Harp singing.

Adapted from Oral History Interview with James Brown conducted by Evan Musgraves, June 2015.

Photography by Jonathan Bass and Chase Trautwein

March Madness: Dead Cats and Burning Bulldogs

“Dead cats and burning bulldogs preluded the half-finished game with [Birmingham-] Southern. Tension that has mounted and grown game by game during the past several years came to a head Tuesday night. ‘Unfortunate incidents’ come to all our lives, each with a lesson.”

That is how the Howard Crimson described the fracas that broke out during the basketball game between Howard College and Birmingham-Southern in February 1957. The two schools maintained a fierce rivalry most often marked by students traveling to the opponent’s campus for a good-natured tree rolling or some other practical joke.

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Rudy Davidson: Leading up to that game, it went on every year, Howard folks would go over to Southern’s campus and throw a prank and Southern people would come to Howard and throw a prank.

For the 1957 season, however, the students from Birmingham-Southern decided to up the ante in a stunt involving the Sherman Oak, a beloved tree located in the center of the campus. The oak was so famous among students that he was parodied with a weekly front-page opinion column written from his point of view in the Crimson.  On February 15, 1957 Sherman Oak shared his terrifying tale:

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Sherman Oak: The other night, Sunday, February 10, to be exact, when you so rudely attacked our campus, I don’t appreciate at all the damage that was done to me. The very idea, throwing kerosene on me and trying to burn me down. I was so humiliated and scared that I could hardly cry out.

Fortunately, a quick-thinking and resourceful student, who you may remember from our previous post about a certain ghoulish Halloween escapade in Renfroe Hall, was nearby.

Sherman Oak: If the noble Quinn Kelley had not fought your crew off single-handed and very bravely put sand on my flames, I would probably be little more than a burned out stump now.

In addition to the attempted arson of the Sherman Oak, the Birmingham News reported a few Howard girls being woken up in the middle of the night because they heard men chanting “Down with Howard, Up with Southern!” When they looked outside, there were three crosses on fire in front of the burning tree–an ominous warning and a symbol of Aryan superiority during the Civil Rights era.

By gameday, tensions had reached their boiling point. With less than four minutes left in the first half of the game, Howard was beating Southern 33-24.  Chriss Doss later recalled the chaos that unfolded when a Southern player named Glen Clem took a cheap shot at Howard player Rudy Davidson (pictured above).

Chriss Doss: Everything was already heated up and they [Howard] had this fellow named [Louis] Doss, who worked full time running a steam shovel in a strip mine . . . but he was also going to school and playing basketball . . . he was one of our leading players, but he was sitting on the bench. The coach had taken him out and put somebody else in . . . a tall, spindly fella, [who] didn’t look like he could stand too much. He needed to be fed more, but . . . was playing forward. Southern had the basketball and they were going toward their goal when a Howard player intercepted the ball and the player named Rudy . . . was way down toward Howard’s goal and this fellow drew back and threw the ball to Rudy and Rudy caught it, bounced it a time or two and went up to shoot, to make the goal and this Southern student hit him, I mean plowed into him, and of course it was an interesting issue for debate. Did he intend to do it or was it an accident? Anyway, it knocked Rudy into the bleachers . . . and Doss is up [off the bench] because Doss is this terribly muscular fella and he has, during the season, been the caretaker for Rudy, and he saw this fella hit Rudy and he was down there in a split second and drew back and hit the Southern player and. . . laid him up in the bleachers with his fist and blood started squirting. The place went wild. We didn’t have any security . . . this is the only time I ever saw Major Harwell Davis just disheveled . . . They finally got things quieted down and he goes out to the center of the court and says, “Those of you who live on campus, go to your dormitories and stay there. Those of you who do not live on campus, as soon as possible, make your way off of the campus and don’t come back!”

According to the Birmingham News’s account, the fight got so out of hand that the coaches decided it was best not to play the second half of the game. Southern player Glen Clem, who some claim instigated the fight, was severely cut “clear through his lip.”  His teammate, Hilton Jones, had more serious injuries.  He suffered a broken nose, bruises on his back, abrasions on his chest, and had to remain hospitalized due to a brain concussion.

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Unfortunately, this was just the first round of fighting as tensions remained high, Chriss Doss explained.

Chriss Doss: They vacated the building, but there’s a lot of [people] milling around on campus and there were, I don’t know, three or four students down toward the north end of the campus . . . saw somebody do something and then all of a sudden a blaze shot up on old Sherman. Howard students came running from every direction, taking off their jackets or getting anything they could to beat it out.

With the fire extinguished, the perpetrators were apprehended and their fates rested in the hands of Howard students who became judge, jury, and…barber. Rudy Davidson recalled the vigilante justice handed out by the students of Howard.

Rudy Davidson: Well some of our fellows captured them and when they caught them, some of our folks talked the night watchman into opening up Old Main, to hold a trial. So it woke everybody up on campus and the auditorium soon filled up and I don’t know if they provided a defense attorney for the perpetrators or not, but we had our pre-law students to judge them and they held court. Of course they found them guilty and they asked what was going to be the sentence.

The Howard students decided that the punishment would be an H shaved into the heads of the offenders, who begged the court for mercy, as this would cost them dearly, in more ways than one.

Rudy Davidson: The Southern boys made a plea, “Please don’t shave an H in our head. We’re ministerial students . . . We have church and we can’t do that. We’ll lose our pay.”

After experiencing two attempts of burning the Sherman Oak, a cross burning, a basketball brawl, and then a third burning attempt, the Howard students were in no mood for leniency, however.

Rudy Davidson: They made their plea and I don’t remember all of it but anyhow the Baptist ministerial student says, “Well we preach the Word and we don’t worry about reimbursement. Shave the heads.” So we shaved the heads, shaved an H in their heads and turned them loose.

It is unknown what became of the men who had to travel home and, assumedly, to church the following Sunday with a “H” reminiscent of a scarlet letter, shaved into the back of their heads.

Howard and Southern’s basketball coaches deliberated on whether or not to have their teams play each other again at all. Howard’s Coach Virgil Ledbetter, explained that he was willing to continue playing Birmingham-Southern in the coming years as long as his opponent was willing.  Coach Bill Burch, the head coach of Southern’s squad was unsure, as he explained to reporters after the game.

Coach Burch: I hate to make a statement in the frame of mind I’m in right now.  I will say I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. I know I try to control my bench. If my boys can’t play basketball, I don’t want them out.

In the end, the two schools did not play again until 1961, after heated tempers cooled down, bruises healed, and hair regrew.

  • Glen Clem went on to a successful career coaching basketball at Walker College in Jasper from 1959 to 1996.
  • Hilton Jones recovered from his injuries and graduated from Birmingham-Southern College later in 1957.
  • Rudy Davidson graduated from Howard College in 1958 and worked for the State Department of Education and taught school finance and organization at UAB for 24 years.
  • Chriss Doss graduated from Howard College in 1957 and went on to study theology, library science, and law. He worked as the law librarian at Samford before working in state and local politics. He returned to his alma mater to work as director of the Samford University Center for the Study of Law and the Church until his retirement in 2005. Today he operates a law office in Hoover.
  • Sherman Oak was eventually struck by lightning and cut down in 1998. The oak is survived by several trees at the present campus of Samford University.

Adapted from:

The Birmingham News, February 13, 1957.

The Howard Crimson, February 15, 1957.

Oral History Interview with Chriss Doss conducted by Michelle Little, 2014.

Oral History Interview with Rudy Davidson conducted by Michelle Little, 2012.

The Daniel House: Celebrating Over 30 Years

Samford students outside the Daniel House in 1997 and Samford students in London, Fall 2013. Photographs courtesy of Marlene Rikard and Blakely Lloyd.
Samford students outside the Daniel House in 1997 and Samford students in London, Fall 2013. Photographs courtesy of Marlene Rikard and Blakely Lloyd.

The Daniel House “changed the culture of this university for both students and faculty.” –Dr. Marlene Rikard

Just over thirty years ago, Samford University purchased a Victorian home in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London.  This pivotal real estate transaction, made possible by the Daniel Foundation, provided exponential travel and cultural learning opportunities for generations of students.  Located in the heart of London, the house serves as a window to the world.  Students can walk out the door and explore the gardens at Kensington Palace, attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey or meander through remains of the Parthenon at the British Museum.  During a weekend in London they can take a train to Paris, or a short flight to Morocco, Dublin, or Milan. It’s location allows for an enormous amount of options that serve, in the words of Dr. Stephen Todd, as “a living laboratory – a museum that they get to live in and explore for days and weeks on end, seeing the actual places and architecture, tasting the food, and meeting the people as they walk the ancient paths.”

Originally called Samford’s London Study Centre, the Daniel House opened in 1984. Over the years, Samford professors made it into a home – some with hammers and nails and others with home cooked meals shared in the community kitchen. This 130-year-old Victorian home has been a beloved landmark for the Samford family and the site of fun student memories as well as academic achievements. The first professors to live in the Daniel House braved cold nights with no heat and took on construction projects to make the house livable for students. To commemorate this special anniversary, a few professors who shaped the Daniel House that students know and love shared their personal memories.

Samford's London Study Centre when it was purchased in 1984
Samford’s London Study Centre when it was purchased in 1984

Samford’s longtime theatre director, Harold Hunt, was in the first group of professors to live in the Daniel House.

Harold Hunt: [My wife] Barbara and I were chosen to go and start the program for that first semester . . . Tom [Corts] and [his wife] Marla, and Ben Brown and [his wife] Francis, and [Ben] Harrison and his wife, those three couples [also] went.

He went on to explain that it was not easy to convince students to come to this new place.

Harold Hunt: We like to have never gotten a group of students to go. It was like shaking the trees . . . . They didn’t want to leave Samford. Even for several years, [they would say] “I don’t want to leave my fraternity [or] I don’t want to leave this.” 

When they got there, he explained, there was still more work to be done.

Harold Hunt: We had to walk across a plank to get into the building. It was – I’ll give you my word – chaos . . . . There were people working [but] nothing had been finished . . . this was Monday morning before the students were coming Wednesday . . . . [Once the students arrived] they were constantly having to move from one room to another [because] it [was] still being worked on.

All and all, though, Hunt’s group ended up having a wonderful time.

Harold Hunt: It was a wild semester, but I wouldn’t take anything back . . . and the students felt the same way . . . . It was an interesting group of people, but we loved them all, we really did, and it was just a good experience for us.

L:  The First Group of Samford Students to Study Abroad in London                                                      R:  Dr. and Mrs. Hunt at the Daniel House.

Marlene Rikard, a former History professor, focused on the cultural benefits Samford students receive through their time at the Daniel House.

Marlene Rikard: It’s the most cosmopolitan city in the world. I mean the entire empire has gone to London. It was a way that you could take sheltered students…and introduce them to that wider world and from there they might go on out to other places, other opportunities. And so it was something that Tom Corts did that changed the culture of this university for both students and faculty. Tom was the one who was the inspiration behind it. The Daniel Foundation provided the money, and they wanted to be anonymous. And that’s why it was just called the London Study Center for so long . . . It has become a remarkable program for the university.

As the years progressed, more and more students began to come, and a new batch of professors came with them.  As Karen Joines of the Religion Department explained, the house itself was always a work in progress.

Karen Joines: I did a lot of work. I painted the balusters for the handrail, sanded down the handrail; I hid a lot of the electrical cords with caulk and painted over it. The fire chief [gave me permission to] redo the door [to the] reading room so it would be more attractive . . . . I did some carpentry on that and the door at the very top of the stairs . . . . On occasion, I ran into Dr. Corts with a saw in hand.  

Samford’s faculty made the Victorian house in London into a home away from home where students can enjoy a unique experience of living and learning alongside their peers and professors – under the same roof, at the same breakfast table.  International travel can seem daunting and always out of reach, but the Daniel House makes this an attainable goal for many by providing an accessible platform for students to explore other cultures.  After thirty years, Samford students know they will never be ‘tired of London.’

Original artwork by Kaleigh Warwick, Class of 2014 and Daniel House study abroad participant.
Original artwork by Kaleigh Warwick, Class of 2014 and Daniel House study abroad participant. Prints are available for sale here at this link to the Samford University Alumni Association website.

Adapted from:

Department of Classics International Travel Pamphlet, Dr. Stephen Todd.

Samford University Entre Nous 1985.

The Daniel House in London, Student Handbook, Samford University.

Oral History Interview with Harold Hunt.

Oral History Interview with Karen Joines.

Oral History Interview with Marlene Rikard.

Mysterious Lovers Call

Old Main in 1925
Old Main on the East Lake campus in 1925

While many couples choose Samford’s Reid Chapel for their wedding, not many would think of Samford Hall. Almost every weekend there are weddings in Reid Chapel, but while Howard College was in East Lake, students did not usually wed on campus. But on Valentine’s Day in 1925, a mysterious couple appeared at the administration offices in Old Main on the East Lake campus requesting such a venue. The February 18, 1925 Crimson recounts the story:

Mysterious Lovers Call At Dean’s Office

Cupid Wins as Unknown Couple Weds in Main Building Valentine’s Day

 An event, the likes of which never occurred before in the Administration building during its thirty-eight years came to pass Saturday afternoon at 4:30 o’clock in the Dean’s office. Yes, the very office where hundreds of knowledge-seeking students have enrolled . . . and where innumerable students have discussed and solved their problems of college life; the office that has known naught but formal discourse and cold business, was flooded with romance without warning when a pair of “victims of the season” were joined in happy wedlock inside its walls.

The couple were not connected in any way with the college, however, and gave their names as Miss Mary Alice Hartley and Mr. Thomas Nathaniel Graves. The groom gave his address as 8229 Eighty-Second Street, East Lake. The parents and address of the bride are not known.

Witnesses of the scene stated that the couple came [to] campus…cooing like a pair of turtledoves in springtime. Upon reaching the main building, they immediately entered through the front entrance, made way to the office, and calmly stated that they wished to get married and inquired if they could get a minister to perform the required ceremony, witnesses confirmed.

It being 4:30 o’clock in the afternoon, Professor Burns, the Dean, was not in–Miss Moody and Miss Kendra, student secretaries, being the only ones present. However, after recovering from the unusual request and being convinced that the couple were not applicants for registration, Miss Moody complied and telephoned the Divinity Club for aid.

Responding to the call, several student-preachers made haste to the rescue and found it to be no joke. Accordingly, J.D. Wyatt, ministerial student at Howard–being the oldest of the preachers present–relieved the situation, (leaving out the phrase “to obey,” . . . so witnesses asserted.)

The bride wore a blue coat-suit, trimmed in fur to match.  She appeared to be about 18. The groom was considerably older, probably 30, and wore a business man’s attire.

After appropriate caresses and exercises, the mysterious lovers departed from the Dean’s office chewing their gum nonchalantly. We know neither from whence they cometh, nor whither they goeth.

Adapted from:

The Howard Crimson, February 18, 1925.

The Original Nine: Howard College’s First Class

The first students to attend Howard College (originally called Howard English and Classical School) are often called “the original nine.” A quick glance at the handwritten matriculation records housed in Special Collection reveals that only nine boys showed up to school on January 3, 1842. By May 1842, twenty-two additional young men followed suit and Howard ended its first semester with a total enrollment of thirty-one. These original nine became part of the folklore of Samford’s humble beginnings, but many details of their lives were forgotten.  With student ages ranging from 11 to 18, Samuel Sterling Sherman was at first the principal of a preparatory school and not a college president. As we begin a new semester, take a moment to remember this first group of students from January 1842.

First Nine Matriculation Record
The Original Howard English and Classical School Matriculation Record

First in everything, John Thomas Barron was the first to sign up for classes at the newly formed school. Born in 1829 in Marion, Alabama, he lived with his mother, widow Julia Tarrant Barron, who provided funding for both the Howard English and Classical School and Judson College. Due to his high standing in the alphabet, John also became the first graduate of full-fledged Howard College in 1848.  He studied medicine, married Elizabeth Hampton Harrison of Mississippi, and later returned to Marion to became one of the town’s leading physicians. John continued his association with his alma mater, housing a few Howard boys in his own home during the ten-month academic year. After Elizabeth’s death in 1865, John remarried. He and his second wife Fannee had two daughters named Julia and Olive. Unfortunately, John died in 1870 at the age of 41. This was made even more tragic by the death of Fannee only a few years later.  John and Fannee Barron’s daughters lived under the care of their grandmother, Julia, until her death in 1890.

Thomas Booth also finished in Howard College’s first graduating class.  Born in 1827 in South Carolina, Booth’s family moved to Autauga County, Alabama sometime before 1840.  During his time as a student at Howard, he boarded with the Hufford family in Marion.  After graduation, Thomas moved to Union, Louisiana where he worked as a teacher during the 1850s. While there, he boarded with Elias George’s family, also from Perry County. In 1853, Booth married Catharine Heit in Bibb County, Alabama. Drawn to towns named Union, the couple settled in Union, Alabama by 1860, where he would work as a merchant for the remainder of his life. Booth died on August 14, 1869 at the age of 42.

Unlike his two previous classmates, William Alexander “Aleck” Miller did not stay at Howard long enough to obtain a degree. Born in Big Cove, Alabama, Miller lived in Madison, Alabama all his life, with the exception of his time at Howard. After leaving Howard, he returned to Madison and worked as a farmer. In 1852, he married Jane Haden.  Aleck and Jane raised four children, and he passed at the age of 72.

Thomas Adams Cravens was born in 1828, probably in Marion, Alabama. He lived in neighboring Marengo County until he attended college in 1842. After his brief tenure at Howard, Cravens migrated to Yuba, California where he worked as a farmer and married Elizabeth Humes in 1856. The couple had seven children and resided in Santa Barbara, California until he passed away in 1888 at the age of 59.

William D. King was the son of Edwin Davis King, a wealthy citizen of Marion, early Howard trustee, and financial supporter of the fledgling Howard College. William King attended Howard in 1842.  In spite his father’s involvement in the school, King did not complete his degree at Howard. In 1848, King married Rebecca Singleton. They went on to have ten children. Records indicate that King enlisted in 1861 and served as a cavalry officer in Captain Lenoir’s Independent Company and Lewis’s Battalion. King received an official pardon by President Andrew Johnson in 1865 for his part in the rebellion against the government of the United States. He lived in Monroe, Alabama, working as a farmer, until his death in 1866.

William D. King Pardon
President Andrew Johnson’s Pardon of William D. King

William Samuel Blassingame along with Barron and Booth, graduated from Howard in 1848. He also earned a Master’s degree from Howard in 1851. In the time between his degrees, Blassingame resided with his sister, Aurelia, and her husband, former Alabama Governor Benjamin Fitzpatrick. In 1853, Blassingame married Martha Clementine Simmons, and the couple had four daughters. William Blassingame returned to his family’s home in Greenville, South Carolina, where he drowned in 1858 at the age of 30.

Blassingame Collage 2
William Blassingame and his Diploma from Howard College (1848)

Samuel Goree, born in Newberry, South Carolina in 1823, relocated with his family to Perry County, Alabama by 1830. After his Howard days, Goree worked as a farmer. He traveled to Walker, Texas in the early 1850s, and married Sarah Wiley in 1852. His new life in Texas was interrupted by the Civil War. Enlisting in the Confederate Army in 1864, he served in the Texas Fourth Infantry. When his six-month enlistment came to an end, Goree reenlisted as a sergeant in Terry’s Cavalry, a regiment well-known for their actions throughout Tennessee and Georgia. Terry’s Cavalry surrendered on April 26, 1865, along with the rest of the Army of Tennessee after the loss at the Battle of Bentonville in North Carolina. After the war, Goree settled permanently in Walker, Texas, with his wife and three children. He died in 1873 at the age of 50.

The Texas Rangers

 Thomas Anderson was born in Greene County, Alabama in 1830.  At age eleven on Howard’s opening day, he was the youngest of the original nine. After studying at Howard, he continued to live and work in Greene County, first as a newspaper editor and later as a mill owner. Thomas and his wife Martha had four children. He resided in Greene County until 1906 when he passed away at the age of 76.

Unfortunately, the last of the original nine does not have such a long and happy story. The youngest of four children born to Thomas Oliver and Lucinda Tubb, Thomas A. J. Oliver was born two weeks after his father died in 1825. His mother, Lucinda, remained in Perry County, Alabama, and sent Thomas to Howard in 1842. Tragically, Thomas spent only one year at the school, passing away in 1843 at the age of 18. He was buried in Marion Cemetery with his father. Little is known about the circumstances surrounding Oliver’s death.

These nine young men took a risk and came to Howard English and Classical School on its first day. As the years passed, enrollment numbers increased, and Howard College began to grow in size and reputation, but the first class will always represent Samford’s humble beginnings. The original nine paved the way for future students.  Collectively, they played an integral part in Howard College’s history.

by Lauren Ziemer

Adapted from:

Samford University, Special Collection. Howard College Matriculation Record, 1842.

John Thomas Barron-Ancestry Overview

Thomas Booth-Ancestry Overview

William Alexander Miller-Ancestry Overview

Thomas Adams Cravens-Ancestry Overview

William D. King-Ancestry Overview

William Samuel Blassingame-Ancestry Overview

Samuel Goree-Ancestry Overview

Thomas J. Anderson-Ancestry Overview

Thomas A.J. Oliver-Ancestry Overview

1860 United States Federal Census, Walker, Texas.

1860 United States Federal Census, Marion, Alabama.

1860 United States Federal Census, Union, Alabama.

1880 United States Federal Census, Marion, Alabama.

The Train to Auburn

Howard College Football Team 1928-29

The Howard College Football Team, 1928

On October 27, 1928, students, faculty, and fans of Howard College traveled to the campus of Auburn University to cheer on the bulldogs in a rivalry football game.  Unlike college football games of today, there was no tailgate, and no caravan of fans with Samford flags waving from their car windows.  In 1928, everyone boarded a train for Opelika, called the “Central of Georgia Special”.  Fans aboard the “Georgia Special” spent the ride talking, telling stories, and chanting for their team.  Although this ride may seem strange by current standards, the train to Auburn rallied Howard College behind the football team and in spirit for their school.  They got to know each other and grew in unity.  Unfortunately, that day, Howard fell to Auburn 25-6. After the game, the fans were not able to stick around, they had to catch the train back home.

On Saturday, the bulldogs will take on Auburn University for the 27th time, and Samford is looking to get its first win against the tigers. Many Samford students, faculty, and alumni are set to attend, and there will be university-sponsored tailgates surrounding Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium.  Students and faculty are sure to reminisce, tell stories, and cheer for their team.  Although the mode of transportation may have changed, some things, like the school spirit of Samford University, never will.

Great Crowd Attends Auburn Game Via Special Train And Otherwise

Fine spirit is manifested on trip with freshmen living up to their reputation of greenness.  Railroad officials extend every courtesy possible.

Some one hundred and twenty five Howard students and supporters pulled out aboard the Central of Georgia Special to Auburn on Saturday, October 27…Typical of all Howard crowds, there was much spirit manifested. Very few were able to name all of the topics of conversation or (bull) which made the rounds. Old cronies got together, old friends met new ones, and there was a fine spirit of friendship and closeness throughout the whole trip. Freshmen lived up to their reputation of greenness…there was a constant parade through the train as is always the case. Many were so absorbed in the scenery and other matters that they hardly knew what was happening. Even these awoke from their trance when the band was tooting forth many strains of more or less familiar music. This happened after about one-half the distance had been covered…Every one was feeling good and real pep was exhibited for the first time this year.

Upon arriving in Opelika, we were left stranded by our trusty C. of G…we found ourselves in the loveliest village of the plains…As usual, the band started off the excitement with a parade through the town. Other rooters followed in a long line…As a preliminary to the game, one of the fraternities staged a stunt for an initiation. This sent the crowd into roars of laughter. Both bands played music of the usual nature. Auburn showed a remarkable spirit. Those who went can certainly appreciate what the Auburn Spirit really is. Not to be outdone, the Howard side opened up with all the reserve that they have been holding in all this season, and each supporter yelled as he has never yelled before. All the yells went over in big style. This spirit lasted throughout the game. Two minutes after the kick off, Howard scored and the bunch went wild. It looked too easy. [But] every one knows what a rude awakening we had…ask those who saw it. Auburn opened up with a bang on their touchdown. A great demonstration was given. It was the first score for them this year.

We lost, but we went down fighting…After the final whistle it did not take long for the crowd to scatter. Hasty departures were made. The [train] pulled off from Opelika at 7:00. This time there was still a fine spirit shown. Howard should be proud of its representation. Howard is proud of its team. The return trip was somewhat quiet…Having been beaten in the way we were, we are glad that it was Auburn rather than some of our other rivals. Special thanks should be given for the way we were received and treated…and appreciation should be shown to the Central of Georgia Railroad for the many favors they granted us…They are all right. Record time was made to Birmingham, the time required being only three hours.

Not one who went on this trip is sorry. Except for the defeat, nothing happened to be sorry for. Those who went acted as real Howard students…With only three games remaining, all efforts must be turned to making these a success. Everyone must back the team and must act when called on. Show your spirit and there will be much to show for it later!

Auburn Samford

A more recent look at the Auburn/Samford Rivalry, 2011

Adapted from:

Howard Entre Nous, 1929.

Howard Crimson, October 31, 1928.

Honoring Samford’s Veterans

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(Samford paid tribute to the faculty, staff, and students who served our nation in the armed forces in the dedication of the 1948 Entre Nous.)

Samford has a rich history of military participation. At the outbreak of the American Civil War, Howard College president Henry Talbird and many Howard students left Marion, AL, to organize a regiment of Independent Volunteers in 1861.   Future Howard President Harwell Goodwin Davis, along with many other Howard faculty members, served in WWI, where he was promoted to Major, wounded in action, and received a citation for gallantry. Later during WWII, “The Major,” recognizing the needs of the struggling Howard College, invited the Navy to host a V-12 training unit at Howard’s East Lake campus, which ultimately played a huge role in saving the struggling school. Countless men and women from Samford’s ranks have proudly worn the uniforms of our nation’s armed forces, and many continue to do so today.

Several Crimson articles paid tribute to those who served, like the following article that listed the Howard men (and women) in uniform:

Howard Men are Doing Their Share for Freedom 

Ex-football Stars, Profs, Crimson Editors—They’re Fightin’ All Over the World.

From the Solomons to Suez – from Africa to Australia – and right here in the good ol’ U.S.A., Howard men and women are showing the world how to fight for freedom. They’re everywhere in every phase of the war effort, doing their share and more. Ex-football stars, professors, pharmacists, doctors, chaplains, public relations officers, physical instructors – battling the Japanese in the jungles of New Guinea, dueling the Germans over the African desert, teaching physical fitness to future aviators in Texas. Here are som [sic] typical Howard men who are serving:

  • (jg) Ernest H. Dunlap of the U.S. Navy, wounded in action and awarded the Navy Cross.
  • James Stuart (Coach Jim to you) physical instructor at the Naval Reserve Air Base in Dallas, Texas.
  • Amasa B. Wingham, director of public relations for the Navy in Alabama.
  • Osce M. Bentley, an “All-Southern” drum major and a campus tradition, in the Naval Reserve.
  • Josiah Bancroft, died in service of the U.S. Army Medical Corps.
  • Ensign Olivia Philabert, only Howard girl in uniform. She’s in the WAVES…

– Howard Crimson, December 4, 1942

One Howard student, who preferred to write under the initials H.R.L., put everything in perspective in a touching opinion piece for the Crimson.  For Thanksgiving 1941, he or she reminded fellow Howard students just how much they had to be thankful for because of the bravery of every American soldier:

Alabama’s Hills Are Beautiful With No Machine Guns to Mar the Foliage

Howard’s campus and the mountains around East Lake are in the height of one of their full dress parade. The Beacon Mountains toward the east with its beautiful array of fall colors was a scenic background for the Howard-‘Nooga game last Friday evening. Many times during the game our eyes would wander from the field where boys in red and blue and yellow and black were fighting for possession of the ball and gaze at nature’s colors across the way. To our left was stately Main, standing in all her lofty whiteness against a background of a setting sun.

Due, perhaps, to the fact that we have had a few frosty nights followed by balmy days, the colors of the leaves are blended with a skill more than human. The roads out of Birmingham are bordered by trees of reds and yellows and browns and appear to have been planned to mix most effectively with the dark green of the pines.

It is not unusual for us to forget to see and enjoy the little things of beauty about us, but when out most inward thoughts and feelings are wrapped up with our personal problems, we find a release when we turn them outward and view the handywork of Mother Nature’s brush.  During this season in which we give thanks for a harvest of blessings, we think of fields beyond these seas that yield little but broken plows and bodies of men. We know not what another Thanksgiving may be like, but whatever the coming days may have in store for us, we hope we may still be alive to give thanks. The hearts of men in other lands may be slow to give thanks this year, but but here where our roads are not filled with fleeing women and children and aged fathers; where our barns and bins and warehouses are stored with the harvest of the year; where we can look at the colors of nature without being afraid that a machine gun lies beneath the foliage, we are thankful–H.L.R.

-Howard Crimson, November 21, 1941.

Happy Veteran’s Day, and thank you.


Adapted from:

Howard Entre Nous and Howard Crimson