In the fall of 1896, Albert Durant Smith became president at Howard College and issued a proclamation in the Alabama Baptist newspaper. In those early years on the East Lake campus, Smith wanted to assure patrons of the school that Howard would continue to provide the disciplined education it became known for under one of his predecessors, J. T. Murfee. Smith promised the Baptists, “there will be a system and a method for everything and every man, and everything and every man must fit into its or his place, like each piece of a complete machine.” His industrial approach to running the college impacted all aspects of campus life. So what was it like to attend Howard in 1896? Smith laid out each day’s schedule:
6:00 – 7:00 AM study hours
8:00 – 8:15 AM breakfast and recreation
8:15 – 8:30 AM chapel assembly and prayer
8:30 – 12:30 PM recitations
12:30 – 2:00 PM dinner and rest
2:00 – 4:00 PM recitations
4:00 – 5:00 PM drill
5:00 – 7:00 PM supper and rest
7:00 – 9:30 PM students required to remain in their rooms at work
9:30 – 10:00 PM preparations to retire
10:00 PM bell taps and all lights must be put out
Smith was careful to ensure discipline and safety even during recreation. “During the hours of release,” he wrote, “students will not be allowed to leave the quiet little town of East Lake; in fact, they will be allowed to visit the city only once a week – from 8 to 12 AM on Saturday.” He likely wanted to ease the worries of parents concerned their sons would fall into danger in the big city of Birmingham, then widely known as the “murder capital of the world”. In quiet East Lake, Howard College, still suffering from the after effects of the economic panic of 1893, struggled to remain open to students in 1896. President Smith, however, worked tirelessly to keep Howard running and kept costs under control in the mess hall by butchering his own meat, milking cows, and planting a vegetable garden.
Samford students have a bit more freedom to make their own schedule in 2013. We don’t require cadet drills, the library stays open until midnight, and students can leave Homewood whenever they chose. And while you may see Dr. Westmoreland fill in as an extra trumpet player in the marching band at football games, he does not often have to milk cows.
Adapted from Life and Services of Albert Durant Smith, LL.D., by Elam Franklin Dempsey.