Horse Sense for College Men

L. O. Dawson

A professor of bible and church history at Howard College during the 1920s and 1930s, Dr. L. O. Dawson was known as a purveyor of deep wisdom and home-spun advice.  “Common horse sense,” he often quipped, “will get a boy through college safely, if applied in the right way.”  Lemuel Orah Dawson was born in 1865 in Chambers County, Alabama and attended Howard College (Marion), Southern Seminary (Kentucky), and the University of Berlin (Germany).

As a student at Howard, Dawson attended Siloam Baptist Church under the watchful eye of Rev. A. C. Davidson.  The pastor played a key role in Dawson’s spiritual formation.  “To me he was a man sent from God to touch my life at its most important period,” Dawson later wrote. “In everything he was my ideal. As a pastor and as a man, I have never seen any greater than he. He loved the boys with a genuine shepherd heart, and in return they lavished on him their extravagant affection and youthful enthusiasms. In all those years his influence has been felt in my life, and whatever good I have done, his hand was in it all.”  Davidson’s influence inspired Dawson’s passion for mentoring young men at Howard College in the 1920s and 1930s.

At Howard, Dawson gave every male student a poster to hang in their room as an aide memoire of virtuous living.  Entitled “Horse Sense for College Men,” Dawson’s guiding rules

Horse Sense for College Men

Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole man!  Ecclesiastes 12:13.   Fellows, there are some things you must settle so definitely that they will admit of no discussion.  Here they are:

  • Have regular hours for study—and use them for study.
  • Have regular hours for rest and play—and use them for rest and play.
  • Have regular hours for eating—and eat then, slowly and quietly.  Do not study, take no violent exercises for 30 minutes after eating.
  • Stay off the streets of the nearby town except when there is a definite purpose.  The “innocent by-stander” soon comes to be an “in-stander” without innocence.
  • Have no dealings with wicked women—and especially none with weak and foolish ones.  The road to hell leads by their door.
  • Cut out drugs, root and branch—especially alcohol and nicotine in any form.  And with these you do well to discard the harmless (?) drugs of the soda fount.  People are broken and wretched drug slaves today because they were silly fools yesterday.  Be free men.
  • Abhor the slightest appearance of hazing.  It is meant for fun.  It is executed in miserable cowardice.  Think of striking a fellow when you know that he dares not resent it!  Shame on the hazer!  Don’t be yellow.
  • Remember, gamblers will and do steal.  The gambling habit is easy to form and almost impossible to break.  It is a consuming fire.  Watch the first short steps leading that way.
  • Your fraternity will be well-nigh salvation or damnation to many of you. Make it what it ought to be, or get out of it.
  • Be too noble to lead others into evil.
  • Be too strong for others to lead you in that direction.
  • Be a member of only one athletic team, or other organization that travels away from the college.
  • Travel everywhere and every day with God. He is more companionable than most of you think.
  • Your roommate is by far the most important person you meet in college.  See that he is clean—inside and out. If he starts to hell, stop him if you can.  If he insists, get a divorce.  Do it quick.
  • “Tote fair” with the home folks, preferably mother, at least once a week.  Neglect of her convicts you of ingratitude, and an ingrate is unfit for the company of true men.

What a glorious privilege to be in college!  Thousands would give half of life for your chance.  Your chance!  Use it, my boy, use it!—L. O. Dawson

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

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