Help S.T.O.R.I. Make Waves

13268565_1718279398452939_2040988011385796665_oEver wondered how you could help us in our mission to save and share history? Today is the day!  During the next 36 hours, we aim to raise $5500 for our Big Give project.  You can help STORI bring history to life for future generations by donating funds to help us buy more recorders and new video equipment to further our mission in documenting personal history.  Stories turn history into shared experiences. They remind us of where we come from and where we need to go. STORI has helped dozens of students interview and record oral histories about everything from the Cold War to local history in East Lake and Marion. Putting more equipment into students’ hands not only expedites the interview process for the individual but also increases the history archived for future generations.

What will my gift do? Your gift will fund Samford’s initiative to record and preserve oral histories for the university and the wider public. Preserving and sharing the shared history of our institution, as well as the larger community Samford’s serves, is integral to the university’s mission.

Who will my gift impact? This initiative will serve not only Samford, but the local community and the state at large by preserving our shared history.

Be a part of the STORI today!  DONATE HERE

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The Day the Music Almost Died

The sophomore class of 1959 receives a division award for their Step Sing performance on Vail steps.
The sophomore class of 1959 receives a division award for their Step Sing performance on Vail steps.

Banners hanging in the caf, hushed whispers of rumored themes for Dudes-A-Plenty, students scurrying around campus in bear costumes. From the start of the spring semester until performance weekend, Step Sing is all the buzz on campus. The show attracts three nights of sold-out performances attended by parents, students, faculty, alumni and people within the community. From carefully choreographed dances to humorous cultural references, Step Sing has become a source of great entertainment for Samford and the Birmingham community. In 1951 on the East Lake Campus, a director led a group of students in a half hour “All Campus Sing” on the steps of Renfroe Hall. Within a few years, a competition formed called the “Annual Step Sing.” Just rummage through some old Entre Nous, and you will see few Samford events generate as much excitement as Step Sing.

The sisters of Zeta Tau Alpha sit to perform their show, "Winter Wonderland", in protest against the new dancing policy.
The sisters of Zeta Tau Alpha sit to perform their show, “Winter Wonderland.”

But did you know that there was a time that Step Sing almost wasn’t?  On January 4, 1988, the administration announced a change in policy to a gathering of fraternity presidents and Inter-Fraternity Council representatives – henceforth they would no longer be allowed to organize social dances on campus. A protest ensued, and in a letter to the SGA, the fraternities announced their withdrawal from Step Sing, citing their decision to follow the new dance policy. Within days, the administration adjusted the policy, allowing for social dances in specific locations with the approval of the student affairs office.

The football teams sings the Samford Fight Song in uniform, gracing the Step Sing stage for the first time in 14 years.
The football teams sings the Samford Fight Song in uniform, gracing the Step Sing stage for the first time in 14 years.

Nevertheless, the fraternities remained true to their word and did not participate, thus eliminating a whole division from the competition. Sororities still participated, but opted only to sing while sitting or standing in place, much like the original Step Sing shows. These holes in the lineup offered other groups the chance to shine. The football team, after years of sitting in the audience, decided to suit up in their field uniforms and groove to songs like “Eye of the Tiger” and “We are the Champions.” Another group that elected to dance and sing was, ironically, the Ministerial Association, who performed a show on the majesty of Jesus featuring many new and old hymns with their moves.

Even with these valiant efforts, tickets sales were low – with groups performing to nearly empty audiences. The school witnessed the near collapse of Step Sing that winter, but you know the rest of the story.  The competition lived on, year by year reaching new levels of excitement and fervor. Such traditions, it would seem, do not fade away easily.

This year's banner drop in the Wright Center, kicking off another Step Sing season.
This year’s banner drop in the Wright Center, kicking off another Step Sing season.



– – 1988 Entre Nous, pp. 32-33:

– – 1985 Entre Nous, pp. 176-177:

-Photo credits are due to the Archived Entre Nous and the official Samford Step Sing Twitter account, who posted the last photo.


Laying Foundations in Past and Present

This summer, many Health Sciences faculty and staff are making preparations for moving to the newly acquired Southern Progress property. Sixty-one years ago, the entire campus was in a similar state of hustle and bustle, starting to make preparations to move the college campus from twelve miles south in East Lake to Homewood. On April 29, 1955, a cornerstone ceremony marked the beginning of great things to come.  Bill Mathis, an alumnus from the class of 1956, left his own account of the event:

cornerstone ceremony 1955
Mrs. Fred Kilgore and other members of the board each took turns laying the stone at the ceremony.

A great day in the history of Howard. I worked on floats the night before until 2 o’clock. Our senior float was “A Tale of Two Cities” – Marion and B’ham. I blistered as red as a piece of raw beef.

Lunch was a festive occasion. There was an abundance of barbeque and plenty of cold drinks. School spirit was magnificent; Cooperation was unexcelled; classes were cut intentionally and freely to work on floats; sleep was scarce or unheard of; energy seemed to be inexhaustive; a sense of being a part of some great, momentous historical event made every heart throb “breast-burstingly” with joy; through all this there was a renewal of vows, a rededication of time and talents, and a renewing and resurrendering of the self to the purpose of higher education and to the Higher Power – God!

Thank God for Howard!! May she live long!

Thus written and signed for future generations on this day after the ceremony, April 30, 1955.

Bill Mathis

Eating for Your Alma Mater: Culinary Degree from Howard College

graduation sillhouette 1963 ENCommencement is a time of celebration, honoring those students who persevered through the trials of classwork and papers to earn their diploma. It’s also a time of community for the neighborhood, as those nearby give back to the university that helped them during the year. Modern day ceremonies can be lengthy, but the commencement of 1915 would have scoffed at the couple of hours we call commencement today. Beginning that Sunday, May 23, the celebrations lasted for four days, finally ending with the reception of diplomas Wednesday, May 26. There were field games, oratorical contests, dinners and receptions of all kinds, as well as a ceremony for those who left college in the 1860s to fight in the Civil War to receive their diplomas.

Through it all, Frank Barnett, the editor of The Alabama Baptist, recorded and wrote his reactions to the festivities. Before buying the publication in 1902, he had made a name for himself all over the world, studying at an impressive list of universities from NYU to The University of Berlin, and renowned for his excellent speeches across the South.  Read on to see how this man of the world reacted to Howard College’s way of celebrating:

 “At Houston we went into a man’s restaurant and took our seat on a stool and propped out feet on the rail and picked up a bill of fare, but was saved the trouble of reading it by a young man at our side who said: ‘Waiter, bring me scrambled eggs, and make ‘em red.’ Having fed in restaurants for several score of years we thought we knew most of the lingo, but his order was something new.

 We turned and said: ‘Brother, we are something of a culinary artist ourselves. If you don’t mind telling, what’s your color scheme?’

Laughingly he replied: ‘Oh, out here my order meant scrambled eggs with chili.’

So we said: ‘Waiter, bring us scrambled eggs, and make ‘em red.’

picnic on quad cropped (2) We thought it impossible after 13 years of continuous attendance upon picnics, all-day singings, fifth Sunday meetings, associations and conventions to run across anything new in the way of serving dinner on the ground, but out at the Howard commencement we got as big a jar and surprise as we got at Houston. For when we arrived Mrs. Shelburne handed us a piece of pasteboard, to which was tied a string, and on the board was the letter R.

We laughingly said: ‘Well, what tag day is this?’

‘Never mind,’ said she; ‘just wait and see.’

After the exercises everybody was tagged with a letter and told to go out on the campus and find their group and sit down. This we did, and soon found the various trees labeled with large letters.

We found the one with an R and took our seat, and soon from the ventral tent there came a procession of pretty girls and charming matrons bearing trays. It was truly a bounteous feast that had been prepared by the hospitable women of East Lake and served to 600 without the least confusion.

It beat anything we had ever seen or ever expect to see, unless somebody steals the idea.

We soon discovered that the letters made ‘H-O-W-A-R-D.’

We have heard many say they would die for their alma mater, but we feel sure that it is much pleasanter to eat for one’s alma mater; and especially is this true as it happens to be dear old Howard.

It has always worried us because we are not an alumnus of Howard, but on commencement day we took the complete culinary course and graduated full of honor, and now have all the rights and privileges to the new degree and are entitled to write our name as follows:

              FRANK WILLIS BARNETT, E.A.T.S”             

So, class of 2016, go forth with your newly-earned degrees, and think back on your Samford experience. Perhaps you earned a few “unofficial” degrees yourselves!


Adapted from:

The Alabama Baptist June 2, 1915

Here He Comes, The Candidate: We Like Ike and Lunch at the Birmingham Airport

Birmingham Airport postcard
The Birmingham Airport, where Margaret Sizemore Douglas got to chat with the candidate in 1952.

Last week everyone clamored to get tickets to Yellowhammer Media’s presidential candidate forum, held in the Wright Center.  While a number of political figures have traversed Samford’s quad (Joe Biden, Jimmy Carter, Mike Huckabee, Laura Bush, and Bill Clinton to name a few), a presidential forum has never been held on site.

On Wednesday morning September 3, 1952, Major Davis was in a similar predicament hoping to catch Dwight Eisenhower during his campaign stop in Birmingham. Unfortunately for Major Davis, he was not the only person trying to get a glimpse of the candidate. According to Birmingham police chief Charles Pierce and police commissioner Eugene Connor, 40,000-45,000 people crowded into Woodrow Wilson Park to hear Ike’s speech. An additional 75,000 Alabamians lined Eisenhower’s route from the airport to Woodrow Wilson Park.

Then Dean of Women, Margaret Sizemore Douglas recounted how the Major’s best laid plans didn’t fall into place, but her lunch date with Gene Kelser at the place to eat in Birmingham – the airport – proved very fruitful.

“Major Davis was a fan of Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower came to Birmingham before he was President. . . .  He was campaigning, but he made a stop down on the square in… Linn Park, which was then called Woodrow Wilson Park… [The Major] came by my office one day and he often did that just to sit and talk… he said, “I’m going down to Woodrow Wilson Park and hear Eisenhower – he’s running for President.  He’s going to be our next President, mark my words.”

I had appointment with Gene Kelser, who was [the Major’s] secretary, to go to lunch.  So I declined and he went by himself… Gene came by and I said, “Let’s go the airport for lunch.” That was the place to eat.  There was a Mrs. Willis… she had a beautiful tearoom, one wing there, and it was a very elegant place. Brides had parties there. You could go up in planes for 5 dollars with real aces…

So we went there for lunch and we were eating and just as we finished, the doors flew open and in came Eisenhower. Well, he didn’t know me from Adam. I said “You’re supposed to be at Woodrow Wilson Park,” and he said, “Well, I stepped out a little early to get out of the crowd, because my flight’s out here waiting for me.”  He sat down there and chatted with Gene Kelser and me and all his people of course, Secret Service, I guess.  But we had this nice chat with him and got back to school and told Major Davis, who had not even seen him. Oh, he was so upset with us!”

This past Saturday, several candidates continued the tradition of campaigning through Birmingham.  Hillary Clinton grabbed a cappuccino at Urban Standard while Marco Rubio came to our campus for a presidential forum.  Unlike 1952, students, faculty, and administration had the opportunity to attend the event in the Wright Center without the stress of running downtown during lunch, hunting for a parking spot, and navigating paths through crowds of people.  Samford’s abiding interest in shaping its students into global citizens had made the once small college into a stop on the campaign trail.  Although, I think we are all missing out on the $5 plane rides with real aces.


Samford University, 160 Years: For God, For Learning, Forever  by Sean Flynt

Entre Nous, 1974

Margaret Sizemore Douglas interview by Susan Ray.

The Anniston Star. September 4, 1952.

Jimmie Lee Jackson


“Jimmie Lee was just a nice person that’s all.”

This month marks the 49th anniversary of the Civil Rights march in Marion, AL.  On February 18, 1965, protestors planned to march from Zion Methodist Church to the Perry County jail, where SCLC member James Orange was imprisoned for running voter registration campaigns in the rural town.  Rumors of a jailbreak led Marion officials to call in Alabama State Troopers.   When marchers left the church, they were viciously beaten by Marion police and state troopers.   This march proved more violent than the one that followed in Selma the next week, but the Marion protest was forgotten by many — no photographs or film evidence of the violence existed to show the drama.   Marion native Jimmie Lee Jackson was beaten by police while he tried to protect his mother and grandfather.  Shot in the stomach by Alabama State Trooper James Fowler, Jackson died from his wounds a week later.

Samford University history students working with the Office of University Historian as part of an ongoing oral history project in Marion, Alabama interviewed Jackson’s second cousin, Emma Peterson, and her husband, Lloyd, who lived in Marion in 1965.  These are their recollections of that violent night so long ago.

On Jimmie:

Lloyd: Jimmie and I was real close.  Well, my wife was Jimmie’s cousin so I guess that’s the way we really connected together. That’s where we would communicate … because of the fact that her parents didn’t like me… Jimmie and I was just always together and that’s the way I would get over to see her was through Jimmie.

Emma: Jimmie Lee was just a nice person that’s all.  He was a nice, quiet person.  It was just him and his sister and his mom and dad.  And his dad had got killed about 2 years before then, so Jimmie was the man of the house.

On the night of the march:

Emma: I don’t think he was really involved in [the Civil Rights Movement]. He was just like me—we would just all go to the meetings. . . I wasn’t there at the meeting… at Zion Methodist Church… I was at work… And he wasn’t even at the meeting; he was at the café down there waiting on his mom and… granddaddy. And he was sitting out there waiting on them to come because he really had the flu… He didn’t feel like being in the crowd.

Lloyd:   During that time I had an uncle that was principal of Marion Baptist Academy; he had had a stroke so I had been out that night to give him a bath and … then after that I went to the meeting.  I pulled up right across from the church and parked.  The so-called State Troopers—which they was people from Marion or somewhere just in State Trooper’s suits….they told me, “If you’ve got a home to go to, you’d better go.”  At that time I was going to ease around the back, go around to the back of the church to tell them about all these people outside.  I started around the back of the church and there’s two men back there.  So I had to go.

When they came out of the church, that’s when the head knocking started…They let out and they were going to march down to the jail and have prayer and that’s when they started.  Reverend Durbine, he was down on his knees praying and they were steady beating his head up with those clubs.  It was rough. Rough.  So then I figured it was time to go.  Wasn’t no use in staying around.  If they hit me, I was going to shoot ‘til I died.  That’s right.

Emma: One thing about it was…you didn’t see a light nowhere.  When I had gotten off work that night this one girl had told me, “Y’all ain’t got no lights over there. They had done arrived.”  I said, “What are you talking about?” So I got in the car and you didn’t see a light nowhere. In the stores, out the stores, in the street, you didn’t see a light nowhere. Completely dark.

Lloyd: That was the general idea.  They wanted to turn the lights out where you didn’t know who they were.  If they had the lights on, you can see who it is, you know.

Emma: So, they tell me, when they came out of church they came out beating heads.  And they [Jimmie Lee’s mother and grandfather] went on down to the café where he was… they beat her, and they beat the granddaddy too.  The granddaddy didn’t live too long after then because they beat him all on the head and everywhere with Billy clubs and stuff.  [Jimmie Lee] was fighting back, but he couldn’t fight them all, so then he got shot.  Then they rushed him to Selma, to Good Samaritan Hospital.

Lloyd: We carried Jimmy Lee’s grandfather and mother to the hospital over in Selma and after that, after they got treated we were going to come back home.  They told us we weren’t going to leave out of Selma and nobody was coming in. . . So shortly after that we learned that Jimmy was over at Good Samaritan Hospital; we were going to go over there and see about him, but they wouldn’t let us leave. . . So here I was, I had a wife and kids at home and I couldn’t get back to them.  It’s not like today, we didn’t have cell phones and what have you.  You’re scared to death.  You don’t know what going to happen.

Emma: [Jimmie Lee] stayed down there almost a week. My pastor went down to see him and he said, “Oh, Jimmy’s doing good; he’ll be home in a couple of days,” but that same night he passed.  We don’t know what happened to him.

They had his funeral in Selma. . . I think the Civil Rights took over, didn’t they? I think they took his body over. So his mom just went along with it. [Dr. Martin Luther King] did a great job at his speech.  He really did.  I’ve forgotten what it was all about since it’s been so long, but everything was nice.

Lloyd: I worked because you were going to get fired anyways if you went.

Jackson’s death rocked the Civil Rights community and served as a catalyst for the march from Selma to Montgomery, which began a week later.  Marion activist Lucy Foster suggested walking in Jimmie Lee’s honor instead of driving through Selma as planned.

Adapted from Oral History Interviews with Emma and Lloyd Peterson, conducted by Lauren Ziemer and Ben Woodall and Weary Feet, Rested Souls by Townsend Davis

oral history interview