Tuning In: Sam.wav History Uncompressed

The cover art for our new podcast, "Sam.wav: History Uncompressed".

As anyone who has spent time on our website can tell you, the S.T.O.R.I. office loves collecting stories. Whether we are investigating the best way to make river-cane baskets or exploring the local history of Howard College’s old campuses, we are always looking for the next adventure across the state or within our city to further understand our community.

However, the purpose of the office is to share stories, not simply to collect them. We have been exploring different avenues for spreading the content of our archives worldwide. So far, we have published full interviews with transcripts on our website and shared snippets on social media. Full interviews can be daunting to listen to, however, and small clips can only convey one part of a story, leaving most people either increasingly overwhelmed or frustratingly curious.

With this in mind, we have started Sam.wav: History Uncompressed, a podcast aimed at sharing our various oral history projects in an audio and episodic format. Because of their accessibility and variable length, podcasts provide the perfect opportunity to combine and share narratives among as many people as possible. Each episode will feature a project or subject from our archives, covering everything from individual experiences of immigration in Birmingham to local history to Samford’s own past. Our aim is to share student research projects, displaying the process of oral history as well as the knowledge gained.

This podcast has been a year in the making, growing and shifting into a project of its own right, but now it is finally here with the release of our teaser and our pilot episode. This episode introduces Sam.wav as well as Samford, reflecting on the school’s past and values. We had a lot of help making this podcast, from the inspiration of other oral history podcasts to the lending of equipment and time from other Samford offices and faculty, and we’d like to thank them for all their help.

To find the episode, you can visit our Soundcloud account here. It is also available on Apple Podcasts and Google Play for download. We’re excited to see where this podcast takes us, and we cannot wait to get more episodes out for you in the coming months. Stay tuned for more, and make waves!

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Oral History Takes Flight at the Birmingham Audubon Mountain Workshop

J. T. Dabbs during his interview with Keely Smith. Most interviews were conducted on the front porch of one of the original cabins in Camp Alpine.
J. T. Dabbs during his interview with Keely Smith. Most interviews were conducted on the front porch of one of the original cabins in Camp Alpine.

Every Mother’s Day weekend, naturalists, avid birders, academics, and nature-loving families all gather at Alpine Camp near Mentone, Alabama, to celebrate Mother Nature at the annual Birmingham Audubon Society Mountain Ecology Workshop. This year, fellow S.T.O.R.I. researcher Claire Davis and I accompanied retired Samford faculty member and seasoned workshop instructor Dr. Brown to conduct oral histories of those who were essential to the creation and development of the Mountain Workshop. Samford University has close ties to the workshop; many professors such as Dr. Ellen McLaughlin, Dr. Malia Fincher, and Mrs. Larissa Charny have contributed to this special weekend as instructors and participants.

The first interviewee was Mrs. Elberta Reid, one of the workshop founders. As president of the Audubon Society during the workshop’s foundational years, Reid focused on the administrative planning aspect of the highly-anticipated weekend. Fellow founders Mrs. Jeanette Hancock and Dr. Dan Holliman of Birmingham Southern also assisted in making the workshop a success from the start. Thanks to the close friendship the Reids and the Hancocks forged with the O’Ferrall family, owners of Alpine Camp for Boys, the Mountain Workshop has remained at the camp near Mentone since its first year in the mid 1970s. Since its creation, the workshop has diversified classes in subject and number and has added and updated living and bathing quarters. A youth program, called the Young Naturalists, has also added to the overall experience. According to everyone we interviewed, however, the essence of the workshop has remained true to its original aim. Reid recounts the first workshop when she describes:

And we started small; we had just about fifteen or twenty people I think at the first one, but here at Camp Alpine. And we all, we were all taking one class together. So, we spent a half a day, the first half of the day birding, and then the afternoon would be plants, or something else. But the same period of time, though, we always started on Thursday night, and it has grown from there.

The Camp Alpine mailbox serves as a community landmark and gathering spot for the early morning bird walks.
The Camp Alpine mailbox serves as a community landmark and gathering spot for the early morning bird walks.

As time went on and more nature lovers joined the Mountain Workshop family, Dr. Dan Holliman gradually added other instructors such as his former students Jack Johnston and J. T. Dabbs, herpetologist Dr. Ken Marion, and Samford professors Dr. Bob Stiles and Dr. Jim Brown. The camaraderie among all the workshop’s participants is a result of a mutual love of Alabama nature and folklore as well as years of shared memories at the camp. Jimmy Stiles, son of Dr. Bob Stiles and a current reptile and amphibian class instructor at the workshop, grew up attending each year:

As a child, you know, there was fifteen years there or so that, you know, I did not teach any classes. So I got to take them all, which was great. And it is probably what, Audubon Mountain was probably the biggest driver as far as my knowledge of the natural world.

We got a taste of this sense of family that has developed over the past four decades while collecting stories about the early years of the workshop and joining in on the 6:00 AM birding hikes, classes on edible plants and forgotten folk crafts, family-style meals in the dining hall, and the annual Saturday night square dance called by Alabama author and folklore enthusiast Joyce Cauthen. Attending the Mountain Workshop was undoubtedly an experience unlike all other oral history projects. A typical interview might involve meeting someone at his or her home for a couple hours to record special memories or a life story. Because the Birmingham Audubon Society graciously welcomed us to stay for the entire three day workshop, we had the opportunity to personally experience the camp, classes, and community that each interviewee described.

Summarizing this Mountain Workshop experience, J. T. Dabbs, instructor of the Edible Plants class and student of Dr. Dan Holliman, explains:

It is a group of people who care about our state and care about what is going on here. They care about the great resources we have and protecting them, but they also have a lot of fun, and that they make a difference, I think, in our community. . . Anybody can come here, whatever your background is, and, and have fun and learn a lot of great things. . .  But I think the combination of this camp, where we are located in the state of Alabama, and then the people that do it, it, it is a special combination that has allowed it to last forty years. . . It is a unique culture and experience that has been put together that I think is hard to replicate.

The special community that gathers at the Birmingham Audubon Society Mountain Ecology Workshop each year has an unparalleled heart for nature and for one another that is exceptionally clear from the moment one first steps foot on the grounds of Camp Alpine. Newcomers and longtime workshop veterans alike are welcomed with open arms, ensuring the preservation of the Mountain Workshop legacy and the curiosity and wonder of the natural world for future generations.

Oral History Origins

Though the Samford Traditions and Oral History Initiative is only a few years old itself, Samford has a long history with fostering an oral history program. Samford history professor and alum Wayne Flynt is one who paved the way, getting the information necessary to do oral history right. We recently found this 1973 letter to Dr. Flynt answering his questions about recorders and recommending he join the Oral History Association.

We even located one of the Sony recorders Dr. Jones suggested – still here in the history department!  No doubt it recorded many interviews arranged by Dr. Flynt and Dr. Marlene Rikard.  These early efforts by Samford history professors laid the groundwork for continued oral history practice on campus as a way to learn more about ourselves and the stories we tell.

Be a Part of the STORI

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We need your help.  During the next 24 hours, we aim to raise $4000 for our Big Give project.  You can help bring history to life with STORI and Special Collection by donating funds to digitize rapidly deteriorating reel-to-reel recordings of stories from the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  Stories turn raw data into a catalyst for action. They remind us of where we come from and where we need to go. Samford University’s Special Collection houses close to 1,000 Samford related stories on reel-to-reel tapes that are currently unavailable for public use. Digitizing these stories will bring them back to life and make them available to be shared with a new generation.

What will my gift do? Your gift will fund Samford’s initiative to digitize oral histories for the university and the greater community’s use. 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
Make sure you are following STORI on Facebook to learn about Big Give challenges and project updates!

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Finishing Well

Lottie Jacks, Entre Nous 1950Entre Nous 1950

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lottie Jacks has led an accomplished life.  She has raised four children, published a book, led a career as a medical technician, served as president of the Samford Legacy League, won the Lolla Wurtele Wright Award, and always found ways to help others whether it was through her day to day work or on mission trips to Los Mochis, Mexico.  At 85, she is not slowing down.

This weekend she will walk across the stage of the Wright Center and finish something she started in 1948.  This is her Samford Story:

LOTTIE JACKS:  I am one of ten children.  I was born in the western section of [Birmingham].  It was unincorporated at that time.  It is kind of what is Green Acres now or Powderly. . . .  I . . . graduated and I got a full scholarship to Samford [then Howard College] through my church.

Mrs. Jacks began college in 1948 on the old campus in East Lake.  During her freshman year she lived with three other girls in a small dorm room outfitted with two sets of bunk beds.  Unfortunately she did not get to live on campus after her first year.

JACKS:  I had to go back home and live, because the church that was giving my scholarship said they could not afford for me to live in the dormitory.  So then I had to find transportation all the way across town from east to west, which made it harder on me.  And I think I was kind of overwhelmed with trying – doing [it] all.  It took an hour and a half to get across town on a streetcar, but then I finally found there were two young men that lived over there, and I finally got a ride with them . . . .

Living off campus and contending with a long commute, Mrs. Jacks was not able to experience the close knit community so characteristic of Howard College.

JACKS:  I just did not blend in like I should have.  I made good friends, [but] it was completely different.

A year shy of graduation, Lottie married her college sweetheart and left school.  She always regretted not finishing her degree.

JACKS:  I had four children and I just did not go back to school.  Dr. Simon who was the head of the clinic [I worked with] offered to pay my way, but I just did not want to go to school at night and leave my children, because I had been gone all day. . . .  But I have always regretted that I did not. . . so I just had this desire to [finish], just a burning desire . . . to do this.

Lottie feared that she might not fit in among the younger students.  Despite her worries, she found the Samford community to be welcoming and supportive in her endeavor to finally graduate.

JACKS:  Everything good that has happened to me has been through Samford. . . .  Dr. Westmoreland . . . was praising me about doing this.  I said, ‘Do not praise me yet.  Wait until I finish!’  And he said, ‘You better finish!’  But the best part was when I started [back].  I thought, ‘Oh what are these young students going to think of me?’  I was worried about them thinking, ‘What is she doing here?’  The students have been the most wonderful part.  They have been kind.  They have been accepting.  They help me.

Mrs. Jacks admits that coming back to school has been very challenging.  While there have been many new experiences, she is amused by how the times have changed.

JACKS:  I laugh now when I am here on campus.  I am just amused at the way the girls dress, because when I went [to college] I had one suitcase full of clothes and I wanted so badly to have pretty clothes, you know. (Laughter)  Now, they can go to Walmart and buy theirs for a dollar . . . but we wore sweaters and skirts [only].  We did not wear pants at all.

Mrs. Jacks will complete her undergraduate career this Saturday, May 14 at the Howard College of Arts and Sciences graduation ceremony.  She says she owes it all to the work of the Lord and the support of the Christian community here at Samford.

-by Marley Davis

Lottie Jacks 2016

Adapted from:

Oral history interview with Lottie Jacks conducted by Marley Davis, fall 2015.

 

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.

Sources:

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.

The Myralyn Allgood STORI

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As part of preparations for Samford’s 175th Anniversary, the Office and University Historian and the University Library’s Special Collection and Archives have the opportunity to revitalize oral history work at Samford.  Earlier this fall we launched the Samford Traditions and Oral History Recording Initiative (S.T.O.R.I.) website to provide digital access to these oral histories.  The site will offer interviews from Samford and the local community to document our shared history. A new addition to the site, just this week, is the Myralyn Allgood STORI.

From head cheerleader and member of BSU choir to head of the World Languages and Cultures Department, Myralyn Allgood’s involvement at Samford University spanned nearly six decades. A passing glance at a Howard College ad in a Beta Club Journal peaked her interest enough to drive over for a visit in the summer of 1957 while boxes were still being unpacked on the new Homewood campus…

Allgood: So, one day I was flipping through a Beta Club journal.  This was in 1956 or something like that.  There was this tiny little blurb about Howard College, and it had a picture of the library. . . . It had all the things listed – teacher education (and I knew that was what I wanted to do), intercollegiate athletics, Greek organization, Baptist affiliation.  I thought, “Yes – all the things on my checklist right there.”  Let’s go see it.

So Mom and Dad and my friend and I got in the car, and I’m thinking it was on . . . July 4th . . . .  We came over looking for the old campus because that was the summer before the move here, and that’s where the administrative offices still were. But we got lost and wound up driving up this hill and [I] looked down and said, “There it is.  There’s that library that’s pictured in my Beta Club journal.”  So we turned around and came down here. There were some people beginning to move into the administration building . . . . So we walked through and got to look at [campus].  It was not a rainy day like it was in the fall when we came and [there] was mud for a whole semester. . . . We thought “Oh, this is so beautiful.  We just can’t wait to get here.” 

We went down to the administration building and they said, “Well, . . . we’re beginning to function over here, but in order to enroll you’re going to have to go over to the old campus.” So they gave us good directions and we got there.  And when we got there, they were having a watermelon cutting under Sherman Oak.  So I at least got to know Sherman Oak before the college was no more over there.  And [we] went in and signed up and that was it and we were done.  And I thought going home, “Man, we . . . surely are glad we saw the new [campus] before we saw the old [campus]. . . .”  We may never have taken the next step because it was falling down. 

And then we came in the fall.  And all the upper classmen were just weeping and wailing, they so missed the old campus.  And then the sorority, they said, “Okay come on, we’re going to go clean out the sorority house and move over to this place where all we have is a little room.”   And so we went and we packed things up and they were crying and I’m thinking, “Why?” But it’s tradition.  Wherever you are and wherever your experiences are, that’s the place that’s dear to you.  Be it ever so humble.  It was home.  So for those folks that were sophomores and juniors and seniors coming over here it was a difficult transition. For us, as freshmen, we were blissful.  We didn’t know what we’d missed but apparently missed something but that smaller college spirit was just something very special, and that’s one thing that no matter how many changes have taken place here over the years, the one thing that remains the same is that same spirit, that whether you know people or not, you smile at them and you greet them as you grow up together and when you see each other after a long time there’s this big embrace because, you know, you’re friends.  You grew up together.  So that’s how I got here.  And I have always known that’s where I would go to school.  And I loved it from the day I set foot on campus. It was home to me.

LISTEN TO THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE: STORI

Adapted from:

Oral History interview with Myralyn Allgood conducted by Bryan Kessler, November 14, 2012.

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.

The Haunting of Renfroe Hall

Renfroe Hall

There was spirit lurking in Renfroe Hall–a dark figured man in uniform–haunting the girls of Howard College on Halloween night.  Legend had it that a former student, angry about the introduction of co-education at Howard College in 1913, vowed to haunt every woman that lived on campus. Late one Halloween night in the 1950s, Margaret Sizemore, Dean of Women at Howard College, got a call to save her girls from a ghostly intruder, and, as she explains, she got more than she bargained for…

We had a student named Quinn Kelly from Miami and somebody down there had a special interest in her . . . . The church had sent her up to Howard.  She was just . . . always into something.  Cute as she could be.  Smart as she could be and I just loved her to death.  One Halloween night, I got a call at my home and someone said, “Dean Sizemore, there is a man in Renfroe Hall. We have seen him!” . . . They described his uniform.  Well, that went back to a story that Dean Burns told me.  He was [at Howard] when it became coed, I think in 1913, but he said before it went coed, that the cadets, as they were called, said, “We will not have women on our campus” and one cadet said, “If [a woman] ever lives in Renfroe Hall . . . I’ll come back from my grave and I’ll haunt them.”  Well, I had told that story to my French class and Quinn was in it and I gave her an idea.

Well, [after I got the call] I had gotten my husband up and of course had my children with me in the back seat and we went through that [dorm] and the girls were just panicking . . . even the house mother . . . .  So many had seen him.  We looked in closets, under the beds, we spent almost the rest of the night trying to find him.  Finally we left and said, “There’s no man in here.  Y’all are just having imaginative fits.” 

The next year at Halloween, the same thing happened. Oh, I forgot to tell you, before this happened the first time, a friend down at the Birmingham News called me and said, “We need a story about Halloween . . . Howard College is so old I just know you have a ghost out there.”  I said, “Well . . . every Halloween, we have this ghost of a former cadet who is so upset . . . he haunts the women now.”  I always told them that and they put it in the paper.  Well then . . . the second year the same thing happened . . . .  So my husband and I drove up to the back of Renfroe Hall.  There was a way you could come in from 78th Street, you could come right into the back and we saw this figure coming down the fire escape.  [The dorm] had a metal fire escape . . . and my husband jumped out of the car and ran [up] just as [the figure] got to bottom . . . .  He put his hands out and she ran right into him and said, “Oh Mr. Sizemore, I’m sorry! Don’t hurt me! Don’t hurt me! This is Quinn Kelly!”

Oh dear, I forgot what we did to punish Quinn Kelly, but she really had the campus upset over that and she just thought that was a wonderful, wonderful joke.  She’d found this old costume, this . . . Confederate uniform of some sort . . . with a sword . . . .  I turned her over to Major [Davis].

Quinn Kelley

Quinn Kelley, Howard College Class of 1957, probably contemplating her next prank.

 

Adapted from:

Oral History Interview of Margaret Sizemore by Susan Ray

http://digital.archives.alabama.gov/cdm/ref/collection/photo/id/19665