A New Man in Town

I’d like to introduce myself

Though you’ve seen me ‘round

Well, I’m a new man in town

            -George Jones

Some of you may have notice a new ominous figure in Brooks Hall.  He made his entrance late last week, but quickly took cover beneath a blue table cloth.  He emerged victorious on Saturday morning with the help of Dean Chapman, the A Capella Choir and the Howard Scholars.   John Howard is the newest addition to the commemorative statues on Samford’s campus. We are all familiar with iconic Mr. Beeson who greets every visitor, but let’s review the rest of the Samford bronze and marble family.

Johnhoward

John Howard 1726-1790

The original namesake of Samford University, John Howard, devoted his life to prison reform. Commissioned by Dean Chapman, the statue reminds students of Samford’s Christian mission. The installation includes an electronic device detailing Howard’s life, prison reform work, and the original statue in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Curry

Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry 1825-1903

Jabez Curry was the third president of Howard College, serving from 1865-1868.  Originally part of the National Statuary Hall Collection, the statue was relocated to its current position in the University Center in 2009 after Helen Keller took his place in D.C. Now, he stands guard as students rush to class or grab a quick bite from the food court.

 

 

Frank Samford

 

 

Frank Park Samford 1893-1973

 Businessman, philanthropist, and builder of Liberty National Life Insurance Company, Frank Park Samford served on our Board of Trustees for 34 years and was instrumental in relocating the college from East Lake to Homewood in 1957. Because of his dedication and service to the campus, Howard College was renamed Samford University in 1965.  His bust greets visitors at the top of the stairs in the administration building.

Bobby Bowden

Bobby Bowden 1929-

At every Samford football game, fans now pass Bobby Bowden with his playbook in hand, as they enter the gates to the stadium. Bowden served as Samford’s football coach from 1959-1962 and led the Howard bulldogs to a winning 31-6 record. His success as a coach earned him a spot in the College Football Hall-of-Fame with the second most wins in Division 1.  Many of his loyal players still gather on campus each summer for a reunion with the Bowden Boys.

MarthaMyers2

Dr. Martha Myers 1945-2002

Samford Alumna Dr. Martha Myers ’67 was a medical missionary to Yemen for more than twenty years where she became a local symbol for kindness and compassion. She was killed by a Muslim extremist on December 30, 2002, the final operating day of the hospital.  The statue displays her passion for the Yemeni people with the words “She Loves God” written in English and Arabic.
Mr. Beeson

Ralph Waldo Beeson 1900-1990

As the greatest individual donor in Samford’s history, Ralph Waldo Beeson’s gifts to the university have provided for the establishment and endowment of Beeson Divinity School, the construction of Beeson Woods, construction and equipment of the School of Education, completion of an addition to the University Center, scholarships to Samford students pursuing ministry careers and much more.  An iconic Samford symbol, the statue has become the hallmark of countless selfies and memories made on campus.

Harwell Davis 2

 

Harwell Davis 1882-1977

The bust of Samford’s fifteenth president sits at the entrance to the library and offers luck to all who rub his nose. Davis led the college at a time of tumult after the Great Depression, plotting a course to avoid bankruptcy and the loss of accreditation.  It wasn’t luck that saved the school, it was Davis’s hard work and dedication.

 

Justice and Mercy

Justice Tempered by Mercy

The statue in the courtyard of Cumberland School of Law represents what students at Cumberland are defending. The inspiration for the statue came from Mrs. Lucille Beeson who encouraged the law school to “Seek wisdom and temper justice with compassion.”

healing arts

Angel of Mercy

 The Angel of Mercy represents the values of the Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing. The bronze statue was created by former Samford student Tim Britton and Italian sculptor Urbano Burratti.

 

 

 

The lives of the men and women commemorated by these statues remind all of us, faculty, staff, and students, that we stand in the shades of trees we did not plant.  From John Howard’s work to reform the prison system to Dr. Martha Myers’s life witness to the people of Yemen we have inspiration all around us to strive to work hard, conduct ourselves in fairness, give out of our abundances, and be merciful to those in need. The world will be better for it.

References:

Flynt, Sean. 160 Years of Samford University. Arcadia Publishing. 2001.

“Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry.” Samford University. https://www.samford.edu/alabama-mens-hall-of-fame/inductees/Curry.html

Wimberley, Mary. “Curry Statue Has New Home on Samford Campus.” Samford University. 25 November 2009. https://www.samford.edu/news/2009/Curry-statue-has-new-home-on-Samford-campus

“Frank Park Samford, Sr.” Samford University. https://www.samford.edu/alabama-mens-hall-of-fame/inductees/Samford.html

Michael Scovetta. “Knowledge Base: Samford University.” http://www.scovetta.com/projects/knowledge/wiki/au/Samford_University.html

Wimberley, Mary. “Missionary Martha Myers Memorial Sculpture Dedicated at Samford.” 5/15/2007. http://www.samford.edu/news/2007/Missionary-Martha-Myers-Memorial-Sculpture-Dedicated-At-Samford

Flynt, Sean. “Samford to Dedicate Statue to John Howard Feb. 13.” Samford University. 1 February 2016. https://www.samford.edu/arts-and-sciences/news/Samford-to-Dedicate-Statue-to-John-Howard-Feb-13

http://www.awhf.org/myers.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/31/us/threats-and-responses-the-dead-victims-shared-affection-for-yemenis-families-say.html

 

 

 

 

Fallen Plaster

barracks
The barracks on the East Lake campus.

We rap at the door and Poverty ushers us in. The plastering lies fallen, the massive pillars are crumbling, the gate is hingeless, the fences down, the barns leaky. All about are scattered signs of decay and distress, and in no place do you find the touch of improvement.”  –Howard College Alumni Oration, by W. L. Sanford June 8, 1892 

W. L. Sanford, an 1884 graduate of Howard College, was not describing the East Lake campus in his Alumni Oration in 1892, but his vision may have been prophetic.  On a sunny afternoon in May 2013, nine more recent Howard College alumni gathered to recall the transition from East Lake to Homewood.  Joseph Wheeler McDade, Jr. ‘61, Lowell Vann ‘57, Stephen Allgood ‘61, Dr. Myralyn Frizzelle Allgood ‘61, Virginia Head Gross LaVallet ‘61, Dr. J. Roderick Davis ‘58, Sara Pate Bryan ‘62, Dr. Tom Cleveland ‘60, and Lucy Jane Dunn Daniel ‘61 reminisced over coffee and lemon squares in Brooks Hall’s SIM Forum.

Lowell Vann recalled the familiar saying around the East Lake campus, “If the termites quit holding hands the campus would’ve fallen apart!”  In spite of, or perhaps in some way because of, those decaying buildings that served as the physical plant for Howard College all those years, the school maintained a tremendous heart.  Tom Cleveland first visited Howard College as part of a youth revival team dispatched from Georgetown College where he attended freshmen year.  He decided to sit in on some classes while on campus.  After witnessing plaster fall from the ceiling during Dr. Dobbins’ lecture, Cleveland concluded in awe that, “this must be a pretty good place if people would come somewhere like this.”  He transferred to Howard for his sophomore year.

Others found the East Lake campus equally dog-eared.  In 1946, Birmingham commissioned Doak S. Campbell, President of Florida State College for Women, to survey and study problems associated with the city’s higher education.  Campbell and his staff examined and collected data on each building and dormitory, faculty qualifications, teaching loads, salaries, student body composition, and library services.  In March 1946, Campbell’s survey reported these findings:

It must be said that in spite of the low salaries paid, the lack of retirement funds, and the lack of modern buildings and equipment a very high morale was found among the faculty at Howard.  A loyalty and enthusiasm was manifested which seemed most striking and unusual.  Every faculty member and administrative officer seems to feel a personal responsibility for the success of the work done at the College.  Great interest was shown by the faculty in the welfare of the students and there seemed to be a most desirable relationship existing between the faculty and the students.

East Lake students living in the barracks and attending classes in Old Main could never imagine the luxuries of our modern Homewood campus with newly appointed West Campus apartments, Hodges Chapel, Corts Arena, and the Wright Center.  Yet there is something invaluable here that was evident even among those dilapidated buildings of East Lake.  Samford has a heart and soul, a close knit community of caring faculty and staff that will always stand out above all else.

in front of old main 1950 EN (2)
Howard College students in front of Old Main, 1950.

Adapted from Joe McDade Group Oral History Interviews May 20, 2013, Campbell, Doak S., Higher Education in Birmingham, Alabama, March 1946, and Fiftieth Annual Catalogue and Register of Howard College 1891-1892.