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

Sigurd Bryan

Bryan and Kessler
On May 1, the Department of History honored Dr. Sigurd Bryan with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Dr. Bryan graduated from Howard College with a B.A. in History in 1946 and served as a much beloved professor in the Department of Religion.   In recognition of his recent award, the staff of the Office of University Historian decided to feature Bryan in our inaugural post.

Born in Barbour County in 1924, Dr. Sigurd Franklin Bryan spent his early years moving from town-to-town in rural areas of Alabama and Florida, living wherever his father found work in the furniture business.  During Bryan’s teenage years, the family settled in Dothan, Alabama and joined the Headland Avenue Baptist Church.  It was there he made a public confession of faith and felt God’s calling to the ministry.  After graduating high school, Bryan moved to Birmingham to attend Howard College (now Samford University) in August 1942.  He moved into Renfroe Hall on the old East Lake campus and settled into the first semester as a freshmen, but that routine was interrupted in winter of 1942 when the U.S. Navy chose the Howard campus as one of the sites for its V-12. Suddenly, the semesters became trimesters (to expedite the time to graduation for the Navy men), and Bryan and other residents were expected to find living arrangements off campus. Thanks to the efforts of Major Harwell Davis, Howard’s president, the V-12 program would be the only major disruption that WWII caused for Bryan. In order to keep his ministerial students out of the draft, Davis sent letters to the local draft boards and insisted that the United States would be better served by letting Howard continue their ministerial training.   Due at least in part to Davis’s solicitation, Bryan remained at Howard through the war and studied under the watchful eye of William Pratt Dale in the Department of History.  He graduated Howard in 1946 with a double-major in History and English and a minor in Religion.

Bryan continued his education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he earned a bachelors and a doctorate in theology. His plans to lead a church were interrupted in 1956 when Major Davis asked Bryan to return to Howard College as a professor in the Department of Religion.  He agreed to a one-year contract and planned to become a pastor at the end of his tenure of service.  Forty-six years later, in 2002, Bryan retired following an illustrious career.  Over the course of Bryan’s tenure, the duties of Samford faculty changed dramatically.  In his early days, Bryan’s course load was five classes per semester, including the required Old and New Testament survey.  When students were given a choice of taking either the Old or New Testament course, his teaching load was reduced from five to four—each a three-semester-hour course.  With the implementation of the “Core Curriculum” in 1997, the course load dropped to three classes—each a four-semester-hour course.  For Sigurd Bryan, the old Bible courses he taught for over forty years were replaced with a class entitled “Biblical Perspectives.”  He later recalled that the course description was so vague that he continued to teach the class as a chronological Bible survey.

In his forty-six years as a professor, Bryan became an integral part of the Samford story. Beloved by his students, he served as faculty sponsor of the Baptist Student Choir, headed the Samford Sunday ministerial program, and was a recipient of the John H. Buchanan award for excellence in classroom teaching. His commitment to academic excellence and his ability to minister to students’ needs left a lasting impression on the thousands of undergrads who took his courses.  Dr. Bryan left a significant mark on Samford’s commitment to Christian education.