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.

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.