March 27 – Hosea Holcombe leads in the founding of Ruhama Baptist Church in East Lake adjacent to the site that would become Howard College.  Ruhama is Birmingham’s oldest continuous congregation.  Holcombe served as pastor from 1819 to 1821. The church provided much support to Howard College after the move to the East Lake campus in 1888.

December 14 – Alabama becomes the 22nd state. “It really marks the time when we come together as a people within these boundaries, and we are Alabamians.”- Ed Bridges


October 28 – Alabama Baptist Convention formed at Salem Church, near Greensboro.


Judson College, the Baptist college for women, established in Marion, AL.



November – At their regular convention meeting in Talladega, the Alabama Baptist State Convention decided to establish a college for men. The founders chose to name the school Howard College in honor of John Howard, an eighteenth century English social reformer who frequently risked his own life to better the wretched condition of prisoners in that era. He was widely revered as a model of Christian compassion when the school was founded.


December 29 – Howard College Incorporation.


Samuel Sterling Sherman is named the first president of Howard College. Just 27 years old at the time of his appointment, Sherman was the only professor at Howard for most of the first year. Sherman served as president until 1852.


January 3 – First day of classes in Marion, Alabama.



The Alabama Baptist newspaper is first published on February 4, 1843 in Marion. http://thealabamabaptist.org/more-about-the-alabama-baptist.php?id_about=2


May 10 – A fire destroyed the building that housed Howard College. Luckily, the library and most of the equipment survived.

November – The Alabama Resolutions, which included the demand that slaveholders be eligible for denominational offices, passed at Siloam Baptist Church. Their later failure at the Triennial Convention precipitated the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention.


The Southern Baptist Convention was established at a meeting in Augusta, GA.


Howard graduated its first class, consisting of seven men.


Henry Talbird becomes the second president of Howard College.



A second fire destroys Howard College. President Talbird’s slave, Harry, and one student perish in the fire.



Phi Gamma Delta establishes the Mu chapter at Howard College, marking the introduction of fraternities to the school. The fraternity was active until the Civil War drew students away from Howard College in 1861.


January 11 – Alabama becomes the fourth state to secede from the Union. “To me, it marks the effort by white Alabamians to protect their old way of life, and the beginning of the war that ended the old way of life,” which included slavery- Ed Bridges, Director, Alabama State Archives.

April 12 – Confederates fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC, marking the beginning of the Civil War.

May – President Talbird (Captain Talbird) organizes the Independent Volunteers. Howard students join him and leave for Virginia. Henry Talbird’s presidency at Howard College ended in 1863. The school went without a president from 1863 – 1865 and was used as a Confederate military hospital.



U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared slaves in Confederate states such as Alabama to be free. “I just think it’s really important to think about the Civil War as both the Effort by white Southerners to protect their way of life and the ending of the system of slavery on which that life was largely built.”- Ed Bridges, Alabama State archives director



Jabez Curry becomes the third president of Howard College.



Jabez Curry resigns as president, Edward Q. Thornton becomes the fourth president of Howard College.


Samuel R. Freeman becomes the fifth president of Howard.

samuel r. freeman1871

June 1  – Founding of the city of Birmingham.


James T. Murfee is named the sixth president of Howard College. When the college relocated to East Lake, he remained in Marion and began the Marion Military Institute on the old Howard College campus.


Democrats sweep back into power, effectively ending Reconstruction. Alabama Republicans, including blacks, held many offices statewide and in Congress after the Civil War. Democrats calling for government austerity and white supremacy seized firm control of the Legislature and took back the governor’s office after the election of November 3, 1874. “They were able to set up a new system of control that instituted segregation and prevented blacks from having any effective role in government.” – Ed Bridges, Director, Alabama State archives


Baseball at Howard officially begins with a victory over Southern University.


Home Mission Board moves from Marion, Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia.


Howard College is sold to satisfy the Matthew Turner judgment.


First day of classes at the East Lake campus. Howard College starts the year in their new location with 83 students.



Benjamin Franklin Riley becomes the seventh president of Howard College.

November – Fire at Judson College.


Arthur W. McGaha becomes the eighth president of Howard College.



Anna Judge becomes Howard’s first female graduate. Co-education was thereafter suspended for “lack of proper facilities” Five other women were admitted between the years of 1895 – 1896.


Arthur W. McGaha resigns as president of Howard College. A.D. Smith becomes ninth president.



Frank M. Roof becomes the tenth president of Howard.



Eugenia Weatherly, admitted in 1894 with Anna Judge, becomes the second female to graduate from Howard College, and the first with a traditional four-year degree.



Howard College becomes debt free.


Due to its quick growth at the turn of the century, Birmingham is nicknamed the “Magic City.”



Howard’s first basketball team takes to the court.



July – Andrew P. Montague becomes the eleventh president of Howard College.


Howard fields its first football team.



The cornerstone of Renfroe Hall is laid at commencement, 1903. In addition to containing a dining hall, Renfroe Hall served as a dormitory for male students, and housed the Navy V-12 program during World War II, until Samford’s female students claimed it after the war.



Vulcan statue dedicated at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. The statue travels back to Birmingham in 1905, but ends up at the Alabama State Fairgrounds for over 30 years.

V0038325 Statue of Vulcan at the 1904 World's Fair St. Louis, Missouri Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org The 1904 World's Fair, St. Louis, Missouri: Vulcan, the Roman god of the forge: a 56 foot high statue in the Palace of Mines and Metallurgy. Cast iron statue by Giuseppe Moretti, ca. 1904 1904 1904 World's Fair (or Louisiana Purchase Exposition), St. Louis. Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Clayton Edward Crosland becomes the first Howard College graduate to receive a Rhodes Scholarship. Crosland went on to study at Wadham College at Oxford. Additional Rhodes Scholars from Samford include Charles Weston Williams in 1919, Charles Maxwell Lancaster in 1931, and Jules De Launay in 1932.


First Publication of The Entre Nous yearbook. To view all available Entre Nous online, visit the Special Collection website (http://library.samford.edu/about/special.html).



James M. Shelburne becomes the twelth president of Howard College. He resigns in 1917 and the school is without a president until 1919.



Co-education returns to Howard College. Lula Mehaffey, pictured, became the first female graduate of Howard College after the reintroduction of co-education. Mehaffey served as an instructor of foreign languages while pursuing her bachelor’s degree and continued to serve on the faculty after her graduation in 1916. Also in 1913, women were allowed to attend the Alabama Baptist State Convention as messengers.



Howard College, in affiliation with the Southern School of Musical Art, opened the School of Music, offering courses in piano, violin, voice, theory and harmony, and expression taught by professional musicians.


In February 1915, President Shelburne inaugurated an Arbor Day celebration at Howard. He chose the largest oak on campus and named it the “Sherman Oak” in honor of Howard’s first President, Samuel Sterling Sherman. Sherman Oak became a popular hangout spot for friends and a rendezvous for lovers on the East Lake Campus. Unfortunately, Sherman Oak was hit by lightning in the late 1980s and had to be cut down. Saplings were grown from the oak’s acorns and distributed to alumni to be planted across the nation. The Sherman Oak that stands on the Homewood campus is one of those saplings.


Jasper Hutto, a Howard College alumnus and former editor of the Montgomery Advertiser and the Birmingham News, returned to his alma mater to establish the School of Journalism to acquaint students with the profession and provide technical instruction for those preparing to enter the field. The Howard Crimson debuted in 1915 to offer advanced students experience in reporting and advertisement.


Howard College opened a separate department of education to conform to the program set by the Alabama State Board of Education. Graduates were qualified to receive teaching certificates without examination due to the rigor of the program.


Howard College’s first sorority, Theta Xi, is founded. The founding members are: Misses Annie Merle Haggard, Cecelia Cain, Hazel Newman, Frances Martin and Kathleen Clark. In April 1916 the sorority changed its name to Zeta Omega due to a naming conflict with a fraternity at another institution.

 first sorority
Howard College adopts the “Crimson Bulldog” as the name for all athletic teams. “Crimson Bulldog” beat the alternative “Baptist Bear” by a vote of almost two to one.

From Crimson December 14, 1916 See also pg 65 of Willoughby


 April 6 – At the behest of President Woodrow Wilson, Congress declares war on Germany, and the United States officially enters WWI.


November – Women’s basketball begins. The team is coached by Mrs. Ora D. Bohannan.



Charles B. Williams becomes the thirteenth president of Howard College.



August 18 – The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified, granting women the right to vote. “It’s an important part of what I believe is really a huge expansion in Alabama of the role of women” in politics, in the workplace, and in the home. – Ed Bridges, Alabama State archives director


John C. Dawson becomes the fourteenth president of Howard College, he serves until 1932.



French Haynes organizes the Young Women’s Christian Association at Howard College to “reach every girl on the campus, helping her to find herself, and to lead her to faith in God through Jesus Christ.” It eventually becomes the largest organization on campus.

“If there are any who believe that suffrage hasn’t meant something to women and that feminism isn’t responsible for the advancement of woman’s talents, glance for a moment at this little incident: Miss Eunice Sloan, of Ensley, pretty and young and talented, declares that the fact that women have come into their own is the reason why she has been elected to the presidency of the senior class of Howard College, this being the only time on record where a woman has ever been honored by this position.” — Howard Crimson, February 2, 1922



Completed in 1924, Berry Field, Howard’s football field, was the school’s first true home field. The field was named in honor of prominent alumnus and trustee Colonel William A. Berry, who donated the funds for the project.


Hypatia Society established at Howard College to “recognize and honor the attainments in all phases of college life of girls ready to enter the Senior Class, and thus to encourage undergraduates to similar efforts.”


In 1923, the Birmingham Board of Education ruled that student teachers could not practice teaching in city schools. The citizens of Ensley and the Howard Trustees established the Ensley-Howard High School in 1924 to provide Howard’s student teachers with a school in which they could earn their practice teaching hours. The school was officially turned over to the college in 1926, but closed in 1929, when the Birmingham Board of Education revoked their previous ruling.


The Howard Crimson reports that “Miss Melba Miller, saxophonist extraordinary” has joined Howard’s Famous Band. “Yes siree, we have a girl in our band this year for the first time in its history…This is a new role for a girl, but Miss Miller won the place by her ability and sheer determination.” A self-taught musician proficient on the sax, piano, violin, and tenor banjo, “she can play either sacred music or jazz, but she has a happy faculty of knowing when jazz is out of place.”



The McWhorter School of Pharmacy began as the department of Pharmacy at Howard College in 1927. One of the school’s most successful programs, the department grew steadily and became the School of Pharmacy when Howard College received university status and became Samford University. The School was named after alumnus and benefactor R. Clayton McWhorter (class of ‘55) in 1995.



The stock market crashes on October 29, 1929, “Black Thursday,” signaling the beginning of the Great Depression.



The Birmingham Airport opens, becoming the first commercial air passenger service in Birmingham.



Thomas V. Neal becomes the fifteenth president of Howard College.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is inaugurated as the 32nd President of the United States. FDR’s many reforms, especially the New Deal, had a profound impact on Alabama. “It’s hard to overstate the impact of federal programs in Alabama that started with the New Deal and then continued, everything from Social Security to the Tennessee Valley Authority to wage-and-hour laws to price subsidies for agriculture to health and human services programs provided by the federal government.” – Ed Bridges, Alabama State archives director



Howard College plays the University of Alabama, the defending Rose Bowl Champion. The game, which ended in a 7 – 7 tie, is perhaps the school’s most famous football game.



Harwell Goodwin Davis becomes the sixteenth president of Howard College.


Last football game against Birmingham-Southern. The basketball rivalry continued until 1956 when a brawl erupted during the last game.


The U.S. Naval Fleet is attacked at Pearl Harbor, which began the U.S. involvement in World War II. “It’s hard to imagine anything that had more effect on Alabama society in the last 100 years than WWII,” said Alabama State Archives director Ed Bridges. Among other things, he said factories and military bases brought “an enormous infusion of money” into a state that has stuggled economically in the 1920s and 1930s. “Soldiers went into the service and got training and came out and got the (Veterans Administration) home loans and VA student loans.” Also, Bridges said, “Blacks who participated in a war for democracy and freedom felt even more keenly their lack of freedom at home, helping lead to the civil rights movement.”


President Harwell Goodwin Davis announces Howard College football is discontinued due to the war effort. Athletic scholarships continue for enrolled students.


In hopes of furthering Howard’s journey out of debt, Major Davis accepted a unit of the Navy’s V-12 training program. The V-12 program trained sailors for duty while providing a civilian education. Davis believed that accepting the V-12 program, and the federal funding that came with it, would help the school survive the war and provide for the future needs of the growing college.



Howard College Vice President A.Hamilton Reid retired from his position to become the Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Alabama Baptist State Convention. During his five year association at Howard he was very successful in directing fundraising efforts to free Howard and all Baptist institutions in Alabama from indebtedness. Reid Chapel on Samford’s current campus is named in his honor.


By the time the V-12 program came to a close in 1945, the sailors had left their mark on the campus. Davis noted the school’s appreciation for the program in the 1946 Entre Nous: “As the ship’s company leaves us — officers, enlisted men, and apprentice seamen — we salute them all with admiration touched with affection and express the hope that the recollections of thier service at Howard College may be as pleasant as the recollections Howard College will have of them.”



Public Law 584 establishes the Fulbright Program. The program, founded by Senator J. William Fulbright, allows students and professors to attend universities and colleges internationally. Samford Fulbrighters over the years include Dr. Shannon Flynt (Classics), Dr. Rosemary Fisk (Associate Dean of Howard College Arts and Sciences), Dr. Angela Ferguson (World Languages and Cultures), Dr. Mary McCullough (World Languages and Cultures), Dr. Perry Tompkins (Physics), Dr. Brian Viliunas (Music), Bob Greene (Cumberland School of Law), Paul Kuruk (Cumberland School of Law), Deborah Young (Cumberland School of Law), and former President Thomas Corts served on the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board from 2005 to 2007.


Howard College trustees acquire 400 acres of land in Shades Valley in the Homewood/Mountain Brook section of Birmingham on which to build a new campus.


The Howard College Extension Division for Christian Training began with 15 centers and 525 students; the Howard Plan served as a model for similar programs at many other Southern Baptist schools. Now housed in Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, the Extension Division is a non-degree certificate program of quality biblical, theological, and practical ministry courses designed for ministers and lay leaders.


Howard students organize the Sportsman Club during the summer of 1948. They sponsor the first football team at the school since World War II. The club raises money from the students to field their own team and outfit the players.

In 1948, the board of trustees unanimously approved the establishment of the Department of Music to offer the bachelor of music degree. Prior to that time, music was taught on campus by professional musicians from a local music school through a cooperative agreement, but no degree was offered. By 1952, the music curriculum was so successful that more teaching space was required to accommodate the demand for music courses. In 1970, the department was elevated to school status.

The Extension Committee of the Howard College Ministerial Association finalizes a program whereby students would have the opportunity to preach in Alabama Baptist churches. The first “H-Day” is held in Etowah Association on Sunday, November 7, 1948 with 12 churches participating.


Athletic Director Clayton Cornish announces intercollegiate football will resume at Howard College in the fall of 1949 on a subsidized basis.



Howard College students line up to sing on the steps of Old Main, starting a beloved Samford tradition.


Chief Justice Earl Warren and the Supreme Court hand down the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. A vote of 8-0 declares school segregation unconstitutional.


Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white passenger. Her conviction sparked the Montgomery bus boycott, which a young pastor, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., helped organize. “As much as anything you can think of, it symbolizes the beginning of the modern civil rights movement and also the emergence of Martin Luther King as a leader, and of his philosophy of non-violence,” said Ed Bridges, Alabama State archives director.


Classes begin on the new Homewood campus.

Historian Website 1.13


Leslie Stephen Wright becomes the seventeenth president.



Cumberland School of Law joins Samford University.

moot court 1962 EN


While Governor George Wallace makes a public display of his promise to stand in the schoolhouse door, Vivian Malone and James Hood register for classes at the University of Alabama. Please visit Samford University’s Special Collection to see the original copy of the speech read by Governor Wallace. Martha Ann Cox, future Dean of Students at Samford University, was completing her graduate studies at the University of Alabama during this time. She was assigned as Vivian Malone’s counselor and ate lunch with Malone in the cafeteria on this day. Six years later Cox welcomed Elizabeth Sloan to Samford’s Vail Hall as the first African American to live on campus.


On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was fatally shot while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, TX. 


Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing discrimination in public accommodations, is passed by Congress and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.



A planned march to Montgomery ended abruptly March 7, with state and local officers beating marchers in Selma. A completed Selma-to- Montgomery march started March 21 and ended March 25 at the state capitol. The marches galvanized support for the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which provided for federal officials to oversee voter registration in many counties. The number of black voters in Alabama skyrocketed. “This is the nail in the coffin of segregation, once African-Americans can fully participate in voting and regain their full rights as citizens to run for office and to vote,” said Ed Bridges, Alabama State archives director. Bridges said the marches were a bookend, along with the Montgomery bus boycott, to “10 incredible years” when “Alabama was the dynamic center of the civil rights movement.”


A new inter-dorm phone system has students lining up in the halls to line up dates for the weekend.

interdorm phone Crimson 9 24 65

Howard College attains university status and renames itself in honor of insurance executive and longtime trustee Frank Park Samford, Sr. The Howard College of Arts and Sciences retains the original name.



The School of Business, Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education, and the School of Pharmacy are established at Samford University.

Historian Website 1.13


Samford University’s Board of Trustees votes to admit the first African American student, Audrey Gaston, to Cumberland School of Law.


Rex Keeling, wide receiver, is drafted to the Houston Oilers, becoming the first Samford Athlete picked in the NFL draft. Four other athletes have been picked in the NFL draft since Keeling: 1969: Gary Fleming, Defensive End, Baltimore Colts 2006: Cortland Finnegan, Defensive Back, Tennessee Titans 2012: Corey White, Safety, New Orleans Saints 2013: Nicholas Williams, Defensive End, Pittsburgh Steelers.


Work progresses on Lakeshore Drive with the widening of two lanes to four, greatly improving accessibility to campus.


The Ruston Memorial Carillon is installed in Reid Chapel. It is later expanded and moved to the belltower atop Davis Library.  The carillon was donated by William J. Rushton in honor of his parents, two sisters, and brother. When the carillon was first erected, 49 bells were included. It was the first four-octave chromatic carillon in the United States. Each bell was cast with a meaningful inscription, making the bell system not only unique to the United States but to the world. No other bell system at that time included inscriptions on each bell. In 1979, the bells were moved to the Harwell Goodwin Davis Library. Eleven more bells were added at that time. The largest bell, C3, weighs 5,192 pounds and has a diameter of 61-9/16″. The lightest bell, C8, weighs 26 pounds and has a diameter of 7-1/8″. The total weight for the bells is 29,244 pounds.



Elizabeth Sloan becomes the first African-American female to live on campus. She moved into Vail Hall in the fall of 1969.

The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville played a huge role in planning the moon mission, training astronauts and developing the missions Saturn V rocket. “When people look back on the history of the world 500 years from now, won’t one of the landmarks in human history be landing a man on the moon?” Ed Bridges, Director of the Alabama State Archives, asked. He said Alabama’s substantial involvement in the effort made the moon landing “an important landmark in Alabama history.”



Harold Eugene Martin, Howard College Journalism major (’54), receives Pulitzer Prize in Journalism for Special Local Reporting.



The Alabama Baptist State Convention elects its first woman vice president.


Samford played scholarship football during 1920-41, 1959-73 and 1988-present. Under Wright’s administration, Samford did not field a football team from 1974-1983.

Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing joins Samford University. The School moved into the Dwight and Lucille Beeson Center for Healing Arts on Samford’s campus in 1988.


Harrison Theatre opens. The theatre was dedicated in honor of Ben F. Harrison, a valued trustee, in 1987.



Samford’s radio station, WVSU, is licensed with the FCC. Tune in to WVSU-FM 91.1 for smooth jazz.



Samford’s debate team, widely recognized as one of the “most stable and successful programs in the Southeast region,” beat out Dartmouth for the title of best regular season debate team in the nation in 1983. The team finished in the National Debate Tournament’s semifinals that year and returned to the semifinals again in 1985.


 Thomas Edward Corts becomes Samford’s eighteenth president.



“Play it again, Samford,” became the battle cry for 1984 as President Thomas E. Corts reinstated Samford’s football program at the Division III non-scholarship level in 1984. Football scholarships returned in 1988.


The Daniel House, epicenter of the London Studies program, is established.



The first residence halls of Beeson Woods are opened to students. The original 12 buildings were completed in 1988.

Campus (Beeson Woods Residence Halls), Samford University


Bashinsky Fieldhouse completed. The Fieldhouse was dedicated in honor of longtime trustee Leo E. Bashinsky in 1987.


Ben Brown Plaza, the heart of Samford social life, is finished.


Centennial Walk, commemorating Samford’s 100th anniversary in Birmingham, is completed. Students ascend the stairs with their fellow freshmen to begin thier Samford experience and descend with their fellow graduates at its completion.



Samford University’s Board of Trustees authorizes the establishment of a School of Divinity beginning in the 1988-1989 academic session.


Ralph Waldo Beeson bequeaths the largest monetary donation in Samford University’s history, a sum that ultimately reaches $55 million.


The World Wide Web is introduced to the public by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.



Hodges Chapel is completed and consecrated. When Beeson Divinity School was founded in 1988, one of Mr. Beeson’s requests was that the Divinity School house a “special” chapel. Though he did not live to see its completion, Mr. Beeson’s wishes were fulfilled. It is a unique house of worship redolent with beautiful art and symbols of the Christian faith, which turn our attention heavenward, beyond the chapel dome. In the fall of 2002, the chapel was officially named in honor of Andrew Gerow Hodges, close personal friend and advisor to the late Mr. Ralph Beeson.



Department of Nurse Anesthesia is established.


Andrew Westmoreland becomes Samford’s nineteenth president.



The College of Health Sciences is created. The new school combines the existing McWhorter School of Pharmacy, Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing, and departments of Kinesiology and Dietetics,along with a new School of Public Health, to address the shortage of well-prepared health care professionals for the 21st century.


Samford completes the purchase of property adjacent to the campus that served as the headquarters for Southern Progress Corporation. The University will renovate two new buildings to house the newly formed College of Health Sciences. Perhaps the most exciting outcome of the expansion is the addition of over 1000 parking spaces.