From the Archives

History, documents, and photos

Wofford and World War II

Written By: Phillip Stone - Sep•30•14

Last week, I published a new digital collection of World War II-era newspapers from the Wofford campus.  Today, I have posted a collection of Wofford newsletters sent to alumni who were serving in the armed forces during the war.

WCNLThe World War II alumni newsletter started out as a simple 2-page typed legal-size leaflet, and it went to several hundred alumni.  It solicited comments and news from alums, and they responded that they liked the newsletter.  The February 1943 issue went to some 800 alumni.  By October 1943, the college was publishing a printed newsletter that ranged from 4 to 8 pages.

The college had to follow all of the censorship rules as the newsletter was being sent to alumni all over the world, so they could not mention specific units the alums were serving with, or any other information that had not become public.  Still, the alums appreciated hearing from the college and hearing about what their friends and classmates were doing, where they were, and what they were experiencing.

I found one note in the September 1945 issue from Herbert Hucks, who was my predecessor as college archivist, and who served in North Africa and France.  He wrote,

“Yesterday when your July 5 card arrived I did not know that today I would be a student at the Sorbonne, but such is the case and naturally I’m glad of the opportunity.  The spirit of the whole affair is very fine.  About 800 men and officers are there.  The course will last until September 8 and then nothing could please me more than to get home on my 87 points!”

Mr. Hucks had been a high school French teacher before the war, and on his return would become an associate librarian at Wofford.

Again, technology makes it possible for us to get more items like this out for researchers to use.

You can find the newsletters in our digital repository.

The Flight Record and the Army at Wofford

Written By: Phillip Stone - Sep•25•14

When World War II came to Wofford, it brought major changes to the student body.

FlightRecordLogoAs the number of students at Wofford and similar colleges declined rapidly, administrators began to fear for the future of their colleges.  How does a college that is heavily dependent on tuition survive when the students go off to war?

The result of this impending crisis, as well as the army’s need for training programs before sending soldiers overseas, was that many colleges saw their facilities taken over by the federal government for various types of military training programs.  And that is how, in February 1943, Wofford College became the home of the 40th College Training Division, a training center for aviation students.

Wofford’s remaining students, which numbered fewer than a hundred, and some of the faculty went to either Spartanburg Junior College or Converse College.  The dormitories, classrooms, gymnasium, and grounds became the home of a program designed to teach aviation students some of the things they would have learned in a college course of study as they were on their way to flight school and officer candidate school.

The program, which lasted about fifteen months, left a few fingerprints on the college.  Occasionally, for fifty years after the war, a former aviation student would pass through the campus with his family to reminisce about his time here in 1943 or 1944.  Some photographs from those years are in the archives.  The Hugh R. Black Infirmary on campus, which had been a faculty home, became an infirmary during those years, and the college continued to use it for those purposes to this very day.  And, interestingly enough, the students produced a newspaper called the Flight Record, and that has remained in the archives.

The Flight Record’s staff, which rotated as new students came and others left, published some 22 issues between June 1943 and April 1944.  In the past year, I’ve had my student assistants scan the issues, and after doing some post-processing work, I have published them in Wofford’s digital repository.

Visit the Flight Record online

In the next few days, I hope to add the World War II newsletter that the college sent to alumni serving in the military.

Technology helps us share the experiences and memories of those who were part of our campus community seventy years ago, and I’m happy to make these materials more widely available.

Fitting School Students

Written By: Phillip Stone - Sep•12•14

The Wofford Fitting School is one of those mysterious entities that causes an occasional question.

WOCO Fitting School students002The Fitting School was a preparatory school that operated on the Wofford Campus and on a nearby campus for a number of years.  It closed in 1924, but before then, it was designed to prepare, or fit, students for entry into Wofford’s freshman class.

The idea of a prep school or fitting school makes sense in an era where not every city or town has a good public high school and the college wants to be certain it has a good supply of potential first-year students.

This photo could count as a throwback Thursday photo if today weren’t Friday.  But in the archives, maybe every day is Throwback Thursday.


Henry Nelson Snyder: Wofford and Methodist leader

Written By: Phillip Stone - Sep•10•14

This article appeared in the SC United Methodist Advocate this month.

Wofford’s Dr. Henry Nelson Snyder served as the college’s fourth president from 1902 to 1942, and at the same time, was one of the leading laymen of South Carolina Methodism. He was a very influential leader in state and national higher education circles as well as in national Methodist circles, and his was a leading voice in the movement toward Methodist reunification in 1939.

SnyderHandbookDr. Snyder was a Tennessee native who came to Wofford and Spartanburg in 1890 to become a professor of English. He had earned his degrees at Vanderbilt, which was designed to be the central university of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Some of his teachers there had Wofford connections as well as deep ties to the Methodist Church. After a decade at Wofford, he did what many young American academics in the 1890s and early 1900s did: he went to a German university to study for his doctorate. He would have completed it if Wofford had not called him to the presidency while he was working on his degree

Dr. Snyder’s ties to regional and national higher education movements began in the 1890s, when he was one of two Wofford professors to attend the organizational meeting of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which is the regional accrediting agency for colleges and schools throughout the Southeast. He also built networks in South Carolina’s fledgling public schools in the 1910s and 1920s, and was on good terms with many superintendents and principals. This helped him recruit students to attend Wofford and the other Methodist colleges in the state. He also organized summer schools for teachers at Wofford for many years.

Snyder’s commitment was to make Wofford a first-rate Methodist-related institution, and to blend academic excellence with spiritual development. He later wrote that he never let himself forget the importance of the college’s church relationship. And apparently, the church leadership trusted their president, for they ultimately made him the chairman of the conference board of education, which was responsible for selecting the trustees of all of the colleges. That’s perhaps not the best practice today, but in that place and time, it worked. Snyder wrote that the Annual Conference gave him a free hand in the administration of the college, and this allowed him to build a fine college and faculty over his tenure. While he occasionally had to defend the faculty from critics who objected to a modernizing curriculum, no one ever seriously threatened his independence.

The Conference regularly elected Dr. Snyder as a General Conference delegate, and year after year, he served on various church boards. He was a member of the hymnal revision commission that produced the 1905 and the 1935 Methodist hymnal, and for some twenty years, he was one of the southern church’s members on the reunification commission. As a leader in church-related higher education, he was away from Wofford for the better part of a year in the 1920s as he worked with a church-wide educational fundraising campaign, a cause that benefited Methodist-related colleges throughout the South.

Throughout his life, Henry Nelson Snyder was more than simply a liberal arts college president. He was an ambassador for education at all levels, and he was a firm believer in the important role the Methodist Church played in education. He also played an active role in the creation of the Methodist Church, using his experiences and wisdom to help heal a century-long breach in the church.

Fifty Years Ago

Written By: Phillip Stone - Sep•04•14

I’ve taken a little bit of a hiatus from blogging for a few reasons. It is always a little harder to keep posting in the summer because of the combination of summer projects and vacation days. This summer was extra busy for me because I served for three months as the library’s interim director, which, of course, meant that I was doing part of two different jobs.

But, now that we have a new library dean in place, and classes are more or less underway, I’m going to try to resume the regular blog schedule. Today’s opening convocation, which is the 160th anniversary of Wofford’s opening session in 1854, reminded me of a number of upcoming anniversaries.

Perhaps the most significant is that fifty years ago this month, Wofford’s announced intention to admit all qualified students regardless of race came into full effect. In September 1964, Albert W. Gray of Spartanburg enrolled as a first-year student, becoming Wofford’s first African-American student.

Below is the memo that President Charles Marsh sent to the campus alerting the faculty and administration that Mr. Gray would be enrolling.

Fifty years is a long time, but it isn’t so very long ago. I think maybe I’ll share this letter with my first-year humanities seminar tomorrow as we discuss a novel about race and memory to help show them that the past is not so long ago.


The Walt Hudgins Papers

Written By: Phillip Stone - Jul•03•14

We are happy to announce a new acquisition in the college archives. The Papers of Walter E. Hudgins, a longtime and beloved professor of philosophy, have been donated to the college and are open for research.

Dr. Hudgins, who died in 1986, was a Virginia native who did his undergraduate, seminary, and doctoral degrees at Duke University. After teaching at several colleges in North Carolina, he came to Wofford to teach philosophy in 1972.

In addition to some of his correspondence, the papers include a number of his speeches and essays. Some of the sermons he preached as an ordained United Methodist minister are in the collection.

Beyond his teaching and campus service, Dr. Hudgins was a published and produced playwright. The scripts of several of his plays are part of the collection, as well as the production notes, design notes, and the scores to the ones that are musicals. Over the next year, we’ll digitize some of the plays and share them so that others can read them.

The collection was donated by Mrs. Linda Hudgins, Walt’s widow, and we’re grateful to her for giving them to the college so that others might learn more about him and his work.

The finding aid for the collection is available here:


T-shirts in the Archives

Written By: Phillip Stone - Jun•25•14

The archives holds an interesting collection of t-shirts from the 1970s to the 2010s.

Some t-shirts come from student groups, some from Homecoming or Spring Weekend events, and others are tributes to professors, or even presidents.

But why do we collect them?  I think t-shirts are a good way of documenting student life.  They give people who attended an event or took part in a group a way of remembering the event.  I’m sure that recent college graduates have drawers or boxes full of them by the time they graduate.  

If you have a favorite t-shirt, tell me about it, or share a picture of it on the Facebook page.

We couldn’t feature all of these t-shirts in Wofford Today, so here are a few of my favorites:

Hot l Carlisle

Hotel Carlisle – a tribute to an old residence hall that was the early home to Wofford Theatre.

SUTWAK members in front of Carlisle Hall, late 1970s

SUTWAK, or Students United to Win a Keg, was a group of non-Greek students who played intramurals together (I think).  The back of the shirt is below.

A tribute to history professor Lewis P. Jones

Sometimes shirts honored faculty members, such as historian Lewis P. Jones, above, or President Benjamin B. Dunlap, below.

A t-shirt made by a student group (and autographed by Bernie Dunlap) upon the 10th president’s retirement.

In memory of a colleague

Written By: Phillip Stone - May•28•14

I don’t usually write personal entries on this blog, but this one is an exception, since one doesn’t often lose a colleague and friend to a long struggle with cancer.  So, please permit the point of personal privilege. 

My library colleague Ellen Tillett, who had served as a reference librarian and director of public services at Wofford’s Sandor Teszler Library since 1995, passed away this week after a lengthy battle with cancer.  And despite her long struggle– 18 years altogether – none of us really thought she’d leave us.  After all, each time things looked bad, she’d bounce back with a new treatment, a new clinical trial.  At least to us, she never lost her optimism.  She didn’t let her illness dominate her life, at least not with us.  She kept working in the library up until this month.

Over the past two decades, I daresay she taught more than half of the library instruction sessions that we offered.  Almost every history major at Wofford had her for the history research methods course that she co-taught with a rotating cast of history professors.  I’d imagine most Wofford student and faculty research projects benefited from her reference assistance.

Ellen was wise, considerate, and she had a wicked sense of humor.  She cared about her colleagues and was an excellent mentor to new, younger librarians.  She would dig in her heels on a point of principle, but she could be persuaded to see the other side of an issue.  She was a staunch defender of academic freedom and the independence of libraries.  Beyond all of that, she loved her garden, and I think many of us have some daylilies or other plants from her garden.  She loved to travel, a pastime she learned from her professorial parents.  She didn’t let her illness stop her from heading off to Europe or Australia during the summers or the Galapagos during an Interim.  All of us in the library enjoyed the breakfast treats, including the Moravian sugar cake that as a good daughter of Wake Forest and Winston-Salem she brought during the week before Christmas each year.

I’m still not quite certain when it’s going to hit me that she won’t be back at work.  I suspect there will be a lot of “what would Ellen do” or “what would Ellen say” remarks in the library for a long time.  We shared some of those comments in the library today.

We never know who we will touch as we pass through this life.  Each day, we meet many people, and we have an opportunity to make an impression on most of them.  I always think that our loved ones never really leave us, but live on in our memories and in the ways they shape our lives.  Ellen provides for us a beautiful example of a colleague whose wisdom, intelligence, and grace touched all of us who surrounded her.

Helicopter Parents, 1919 edition

Written By: Phillip Stone - May•21•14

This might be a tad unfair, but I did have that thought when I read this letter, from the mother of an entering first-year student to Wofford’s President, Dr. Henry Nelson Snyder, in the fall of 1919.

The mother, Mrs. D. G. Dantzler of Vance, SC, was writing to make sure someone would meet her son at the Spartanburg train station on the Saturday before entrance exams.  She also expressed some wishes that she had for him – that he might enter the officer’s training corps, but also that he become a good citizen and Christian gentleman.  She also noted that he wasn’t going to know anybody at the college when he got there, and so she was nervous about his

And of course, parents are always nervous about the unknowns that their sons and daughters will face when they go to college.  It was as true in 1919 as it is today.  Incidentally, R. M. Dantzler graduated from Wofford in 1923.

The letter is below.  You may click for a larger image.

Fifty Years Ago in the Advocate

Written By: Phillip Stone - May•15•14

Flipping through old newspapers gives us a perspective on life in years past, and looking at papers from the more recent past gives some of us a chance to remember our experiences and reactions to events that we may actually recall. These snippets come from the South Carolina Methodist Advocate of April 2, 1964, fifty years ago this spring. The issue contained a lengthy article about efforts at the upcoming General Conference to dismantle the segregated Central Jurisdiction, explaining in some detail for the laity how the denomination was structured and what ending the Central Jurisdiction might mean. Also in that issue, Rhett Jackson of Trenholm Road Church provided the weekly Bible Study. And, the cover featured pictures from the Junior High boys basketball tournament, won by St. Paul, Greenville.

Editor McKay Brabham started off the issue with this condemnation of the mixture of spring holidays and Easter:

“The annual migration of thousands of college and high-school students to the sun-spots and beer spouts of our nation is an act of blasphemy which need not be perpetuated. Days given in holiday for the remembrance of the Savior’s death and resurrection should be observed as holy days.

“Educational authorities can help in this. A change in the date of the spring holidays, if these are a requirement of our times, would at least remove the association with Christ’s sufferings of what is often reported to move from innocent idyll to bacchanalian orgy. Let it be said, however, that the reported recreational activities of considerable numbers of adults holds out little hope for the large measure of concern required to set the example of sobriety which would bring about a general improvement in youthful behavior.”

The Rev. Melvin K. Medlock provided some thoughts about clergy visiting their earlier appointments:
“In 1931, when some of us came into the Conference on trial, we heard our bishop say to a class being received into full connection, ‘Go where you are sent, and stay away from where you have been.’ Some of us were bold enough to ask the older ministers, who related stories of some clergy who had done their successors harm by going back to meddle.

“Now, a confession: I went back to assist in too many weddings in one church I left. It looked like all the girls in the church decided to get married just prior to my leaving.

“But I do not think it is good to break with friends just because one is leaving a pastorate. Among my closest friends are my predecessors who have returned occasionally to see some of their friends, to assist in weddings, etc.”

Rev. Medlock offered examples of the kindnesses that each of his predecessors had shown him in each of his appointments – either by preparing the way for him, by speaking good words about his ministry, or supporting his work.

He concluded:

“These predecessors have proved to me that a man with a good spirit can do great good by “going back” occasionally. As for the man with a jealous, vindictive spirit – do we have that kind? So far it has not been my lot to follow one of them.”

And that’s some of what was in the news for South Carolina Methodists fifty years ago

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