Flipping through The Wofford College Journal from 1915, I came across this cartoon that depicts some of the events surrounding the end of the school year.
Though a century ago, it does suggest that some things are timeless in the academy.
This was my column in the May 2015 issue of the SC United Methodist Advocate. We’ve made some new resources available on our institutional repository site.
For over 100 years, the Annual Conference has published clergy biographical directories about every ten years.
The first volume was called Twentieth Century Sketches of the South Carolina Conference, M. E. Church, South and was edited by the Rev. Watson B. Duncan. The biographical sketches of each clergy member of the conference were often prepared by their friends, and could be quite lengthy. These can be very useful for modern researchers, as they frequently mention the minister’s accomplishments in the appointments where they served. Most, but not all, were accompanied by photographs. The volume began with an introduction by Wofford’s then-president, Dr. James H. Carlisle, in which he referred to the book as a “family album.” That seems an accurate description for a conference of not many more than 200 members.
Rev. Duncan published a revised and expanded version of the volume in 1914. He was collecting information for a new edition when he died, at which point his family gave the information he had collected to the editor of the Advocate. The 1930 Annual Conference asked a group of ministers to work toward a new edition, and ultimately, the Advocate board of trustees took on the project. The directory evolved into something more: a short history of the South Carolina and Upper South Carolina conferences and their institutions. Published in 1932 as Builders: Sketches of Methodist Preachers in South Carolina with Historical Data, the volume contained photographs, shorter biographical sketches, and an additional fifty pages of history and data.
From that point forward, a directory emerged about every ten years through the 1960s, with biographies in the front and separate glossy photographs in the back. The merger of the 1866 and 1785 conferences delayed production of the 1970s volume until 1975, and the format returned to that of the early 1930s, with sketches and photographs side by side. The 1985 edition, celebrating the bicentennial of American Methodism, contained a 90-page history of Methodism in South Carolina, prepared by Dr. A. V. Huff Jr. Subsequent editions of the directory emerged in 1991 and 2001, though all of the post-1961 directories had increasingly smaller photographs and shorter biographies.
Over the past few years, the conference archives at Wofford has been trying to make these directories available online. First, we focused on the photos, making the images from the 1901 through 1961 directories available on a Flickr site. We also had a late 19th century photo album that we scanned and made available. That’s the William Wynn Mood photo album, and it has photos of some late 19th century clergy that are otherwise unavailable. Student workers along with the Rev. Luther Rickenbaker, senior research associate in the archives, helped prepare short biographies to accompany the online photos. These photographs have helped local churches as they’ve worked on publishing histories or displaying photos of former ministers.
The photo albums are available from this page, and individual photos can be downloaded and printed: http://www.wofford.edu/library/archives/methodist.aspx
However, we always wanted to make the full directories available so that researchers, local church historians, and others could examine the full biographies of our clergy. Our new digital repository software has made this much easier, and this spring, we’ve posted the 1901, 1914, 1942, and 1952 directories. The 1932,1961 and 1975 directories should be available by the time you read this column. They are available on Wofford’s digital repository site, which is located at http://digitalcommons.wofford.edu/methodistdirectories/. The files are fairly large, so it might take a few moments to download them.
This was my column in the SC United Methodist Advocate for April.
Alexander Coke Smith is another of South Carolina Methodism’s contributions to the episcopacy.
Born in Lynchburg, SC, Coke Smith enrolled at Wofford in 1868 and graduated in 1872. His father was a Methodist minister, so he grew up in parsonages around the state. Following his graduation from Wofford, he joined the South Carolina Conference, and was sent to his first appointment, Cheraw Station. After but a year there, he went to Columbia to serve at Washington Street, where he remained three years. He was the junior preacher in his first and the pastor in charge the second and third years – at the ripe old age of 26. Next, he went to Greenville Station – Buncombe Street – in 1876, serving for 4 years. Continuing his journeys around the state, the young minister went to serve Trinity, Charleston for three years, from 1880-82, where he became close to Bishop William M. Wightman in his last years.
Smith then spent four years, 1883-86, as the Presiding Elder of the Columbia District, and following that, was elected to the professorship of mental and moral philosophy at Wofford. He followed in the footsteps of William Wallace Duncan, who had just been elected a bishop. That chair on the Wofford faculty actually produced three bishops, Duncan, Smith, and Smith’s successor, John C. Kilgo. Additionally, that faculty position was responsible for fundraising, so it gave Smith the opportunity to travel around South Carolina, representing Wofford, preaching in various pulpits, and making stronger personal connections.
Though a young man, Smith sometimes suffered under the strain of his workload. Wofford historian David Duncan Wallace noted that “he had just almost killed himself saving souls in one of the greatest revivals in the history of Charleston,” and proceeded to conclude the process by his labors for raising the college endowment.
After 4 years at Wofford, he was elected to the 1890 General Conference delegation, heading the South Carolina delegation. He was just 41 years old. The General Conference elected him as one of their three missionary secretaries, but he only stayed in this position for a few months before he was asked to become professor of practical theology at Vanderbilt. He moved again in 1892, transferring his membership to the Virginia Conference and serving churches there until 1902. He came close to being elected a bishop in 1898, and finally, was elected to the episcopacy in 1902. Incidentally, his younger brother, an 1889 graduate, was Ellison D. Smith. Known as “Cotton Ed,” the younger Smith was elected to the US Senate in 1908, serving six terms.
He died in December 1906 in Asheville, having served a relatively short tenure as a bishop. Collins Denny, himself later a bishop, noted that Smith was “a man of rare versatility and adaptability, and charmed every circle and community into which he entered. He was a past master in delicate humor, and this gift was his servant, never his master.” His Methodist education had served him well, for “he had read widely and well, and his tenacious memory gave him ready command of his resources.” Bishops often need a blend of skills, and from what his contemporaries wrote, A. Coke Smith brought a mix of political acumen, intelligence, and preaching ability to that office.
For some thirty years, Dr. Charles F. Nesbitt was the teacher of preachers at Wofford College.
A 1922 graduate of Wofford, Dr. Nesbitt took his seminary degree at Emory. He taught in the religion departments of several college – Lander, Millsaps, Blackburn College in Illinois, and Wesley College in North Dakota. He also taught in public schools in Kentucky. The academic life being his area of ministry, he pursued first an MA and then a PhD at the University of Chicago, completing his doctorate in 1939. He was also an ordained Methodist minister in the South Carolina Conference.
It was in that year that he returned to South Carolina and to his alma mater, taking a position in the Wofford religion department that he would hold until 1966.
As a practitioner of the academic study of religion, Dr. Nesbitt was a founding member of the southern section of the Society of Biblical Literature as well as a member of the American Academy of Religion. He was an active scholar, writing numerous articles during his time at Wofford.
As a member of Wofford’s small but influential religion department, he taught Old and New Testament and other upper level religion courses to a generation of Wofford students who went on to seminary. He had the ability of identifying especially well qualified seminary students and sending them to Yale’s Divinity School or to his own Chicago. Those students found themselves well-prepared for the academic study of religion.
Dr. Nesbitt, as religion professors sometimes do, ran into occasional critics of his writing and teaching. He once wrote a modern interpretation of the Apostle’s Creed for a lesson at Central Methodist Church, which found its way into print, and which caused a flurry of letters to the state’s Methodist newspaper about his having done such a scandalous thing. He had studied at the University of Chicago with scholars involved in the translation of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, and encouraged the college to move to giving it at graduation.
According to his former student and later colleague Dr. Charles Barrett ’55, Dr. Nesbitt had a strong hand in writing Wofford’s 1965 Statement of Purpose, which is still in effect, particularly the line “students and faculty alike will be challenged to a common search for truth and freedom, wherever that search may lead.” Dr. Barrett noted that not only had Dr. Nesbitt been a great teacher and scholar, he was a good and decent man as a faculty colleague.
Dr. Nesbitt continued to live in Spartanburg until his death in December 1976, and his funeral service was held on Christmas Eve.
Those houses have been there, like, forever, right?
Forever is a long time, obviously, though on a college campus, 59 years might as well be forever. And that’s how long the current fraternity row has been standing on its current site.
In the spring of 1955, then Dean of Students Robert Brent proposed to the Board of Trustees the construction of seven fraternity lodges at some place on campus. Each house would have a chapter room, a living room, a kitchen, a bedroom for a fraternity member who was acting as the caretaker of the house, two bathrooms, and some closets. One site, on Cleveland Street near Snyder Field, was rejected because it was too far from the main part of the campus and also was not an especially attractive site. The other was along Memorial Drive down the hill from Main Building, though the college recognized that this site might eventually be needed for another academic building.
The trustees approved the project, and in the spring of 1956, the houses were all built simultaneously. That way, no one fraternity would be able to occupy its house before the others. Originally only the chapter room in each house was to have pine paneling, but the college got a good deal on paneling and was able to use it in the living room and chapter room. Construction began in December 1956, with foundation work, and then as the weather improved, the pace of the work increased in April and May. The fraternities took possession of their houses on May 17, 1956.
The paper noted that houses for fraternities had been a sixty-year dream, as in fact, the college had not provided Greek houses before. After fraternities were reinstated in 1915, they mostly met wherever they could find space – including above stores on Spartanburg’s Morgan Square. But since May 1956, Fraternity Row has been the home to Wofford’s Greek organizations.
There’s never been a dean of students quite like Frank Logan.
It’s a little risky of me to write about somebody who I met but once or twice, but who a lot of people around Wofford knew very well. The stories about Frank Logan are plentiful, and most of them are probably even true. He was a character in the truest sense of the word.
Samuel Francis Logan graduated from Wofford in 1941 and was a member of the first class of members in course of Phi Beta Kappa. After a few years away from Wofford and the completion of an MA in history at Duke, Frank Logan returned to Wofford as registrar and director of admissions in 1947. He remained at the college in various capacities until 1980. During his early years he taught in the history department as well. In 1956, President Pendleton Gaines named him dean of students, a position he held for thirteen years. It is for those years that he’s probably best remembered.
At the end of his first year as dean of students, the Old Gold and Black editorialized about him “Wofford’s new Dean of Students Frank Logan has certainly shown himself praiseworthy during his first year of office. His honesty, sincerity, and industry have won him the respect and trust of the Wofford Student Body. The long waiting-line in his office, few waiting involuntarily, reflects a respected adviser.”
Some of the best Logan stories are in a chapter of Dr. Will Willimon’s book Friends, Family, and Other Strange People. I doubt I could do any of them justice, but you should find the chapter. One of the best was when he ended the famous 1965 food riot at Wightman Hall with a few choice words in a police bullhorn.
Frank Logan was dean of students in an era when the college still practiced in loco parentis, where the college acted as the parent for students. What that meant in practice was regular dorm inspections, mandatory chapel, no booze on campus, and generally a fairly regulated student disciplinary system. While there was a court of sorts, the real court was at the dean’s desk, and justice was quick and certain. There were some unwritten rules, one of which I like to quote occasionally, that being the “failure to profit” rule. Dean Logan would send someone home for failing to profit from the benefits of a Wofford education. It’s something nobody could get away with now, but there’s a certain logic when a student is clearly failing to avail himself of the opportunities that abound at the college.
After his thirteen years as dean, Frank Logan moved to admissions, which he led for several years, and then to alumni affairs, which he led until his retirement in 1980. The Logans kept in contact with their many friends on campus and with hundreds of students who called themselves “Logan’s Boys” until his death in 1995.
This was my Advocate column for March 2015.
Fifty years ago this month, a group of civil rights protesters met Alabama state and local lawmen on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The protesters were beginning a march from Selma to Montgomery to protest the lack of voting rights for African-Americans in Alabama and much of the rest of the South. A recent movie, Selma, has brought new attention to the events surrounding what came to be called “Bloody Sunday,” and no doubt there will be other remembrances of those events in coming weeks.
Advocate editor Rev. McKay Brabham wrote a long and thoughtful piece in the March 18, 1965 Advocate about the events of March 7 and the following days. Here are some excerpts.
“No mistake should be made at this point: The Commission on Religion and Race of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. is every bit the potent pressure group its friends or critics claim that it is. Certainly its impact upon the President of the United States must be recognized as formidable if the Commission is given its share of credit, as it should be, for his presence before the Congress last Monday evening.
“…It was clear from the meeting last Friday in the Lutheran Church of The Reformation that the skilled and dedicated leadership of the commission is committed without question to absolute equality before the law for all people. It is also evident that the Commission’s leaders are equally willing to take the word of Dr. Martin Luther King and those associated with him as to legal or other strategic means for achieving it. The Commission operates under a mandate from the General Board given in 1963, ‘to do everything possible by Christian, non-violent means to work for the achievement of racial justice in the nation.’
“Those Christians who seek to maintain a concern for all of God’s children – of all colors – must reckon with this fact in their efforts to exercise the force of reconciliation in our time. Without an understanding of its emotional impact and its power over men’s minds and wills, they stand to be ready victims of traps such as enmeshed the police of Alabama at Selma when their unleashed brutality provided the springboard for Selma’s dive into world history.
“Selma did provide an occasion for real heroism and spiritual power, according to what we could learn from those who had gone there on Monday and Tuesday, and who shared the fears of the Negro community. The listener did not have to agree with the tactics to appreciate the response of faith on the part of those who felt called to witness in Selma.
This was my column in the SC United Methodist Advocate for February 2015
150 years ago this month, the Union Army, fresh from its march across Georgia and its capture of Savannah, set out to march across South Carolina. In February 1865, on a cold and very windy night, much of Columbia burned. (I don’t want to start an argument about who did what, but it’s safe to say that General Sherman’s army was there and the city was burned and leave it at that!) Sherman’s march across the middle of the state left an indelible mark on South Carolina. The Civil War, which started in Charleston Harbor four years earlier, had come home to the Palmetto State, and nothing would ever be quite the same.
The Union Army’s arrival and the end of the Civil War signaled something else for the majority of South Carolinians: freedom. The end of the war brought reality to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, and as a result, those held in slavery found themselves free. These newly-free persons sought to form separate institutions, including churches, where they could be independent of their former masters.
Churches, naturally, were high on the list. Methodist missionaries had worked among the slaves throughout the antebellum era, and the Northern branch of Methodism had also sent missionaries to work in the Sea Islands, which came under Federal control early in the war. So, the work of founding a new Annual Conference was well underway by the summer and fall of 1865. Though many white South Carolinians expected to return to something resembling the social and religious system from before the war, African-American South Carolinians were not interested in returning to sit in the church balconies. With the support of the Methodist Episcopal Church, a missionary Annual Conference convened on April 2, 1866 under the leadership of Bishop Osman C. Baker. The previous General Conference had authorized creating missionary conferences in the former Confederacy as the need arose, and the first members of the conference were the northern mission workers. On its first day, that conference admitted five African-American members.
The need for some ministerial education was immediately recognized, and the Baker Theological Institute was organized in Charleston. Dozens of men attended the institute for further ministerial study, and over the next few years, they were ordained into the ministry and joined the South Carolina Conference. The conference boundaries included South Carolina, eastern Georgia, and Florida. Just three years hence, the conference established a university, and clergy members Willard Lewis and Alonzo Webster purchased the property in Orangeburg. The funds for the new university came from Lee Claflin and his son, Massachusetts Governor William Claflin, and the university bears their name. In 1870, the South Carolina Conference met there.
Claflin and the Conference became almost one and the same over the next decades. The state’s African-American Methodist clergy were educated there, as were teachers for the state’s African-American schools. Those individuals spread out throughout the state, founding churches in communities far and wide. Born out of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the 1866 Conference became the backbone of African-American Methodism in South Carolina, and its heritage lives on in the modern-day South Carolina Annual Conference.
Bishop William Wightman’s career shows that Methodist clergy can wear many hats.
A Charleston native, William May Wightman was born on January 29, 1808 to parents who were active Methodists. His mother was a native of Plymouth, England, and according to family legend, sat in John Wesley’s lap as a small child. Wightman graduated from the College of Charleston in 1827, and his valedictory address is in the Wofford archives.
Wightman joined the South Carolina Annual Conference in 1828 and served appointments over the next six years on the Pee Dee Circuit and in Orangeburg, Charleston, Santee, Camden, and Abbeville. In 1834, he became a fundraiser for Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, and over the next three years, helped raise $20,000 to fulfill the Conference’s pledge to endow a chair there. He then served as a professor for two years. Thus, in his first ten years of ministry, he had served in the pulpit, as a fundraiser, and as a professor.
In 1839, he returned to South Carolina to become the presiding elder of the Cokesbury District, and in the summer of 1840, he became the editor of the Southern Christian Advocate in Charleston. His pulpit for over ten years was the paper, and he became widely known throughout the Southeast. His first election as a delegate to the General Conference came in 1840, and he was a member of the 1844 conference that saw American Methodism split into northern and southern branches. In 1845, he represented South Carolina at the founding conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He was a delegate from South Carolina to the next four General Conferences. In 1854, only a mis-marked ballot prevented his election as a bishop.
That mismarked ballot may have been fortunate for Wofford College, for Wightman had been named in the will of Benjamin Wofford as one of the founding trustees of the college, and he gave the principal address at the laying of the cornerstone of Main Building in 1851. In November 1853, the trustees elected him as Wofford’s first president. Thus, the pastor, fundraiser, presiding elder, professor, and editor took on the role of college president.
After five years at Wofford’s helm, whose founder had been a friend of his, Wightman left to become the founding chancellor of Southern University in Alabama, now Birmingham-Southern College. And, in 1866, twelve years after a balloting error cost him the episcopacy, he was elected a bishop.
Upon his election, he returned to Charleston, where he established his headquarters. He purchased a house at 79 Anson Street in the Ansonborough section of Charleston. That house, built before 1760 and known as the Daniel Legare house, is one of the oldest homes still standing in Ansonborough. That fall, Wightman presided over his first South Carolina Conference, and for fifteen years, he presided over conferences around the South. He died on Feb. 15, 1882 in Charleston, and he is buried in that city’s Magnolia Cemetery. The bells of St. Michael’s tolled for the Methodist bishop, a rare honor that the Episcopalians conferred upon this leader of southern Methodist higher education.
For your Friday afternoon reading and viewing enjoyment, here is a photo of the 1915 Wofford varsity basketball team.
According to the March 1915 issue of the Wofford College Journal, the team had a pretty good run during the winter of 1915.
“Since the February issue of the Journal, the Wofford basketball team has been going at a rapid clip. The students of Wofford have never before experienced such success in this line of athletics as has been experienced this season. It was evident at the beginning of the season that the Terrier quintet was in line for the State Championship.”
“Beginning with Erskine, she has defeated the fast Carolina five on two occasions, Clemson twice, P. C. twice, and Newberry once. No one of these teams has been able to break the winning streak of the Terriers until Newberry came back for revenge of her former defeat on March 2.” (Apparently we didn’t play Furman that year.)
Things have been looking pretty good for basketball this winter, too, so let’s hope that 1915 and 2015 bot mark great years for basketball here on the city’s northern border.