All posts by emoryhistorian

Serving in senior administrative positions at Emory University since 1988, including secretary of the university, vice president, and senior adviser to the president, I was appointed university historian in October 2015. My PhD degree, from Emory, is in Christian ethics, and I have BA and MA degrees in English (Lehigh) and a divinity degree. After writing my dissertation on Iris Murdoch, I became increasingly interested in the way institutional ethos is shaped and the way Emory, in particular, has transformed and been transformed by the moral imaginations of its people.

Was Emory ever a town?

Last month a woman wrote to me and asked whether a town called Emory, Georgia, once existed. The answer, she said, might smooth the way for her mother’s international travel.

Her mother had been born at Emory University Hospital in 1944 and had always been told that she was born in the city of Atlanta. The problem was that when the mother recently ordered a certified copy of her birth certificate to apply for a passport, the space for “place of birth” indicated “Emory, DeKalb County” — suggesting that Emory was a town. This seemed to pose a potential complication for the passport application — Atlanta or Emory as place of birth?

After a little investigation, the daughter found that a 1940 U.S. census map showed three “cities” in DeKalb County: Scottdale, Decatur, and Emory. But was Emory really a city or a town? Or just a census tract?

Local folks whom the woman asked mostly said that Emory University was in the city of Decatur until January 2018, when it was annexed into the city of Atlanta. Staff at the DeKalb County department of vital statistics weren’t sure whether Emory had ever been a town or not, but they said the birth certificate was not a mistake. Births in 1944 would have indicated Emory in the town field because “that’s just how they filled them out” back then.

The question, then: In 1944, was Emory University Hospital in (A) the town of Emory, (B) the city of Decatur, (C) the city of Atlanta, (D) unincorporated DeKalb/militia district 531, or (E) something else?

By coincidence, I had recently been digging into something like this very question because I wanted to know when Emory began to use an Atlanta postal designation.

When Emory University began operations in Druid Hills in 1916, it was set in a suburb of Atlanta in unincorporated DeKalb County. It remained in unincorporated DeKalb County until January 1, 2018, when it was annexed into the city of Atlanta. It’s still in DeKalb County, of course, but for the first time it is within the boundaries of an incorporated city.

Back in 1916, the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad (now CSX) built a train station where the train tracks skirted the new campus. That station had its name painted on one wall: “EMORY, GA.” In 1947, the sign was repainted to read “EMORY UNIVERSITY, GA.”

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Emory University depot, 1947, courtesy of Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.

In fact, the mailing address of the university was Emory University, Georgia, until May 1, 1958, when it was changed to Atlanta, Georgia 22, later Atlanta, Georgia 30322.

Campus stationery and letters to administrators through the first decades of Emory’s Atlanta sojourn were inconsistent. Sometimes the address was “Emory University, Georgia,” and sometimes “Atlanta, Georgia” or even “Druid Hills, Atlanta, Georgia.” Either way, Emory remained outside the city limits. The campus was still in an unincorporated section of the county and was not a city or town in its own right.

The original Emory post office bears the name EMORY UNIV., GA in the photo below, from the 1940s. This post office occupied the corner where the Center for Rehabilitation Medicine now stands, next to Egleston Hospital.

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Courtesy of Stuart A. Rose Library.

So, to answer the question: in 1944 Emory was not a town, was not in the city of Decatur, was not in the city of Atlanta, but was in unincorporated DeKalb County with its own mailing address. I’m not sure what that does for the mother’s passport application, but at least there’s an explanation for the oddly named location of birth.

Gary Hauk

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Mr. Woodruff and the Three Wise Men, Part 3

Back in the 1960s, Robert Woodruff gave $4 million to the MERIT Campaign for Emory, which raised $35 million during the presidency of Sanford Atwood. (MERIT stood for Mobilizing Educational Resources and Ideas for Tomorrow.) Part of those funds from Woodruff went in 1969 to the construction of the library that bears his name. Twenty-five years later, the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation gave $2.5 million toward the expansion that opened in 1998 and included a room named for Joseph W. Jones.

Few spaces on campus see as much activity as the Jones Room, which hosts meetings of the University Senate, lectures by visiting scholars, poetry readings and literary discussions, and receptions for retiring faculty and staff. Yet while a handsome oil portrait of Joseph W. Jones hangs on the south wall of the room, hardly anyone knows who he was.

Joe Jones had begun work for the Cola-Cola Company in 1935 as a secretary in his native state of Delaware. The company had moved there from Atlanta two years earlier to avoid a tax on intangible assets imposed by the Georgia legislature. In 1946, after that tax was rescinded and the company prepared to return to Atlanta, Woodruff hired Jones as his personal assistant and later made him his chief of staff, executive aide, assistant treasurer, and eventually senior vice president and member of the board of directors of the company.

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Joseph W. Jones in the 1940s.

Calling Jones his “most trusted business associate,” Woodruff appointed Jones in 1972 as chair of the Trebor Foundation (“Robert” spelled backward), which was later renamed the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation. As chair of the foundation, Joe Jones partnered with Boisfeuillet Jones, who was by then president of the Woodruff Foundation, to dispense incalculable beneficence to the City of Atlanta and to educational, health, and other nonprofit institutions throughout the state. These institutions included, of course, Emory University, where Joe Jones served on the Board of Visitors.

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James B. Williams, Charles Duncan, Joseph W. Jones, Roberto Goizueta, and Robert Woodruff enjoying the pause that refreshes in the gun room at Ichauway Plantation.

As an indispensable aide to Woodruff, Joe Jones read all of Woodruff’s correspondence and answered much of it himself, whether dealing with US Senators or reviewing uniforms for the Ichauway Plantation softball team. He demonstrated a winsome kindness and tact in responding to the countless requests that came to Woodruff from people who knew of his great wealth and generosity and were in need of scholarships for their children or a new roof for their house or a new furnace for their church.

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Robert Woodruff, left, with Joe Jones, around 1980.

After Woodruff’s death in 1985, at the age of 95, Joe Jones served as executor of his estate and worked with Linda Mathews and Ginger Cain (now Smith) in Special Collections to place Mr. Woodruff’s and his own papers in what is now the Rose Library. Jones also supported placing the papers of Ralph McGill and other Atlanta notables there. The boards of the Woodruff, Lettie Pate Evans, and Joseph B. Whitehead Foundations followed Jones’s example by placing the records of those foundations and individuals at Rose Library as well. Pete McTier, longtime president of the Woodruff Foundation before his retirement a few years ago, continued Jones’s interest in Special Collections and helped garner foundation support for the latest renovation of the Woodruff Room on the top floor of the library.

In wrapping up this trilogy of blog posts about three very able servants of the common good, perhaps I can quote some of the citation read in 1985 when Joe Jones received an honorary degree from Emory. In some ways, it applies to all three of the wise men who helped guide Robert Woodruff’s philanthropic spirit. It reads:

“Remarkable administrator, public-spirited citizen, devoted friend and counselor, you have brought to your calling . . . that rare capacity to apprehend the whole of a worthy enterprise while yet attending to its every important detail. . . [Y]our sound judgment, as well as your friendship, have influenced the most wealthy and powerful of this city. No one could have proved to be a more effective or far-sighted steward of such a trust.”

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May those of us who continue to benefit from their stewardship never forget these three wise men.

Gary Hauk

Mr. Woodruff and the Three Wise Men, Part 2

Not long before Robert Mizell departed this life, another great Emory alumnus came fortunately to the attention of Robert Woodruff. He was Boisfeuillet Jones. A 1934 graduate of Emory College and 1937 graduate of Emory Law, Bo, as he was called (for BO-fuh-lay), became the assistant to Emory president Goodrich White in 1946 and quickly rose to become vice president of the University.

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Boisfeuillet Jones is second from the bottom on the left.

In 1952, as Woodruff grew increasingly troubled by the continuing budget deficits in the Emory School of Medicine — deficits that he had pledged to cover, often for more than a quarter million dollars annually — he invited President White to develop a sound business plan for the school. White turned to Boisefuillet Jones. The plan Jones developed called for bringing the schools of medicine, nursing, and dentistry, as well as the hospitals, under the umbrella of a medical center. He also suggested establishing the Emory Clinic as a way for faculty-physicians to earn their living while helping to fund the medical school.

Woodruff bought into the plan, and the Emily and Ernest Woodruff Foundation gave $5 million toward its development, including $4 million for endowment and $1 million for construction. The subsequent growth of the clinical, research, and teaching enterprise of the health sciences center is a direct result of the synergy that came from this arrangement.

The success of the plan also captured the attention of the incoming administration of President Kennedy, and in 1961 Jones took leave from Emory to serve as special assistant to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Jones later told of being introduced at a press conference by Sargent Shriver, brother-in-law to President Kennedy and later director of the Peace Corps. Fluent in French, Shriver pronounced Bo’s first name in French — BWAH-fooh-yay. A reporter covering the announcement misheard the name and printed it the next morning as “Waffle A. Jones”–maybe all right for a guy from the state where Waffle House was born.

Expecting to be gone only two years, Jones stayed on after Kennedy’s assassination to help smooth the transition for President Johnson, but in 1964 Jones returned to Atlanta as president of the Emily and Ernest Woodruff Foundation.

Like Robert Mizell, Boisfeuillet Jones developed a warm relationship with Woodruff that flourished in part through humor but depended also on frankness, integrity, and trust. When the president of the Coca-Cola Company, Paul Austin, appointed Jones as a consultant to the company, Jones sent a handwritten note to Woodruff: “I’m sure the Chairman of the Finance Committee [Woodruff] has no influence in these matters. Nevertheless, my appreciation to him is just as real and deep as if he did.”

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Robert Woodruff (left) and Boisfeuillet Jones.

It was during Boisfeuillet Jones’s presidency of the Emily and Ernest Woodruff Fund that George and Robert Woodruff decided to donate the corpus of that fund to Emory – all $105 million. In 1984, when Emory needed space for admissions, financial aid, and other student services, Woodruff agreed to pay for the new building and expressed an interest in having it named for Jones.

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The Boisfeuillet Jones Center on the Druid Hills campus of Emory University.

Next up — the third wise man.

Gary Hauk

Mr. Woodruff and the Three Wise Men

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Last fall I received an invitation to speak to the library staff on any topic, but the invitation came with a suggestion: how about telling us about the man for whom the Joseph W. Jones Room in Woodruff Library was named? This invitation coincided with a question from President Claire Sterk about the source of Robert Woodruff’s desires and aspirations for Emory that led to his historic philanthropy. Knowing something about Joe Jones and curious to learn about Woodruff’s motivations, I headed first to the Woodruff papers in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. This post and the next two are the result of what I found.

My talk was scheduled for January 9, three days after the Feast of the Epiphany, which in some Christian traditions marks the visit of the three magi, or wise men, to the infant Jesus. It happened that I had also discovered three wise men, including Joseph W. Jones, who helped to shape Mr. Woodruff’s vision for how he could help Emory achieve greatness.

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The first of those wise men is in some ways largely forgotten at Emory. His name was Robert Cotter Mizell, and he came from little Rhine, Georgia, halfway between Atlanta and the Okefenokee Swamp. In the 2010 census, Rhine, Georgia, had a population of 394 — not many more than the town had in 1910, two years after Bob Mizell left it for Emory College.

Mizell very likely met Robert Woodruff during their first week at Emory in Oxford, Georgia, where they both enrolled in the fall of 1908. Woodruff did not last long, but he seems to have formed a lasting respect for the quality of an institution that would challenge him as Emory did. Perhaps he also learned in those first months at Emory something of the qualities of the man who would become a beloved and trusted friend.

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Certainly, by the time Bob Mizell graduated from Emory in just three years, those around him recognized his many gifts. His classmates voted him the “Most Original Senior” in the 1911 yearbook, The Kinema. He helped shape the intellectual life of the campus as a member of the Phi Gamma Literary Society, and he was tapped for membership in the DVS Senior Society, today the oldest senior honorary society at Emory. He helped organize the first student government at Emory and was elected to serve as its first president. His classmates then chose him to speak for them at the 1911 Commencement.

After graduating, Mizell taught school and served as a high school principal but returned to his alma mater in 1915 to become the first principal of the Emory University Academy, which the University established on the Oxford campus while preparing to move Emory College to Atlanta. In 1935, after a decade in real estate, he returned to Emory again, this time with the title of secretary of the University and responsible for development of the University in a broad sense, from raising money to helping chart the direction. He oversaw Emory’s centennial celebration in 1936, and during World War II he stepped in as acting dean of the business school while continuing to serve as director of development.

Mizell’s greatest contribution to Emory, however, came through his friendship with Robert Woodruff. The papers of both men are filled with letters, memos, informal jottings, cards, and transcribed phone messages that reveal a close, confiding, and trusting mutual affection and respect. They also shared a sense of humor. In 1944, for instance, Woodruff received an invitation to the installation of Emory members into the Society of the Sigma Xi, a distinguished national scientific research society. Attached to the invitation in the archives is a note apparently typed by Woodruff’s secretary: “Mr. Mizell: What is all this about — I don’t know anything about it. R.W.W.” Mizell returned the note with his comment inscribed in his neat penmanship: “A learned group. An important affair. You ought to go. I am going if I can’t get out of it. RCM.”

It is this kind of advice, on matters large and small, that Woodruff came to depend on from Mizell. In his role of friend and adviser, Mizell may have had no more significant impact than in helping Woodruff see a way to improve the well-being of people in his city and his state. Mizell secured from Woodruff the initial gift of $50,000 that established the Winship Cancer Center, now the Winship Cancer Institute. This was the first of Woodruff’s great largess that would make the health sciences center one of the premier medical centers in the country. Mizell also traveled with Woodruff to New York City to recruit Elliott Scarborough as the first director of the Winship Center.Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 12.46.47 PM

A 1946 article about Woodruff in Fortune magazine included a photo of Mizell with the caption, “He [Woodruff] is advised on charity by Bob Mizell of Emory University.” It is no accident that when Woodruff chose to step down from the Emory Board of Trustees in 1948, the board elected Mizell to replace him the next year — the only administrator in the history of the university to serve simultaneously as a trustee.

Through two decades, Mizell sent Woodruff a steady and full stream of missives, reports, and journal articles about the potential and promise of Emory. His constant theme was that the South needed at least one great university, that Atlanta was the logical location for that university, and that Emory was the best bet to become it.

When Mizell died in 1955, at the age of sixty-six, still fully engaged in trying to build a great university, Emory sought an appropriate way to memorialize his monumental but relatively unsung legacy. The bridge leading from Fishburne Drive toward the Quadrangle was named in his memory, and Mr. Woodruff provided the funds to build a grand stairway for easier access from the bridge onto the Quadrangle. He said he wanted a memorial to Mizell to be something useful, in keeping with Mizell’s lifetime of useful service.

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The Mizell Stairway would disappear in the early 1990s to make way for the Michael C. Carlos Museum, but if you look to your right as you descend the stairs next to the museum, you will see the plaque that was preserved and set into the wall of the museum to continue the memory of this great Emory wise man.

Next installment: a man whose name once was misheard as “Waffle A. Jones.”

Gary Hauk

Emory and the Confederacy: Part Four

Emory dedicated Longstreet-Means Hall in 1955, during a time of phenomenal growth of the campus and the student body, and one year after women had been admitted as residential students of Emory College.

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Original Longstreet-Means Hall, circa 1955.

The previous year also had brought the US Supreme Court ruling in Brown v Board of Education, which prompted “massive resistance” against integration in the South. Throughout the South in the 1950s, schools, buildings, streets, and highways were named for Confederate leaders, ostensibly to honor Southern “heritage,” but implicitly to resist federal mandates for integration. For instance, the University of Texas in 1955 dedicated a dormitory in honor of William Stewart Simkins, who had taught at the UT law school for thirty years but also had founded a branch of the Ku Klux Klan in Florida. (In 2010 UT removed his name from the dormitory.) In 1956, one year after the dedication of Longstreet-Means, the Georgia legislature changed the design of the state flag to incorporate the Confederate battle emblem.

At Emory, according to historian Melissa F. Kean, the response to Brown was generally positive. Editorials and “person-on-the-street” interviews in the student newspaper suggested widespread belief that the Supreme Court had gotten it right, and the Emory Alumnus editor, Randy Fort, wrote favorably about integration while noting legal hurdles. Fort pointed hopefully to Emory’s relationship to the Methodist Church, whose 1952 Book of Discipline said, “There is no place in the Methodist Church for racial discrimination or racial segregation.” Nevertheless, the board of Emory was not in a hurry to integrate and was led by a chairman, Charles Howard Candler Sr., who was staunchly “traditional” in racial matters.

No evidence suggests that the Emory trustees were motivated by resistance to civil rights in naming two new dormitories for presidents A. B. Longstreet and Alexander Means. The resolution passed by the Executive Committee on January 20, 1955, refers to Longstreet as “a widely known writer and minister who was President of Emory College at Oxford from 1840 to 1948” and refers to Means as “a minister and perhaps best known for his research in the field of electricity, who was President of Emory College from 1854 to 1855.” No mention is made of their owning slaves or their role in the division of the Methodist Episcopal Church over slavery. Still, the timing is striking.

Three years after the opening of Longstreet-Means, the university built Thomas, Hopkins, and Smith Halls (“The Complex”), named for one Emory president (James Thomas) who served before and after the Civil War and for two (Isaac Hopkins and Luther M. Smith) who served after the war. Together with Longstreet-Means, these halls served as a way of connecting the Druid Hills campus to the historic Oxford home of Emory. Similarly, names of streets on the Druid Hills campus—Pierce Drive, Dowman Drive, Dickey Drive—honor Emory presidents who served while the College was in Oxford.

The current Longstreet-Means Hall was dedicated in 2010. Its name, like that of Turman Hall, was intended to tap into the nostalgia of alumni who had lived in the original halls bearing those names for many decades.

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New Longstreet-Means (2010), from Google Street View.

Longstreet himself remains a very human figure, deeply flawed according to our lights, yet also grandly generous to the institution he helped put on a sound footing, compassionate in caring for yellow fever victims during an epidemic at risk to his own life, and oddly willing to break the law for the benefit of slaves, as he apparently taught his slaves to read, in violation of state prohibitions.

Whatever his name signals to our generation, Emory students should know something about this complicated figure in their alma mater’s history.

Gary Hauk

Emory and the Confederacy, Part Three: The case of A. B. Longstreet

Generations of students have lived in Longstreet–Means Hall without knowing much, if anything, about the Emory presidents for whom the building was named—Augustus Baldwin Longstreet and Alexander Means.

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Augustus Baldwin Longstreet

 

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Alexander Means

 

Longstreet had practiced law and achieved fame and fortune as an author before entering the Methodist ministry and then becoming president of Emory (1840–48). Means was a minister and scientist as well as an educator. He served only one year as president (1854–55) because the trustees tired of his trying to juggle his job at Emory while teaching at Augusta Medical College and Atlanta Medical College. Both Means and Longstreet were slave owners and supporters of the Confederacy, but Longstreet was more prominent in defending the Old South.

A native of Augusta, Longstreet attended a private school in South Carolina, where he boarded in the home of John C. Calhoun, the state-rightist and apologist for slavery. Following Calhoun’s example, Longstreet attended Yale, then practiced law back in Augusta, eventually becoming a judge. He also bought the Augusta Chronicle, a newspaper that he renamed the State Rights Sentinel, which advocated political positions in harmony with Calhoun’s anti-Federalist views.

Longstreet’s lasting literary achievement, however, was a series of humorous stories about life in rural Georgia. He gathered some of these into a book, Georgia Scenes, which reviewers at the time universally praised and later critics viewed as a precursor to a genre perfected by Mark Twain. In 2000, Longstreet was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, largely on the basis of Georgia Scenes.

The book’s financial success provided Longstreet the wherewithal to enjoy a comfortable life. Shortly after its publication in 1835, however, he entered the Methodist ministry. He was serving a church in Augusta in 1839 when the board of trustees of Emory College offered him the college presidency. Longstreet accepted and served until resigning in 1848 to become the president of Centenary College in Louisiana and later president of the University of Mississippi and the University of South Carolina. During the Civil War, he returned to Oxford, Mississippi, where Union soldiers used his personal papers to build a fire and burn down his house.

When Longstreet stepped into the president’s office, Emory College had completed only three terms and was hanging tenuously to existence. A deep recession in 1837 had left the college nearly bankrupt. The trustees no doubt saw in Longstreet a person of intellect, energy, and renown who could lift the college out of its trouble. He traveled throughout the Southeast and as far as New York to garner support for the college. Longstreet also used personal funds to keep the college afloat. On leaving the presidency in 1848, he wrote off the $4,800 the college owed him in loans and back salary—about $149,000 in 2015. All of that totes up on the positive side of the Longstreet ledger.

On the debit side, Longstreet twice became embroiled — and not in a positive way, by our modern lights — in controversy over slavery during his presidency. The first instance grew out of the ownership of slaves by Bishop James O. Andrew, president of the Emory College board of trustees. When the national conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church met in New York City in 1844, abolitionist sentiment in the church prompted a month-long debate about Bishop Andrew’s fitness for office in view of his ownership of slaves. The church divided over the issue. Longstreet was thick in the middle of this debate, firmly on the side of Bishop Andrew and the slave-owning South.

Longstreet also became closely associated with slavery through A Voice from the South, a book he published in 1847 while president of Emory. Framed as ten letters from the state of Georgia to the state of Massachusetts, the volume is an extended argument not in defense of slavery but against the hypocrisy of the North. Longstreet points out that Georgia prohibited slavery until 1750, while New England profited handsomely from the slave trade. Now, with an industrial economy employing what Longstreet calls “white slaves,” the North has had a change of heart about slavery while not changing its heart about “negroes,” whom it excludes from Northern society in various ways. The book is a justification of increasingly popular Southern support for secession.

Remembering Longstreet at Emory, then, requires a balancing of accounts. On one side of the ledger lies his defense of a Southern way of life that we now see as reprehensible. On the other side lies his nearly decade-long work to help the struggling college to survive and, indeed, begin to flourish.

In the next post, more about the building named for Presidents Longstreet and Means.

Gary Hauk

Emory and the Confederacy, Part Two: The case of Justice Lamar

Many Emory law students today might be surprised to learn that their school was not always simply Emory Law School. When the trustees established the school in 1916, they named it the Lamar School of Law, after Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, Emory College Class of 1845.

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L. Q. C. Lamar, photographed by Matthew Brady, circa 1870–1880

The minutes of the trustees don’t reveal their reasons for tacking the Lamar name onto the new law school. At the time, he was Emory’s most famous graduate, and he would later merit a chapter in John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage. When he died, in 1893, Lamar was remembered as a great voice for reconciliation between the North and the South after the Civil War and during Reconstruction.

But Lamar also happened to have been a prominent Confederate official. Was the name a way of memorializing the Lost Cause? It’s hard to know; the record is silent.

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The law school at Emory as it appeared in about 1916. The building is now Carlos Hall, home of the Art History Department and part of the Michael C. Carlos Museum.

A native Georgian, Lamar married the daughter of Emory president Augustus Baldwin Longstreet and later moved to Oxford, Mississippi, to practice law and teach at the university. Elected to Congress before the Civil War, Lamar resigned in January 1861 as sentiment for secession grew. He helped draft the Mississippi ordinance of secession and raised an infantry regiment, earning himself the rank of colonel, although health problems prevented him from serving in the field. Appointed by Confederate president Jefferson Davis as a special envoy, Lamar sought to bring Russia, England, and France into the war on the side of the Confederacy. After the war, he resumed teaching law at Ole Miss and eventually returned to Congress as a senator. President Cleveland appointed him as secretary of the interior and, later, to the US Supreme Court, where Lamar served until his death.

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In 1916, the trustees no doubt thought it fitting to attach the name of this well-known jurist and alumnus to the new law school. By the 1980s, however, the Lamar name was being used less and less in the school catalogue and stationery, ostensibly because “Emory Law” was a better brand, but perhaps also from some embarrassment at the association of Lamar with slavery and the Confederacy. Although his return to Congress required him to swear an oath to defend the Constitution, including the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, he continued to believe in white supremacy. He opposed Reconstruction and helped to negotiate its end during the compromise that followed the controversial presidential election of 1876.

To be sure, Lamar also demonstrated apparent repentance and redemption. As a US Senator in 1874, he offered a stirring and famous eulogy after the death of Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, signalling an end to sectional recrimination. As Secretary of the Interior, he pursued a more progressive policy toward American Indians and sought to clean up the corrupt department. On the Supreme Court during the period of “Chinese exclusion,” Lamar joined in a unanimous opinion supporting the right of immigrants to habeas corpus and helped establish the authority of the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal.

The timing of the naming of the Lamar School of Law at Emory, however, raises questions. In 1916, white supremacy was resurgent throughout the nation, and the Ku Klux Klan had been reborn atop Stone Mountain just the previous year. Was the honoring of a former Confederate a way of ratifying that noxious philosophy? It is impossible to know from the trustee minutes.

The minutes do say that the trustees aimed to establish a law school that would be among the finest in the South and as good as any in the country. It’s at least as likely that the trustees were drawn to Lamar’s eminence as a renowned political figure with a reputation for fostering national interests over sectional interests. Thankfully, the removal of the name in the 1990s makes the question moot.

Next blog: another name associated with a mixed history.

Gary Hauk