The 1915 birth of a new university named Emory relied heavily on Methodist connections. The first board of trustees of the new university comprised members of the Educational Commission of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS), and a number of them continued as trustees when a new board was elected in 1916. Even before the university received its charter on January 25, 1915, the theology school of the university began operations in September 1914 at Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, built by the North Georgia Conference of the MECS in downtown Atlanta in 1910. Bishop Warren Candler, former president of Emory College, guided the design and completion of the edifice.
Not far from the church was Wesley Memorial Hospital, which had been established in 1905 by the North Georgia Conference with significant funding from Asa Candler; in 1922 this Methodist-founded hospital moved to the new Druid Hills campus of Emory to become Emory University Hospital. Along with the hospital came a nurses-training program, which later became the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. Another part of the health sciences center at Emory with links to Methodism is the Rollins School of Public Health, established with the support of a family of prominent Georgia Methodists whose patriarch, O. Wayne Rollins, designated his first gift to Emory to the Candler School of Theology.
After the move of Emory College to Atlanta in 1919 to join the professional and graduate schools already growing on the Druid Hills campus, Emory continued its entwinement with Southern Methodism through the first half of the twentieth century. The first three presidents of the university—Harvey Cox, Goodrich White, and Walter Martin—all had roles in local, state, and national Methodism, while two deans of the theology school—William R. Cannon and Mack B . Stokes—were elected bishops of the United Methodist Church in 1968. The first three chairs of the university board of trustees—Asa Candler Sr., Charles Howard Candler Sr., and Henry Bowden Sr., who served for a combined sixty-four years, from 1915 to 1979—all were prominent Methodist lay leaders in Atlanta.
Methodist faculty members in the theology school played critical roles in debates over the reunion of the southern and northern branches of Methodism in 1939 and later played a still more important role in helping the university move toward integration in the late 1950s and early 1960s. One of the arguments in favor of opening the doors to African American students was that the 1952 Discipline of the Methodist Church stated, “There is no place in the Methodist Church for racial discrimination or racial segregation.”
Founded by Methodists who were keen on educating their children through a Methodist lens, Emory nevertheless has always been open to believers (and nonbelievers) of every stripe. Presbyterians and Baptists, while scarce, enrolled in the college during the nineteenth century. Jewish students began enrolling in the late nineteenth century and became a growing presence from the early twentieth century on, after Bishop Candler—the university chancellor from 1915 to 1920—excused the children of Orthodox Rabbi Tobias Geffen from Saturday classes.
In time, Roman Catholics and, later, adherents of the world’s other major religions would come to outnumber Methodists among the student body. The openness of the campus to this religious multiplicity reflects the Methodist tradition of seeking unity within diversity.
John Wesley himself expressed this attitude. He recognized his own fallibility and sought to learn how other traditions practiced holy living, even as he held fast to his belief in the truth of Christianity. In a sermon titled “A Caution Against Bigotry,” Wesley encouraged his followers to support whatever activity advances the love of God in the world, even if that activity is the work of other sects or other religions.
This article of the Methodist creed was tested at Emory in 1997 when controversy erupted over the question whether same-sex commitment ceremonies could be performed in Emory chapels. An employee of Oxford College had requested use of the chapel on that campus for a commitment ceremony with his male partner. The dean of Oxford College initially granted permission but later rescinded it over concerns about the university’s relationship with the church. The Book of Discipline prohibits use of United Methodist churches for same-sex ceremonies and prohibits United Methodist clergy from performing them.
After extensive discussion, the university adopted a chapel policy that relied on Emory’s nondiscrimination policy but also called on the Methodist tradition of respecting the practices of other religions—including the right to perform ceremonies that might not comport with the United Methodist Discipline. This chapel-use policy was approved by the board of trustees, including all of the United Methodist bishops on the board.
Once nurtured in part by a somewhat Methodist-heavy hierarchy in the university administration, over the past quarter of a century the relationship between Emory and the church has lost much of that unofficial connection—what Russell Richey, former dean of the theology school, has called “embodied presence and unified leadership.” Today the relationship of church and university depends largely on the theology dean, development officers, chaplains, counselors, and other administrators whose work in various niches of the university overlaps with the interests of the church. (This month, Emory President Claire Sterk appointed the first non-Methodist chaplain in the university’s history, the Rev. Gregory W. McGonigle, a Unitarian-Universalist minister.)
Owing to the university’s charter relationship to the Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ) of the United Methodist Church, senior leaders of the university report on the status of the university at each quadrennial jurisdictional conference in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. In addition, Emory periodically hosts the SEJ Committee on Coordination and Accountability. Emory thus enjoys a healthy and collaborative relationship with the United Methodist Church.
The Emory University charter and bylaws do not mandate Methodist representation on the Emory University Board of Trustees. By custom, however, a number of the positions on the board are filled by United Methodist bishops, including the resident bishop of the North Georgia Episcopal Area. Moreover, one of the vice chairs of the trustees traditionally has been the senior bishop on the board.
As confirmed by the Georgia Nonprofit Corporation Code, regulations of the Internal Revenue Service, and historic activity of the Emory University Board of Trustees, the university is a separate and self-sustaining corporation not controlled by the United Methodist Church. Nevertheless, the university’s work and self-understanding continue to respect a traditional relationship between the church and the university.
Different institutions with different missions, the church and the university collaborate and inform each other as independent entities. Their shared history suggests that the church has learned as much from the instruction and example of Emory as Emory has benefited from the church, each institution balancing and nourishing the life and commitments of the other.
This week the United Methodist Church Southeastern Jurisdiction Historical Society will meet at Emory, so it seems appropriate to reflect on the long history between Emory and Methodism. Both the Pitts Theology Library and the Stuart A. Rose Library at Emory are storehouses of archives and books that fill out the story. This post is the first of two; look for the second one tomorrow.
The relationship of Emory University to the United Methodist Church and to Methodism generally often surprises casual observers and visitors, even Emory students and faculty members. Emory’s Methodist heritage has no prominence on university websites or in official publications. The make-up of both the student body and the faculty has long demonstrated a mutually respectful mix of the world’s great religions as well as the greater secularization of Western society.
Yet the historic connection between Emory and Methodism is long, deep, and complicated. It is somewhat like that of a dear, benevolent aunt and a headstrong, independent niece who is embracing her maturity and setting her direction in life.
Once a powerful influence in the daily life of Emory College, the church has become a more distant presence while maintaining a proud interest in Emory; the university in turn has continued to acknowledge the church’s legacy while recognizing that any university worth its charter must adapt to changes in society and to increased knowledge.
Emory University has its roots in the founding of Emory College by the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) in 1836. Half a century had passed since the formal organization of Methodism in the United States at a conference in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1784.
Methodism provided a solid foundation and rationale for a new college. John Wesley—an Anglican priest and founder of the Methodist movement in England—was above all things an educator of great energy and vision. He built schools, started publishing enterprises, wrote prolifically, and preached and taught tirelessly, all with the aim of transforming English society by the education of hearts as well as minds, or what he called “religion and reason joined.”
Wesley’s brother Charles, also a leader of the movement, phrased the aim somewhat differently as the union of “knowledge and vital piety, truth and love.” At Emory today, this heritage translates into “a legacy of heart and mind,” as Emory has long spoken of educating the whole person, body, mind, and spirit.
In the American context, the Methodist movement planted seeds of social uplift not only through the establishment of churches and Sunday schools but also in the founding of academies and colleges. The founders of the Methodist church in America had heard themselves addressed by a gospel promise that the truth would set them free, and in their minds freedom, education, and religious faith all relied on each other to some extent. They established dozens of academies and colleges throughout America in the nineteenth century; in Georgia alone, these included not only Emory College but also Wesleyan College, LaGrange College, Andrew College, Young Harris College, Paine College, and Reinhardt University.
Emory College’s namesake, Bishop John Emory, from Maryland, had played a role in founding Wesleyan University, in Connecticut, and had chaired the board of trustees of Dickinson College, in Pennsylvania, until his death in 1835. Set within a new town laid out specifically to house the new college—a town called Oxford to honor the university that had educated the Wesleys—Emory quickly became a center of intellectual and spiritual life among Methodists in the South.
From the beginning, the faculty, presidents, and trustees of the college demonstrated a conviction that faith and science were not at odds, and that education should embrace all of human experience. In their view, a traditional education heavy in Latin, Greek, and the Bible should expand to include modern languages and up-to-date understanding of the natural sciences.
Tragically, within a decade of the founding of the college, some of its leaders figured prominently in the division of national Methodism over the issue of slavery, which John Wesley had abhorred, and which the American movement initially had prohibited in its Book of Discipline. The details of this split are told in many chronicles of Emory history, but the gist of the matter is that leaders of the college, defending the institution of slavery, helped lead the Methodist churches of the South to secede from the MEC and create the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS). This rift would not be healed until 1939.
In the meantime, the Southern Methodist church came to view Emory College as the institution where its most talented clergy should serve as faculty members and presidents. Many of the faculty and nearly all of the twelve presidents of Emory College until 1915 were Methodist clergy, and four of those presidents were elected to serve as bishops.
The church also viewed Emory as the place where future leaders of society would mature, and Methodist alumni of Emory College in many respects justified this expectation. They included, before 1915, the most renowned Methodist missionary to China, a future government minister of Korea, a US Supreme Court justice, a future vice president of the United States, the founding president of Georgia Tech, many presidents of other colleges and universities, the founders of Paine College for freed African Americans, the first state superintendent of education in Georgia, and countless lawyers, doctors, clergy, and business leaders who returned to their home towns from Oxford to lead their communities.
The establishment of the university in 1915 changed the mission of Emory to a significant degree, but not the institution’s Methodist identity. The sole impetus for the founding of Emory University in Atlanta was the role of the church in education. The MECS had created Central University in Nashville shortly after the Civil War. A gift of a million dollars to the university from Cornelius Vanderbilt, in 1873, led to the renaming of the institution in his honor. Over the next four decades, a growing dispute over policy decisions and the locus of authority led the church to part ways with Vanderbilt University and create a new university — Emory.
Next: Methodism in the life of Emory since 1915.
Stanford professor David F. Labaree, a social historian who writes about education, has published a short and engaging book about American higher education. He sums up his take on the industry with the book’s title–“A Perfect Mess” (University of Chicago Press, 2017). His thesis is that the rise of American colleges and universities to a position of dominance in the ranks of the best in the world could not have been predicted in the nineteenth century. True, by 1880 the US had five times as many higher ed institutions as all of Europe, and Ohio alone had three times as many as the UK. Yet these American colleges held about as much promise of triumph as a go-cart at the Indy 500.
Unsurprisingly, the story of most American colleges through the nineteenth century sounds like much of the history of Emory back then. Scores of small colleges founded by religious denominations were isolated in rural areas or tiny towns. Presidents and faculty members wrestled with a constant shortage of funds and relatively small enrollments. The faculty often were clergy first and scholars second, many of them having attained little more than a BA degree and rarely a doctorate. As many as half the students failed to graduate, not necessarily for want of brains but for the need to earn a living as farmers, merchants, or even professionals in work that required less formal education in those days (law and ministry especially).
The location of Emory College in little Oxford, Georgia, and then the establishment of Emory University in Atlanta underscore two observations Labaree makes.
The first observation is that the founders of the liberal arts colleges in the nineteenth century often chose rural areas or small towns for their schools out of a belief in republican (small r) values–the integrity and individualism of the small landholder, the family-like ethos of community, the nurturing of civic and religious habits, and a suspicion of the corrupting influence of commercial centers in large cities.
All of these principles seem to have motivated the founders of Emory College, who not only set their college two miles from the center of Covington but also created a new town as a buffer against intruding vices. (Initially each residential lot in the college’s town, Oxford, was offered on a lease of 999 years, with stipulations that the lease would be forfeit if the property were used for games of chance or selling of “spirits.”)
Labaree’s second observation, though, points to a curious and often-unremarked-upon fact about the location of Emory University. He comments that many nineteenth-century colleges were founded by civic boosters who wanted to increase the value of their property. “Settle in East Podunk–we have a college!” I think something of that strategy was at work in Asa Candler in 1914.
By 1914, when the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was looking for the site for a new university, wariness of city vices still persisted among many Emory supporters, and they made a strong case for keeping the college at Oxford while allowing the university’s new professional schools to take advantage of access to lawyers, doctors, business leaders, and clergy in the city. In the end, the trustees thought it made more sense to have the college and the professional schools on the same campus in Atlanta.
Curiously, though, that campus in Atlanta began with seventy-five acres that Asa Candler carved out of his suburban development in Druid Hills. What better way to ensure the marketability of his massive real estate plan than to carve a bucolic university campus from the woods and fields right next door?
This is not to minimize Candler’s genuine philanthropic impulse or his indispensable largess. But his biographers have always noted that his deep and extended civic engagement with Atlanta, as well as his commitments to church and university, never diminished or got in the way of his always-functioning business savvy. He was ever, in the apt title of Kathryn W. Kemp’s book about him, “God’s capitalist.”
Al Dowdle III, a research administrator in the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory, enjoys collecting old postcards, and some years ago he sent me scans of a few that he had come across here and there. Recently he sent me some more that show “dear old Emory” as it was fifty, eighty, or more than a hundred years ago. With his permission, I’m sharing them below with his comments and questions and my responses.
Al says: This is a real photo card, meaning the postcard was individually printed from a photographed image onto this photo paper and developed. From the stamp box, this paper was made between 1910 and 1930. Do you think this is the bridge behind the Carlos facing away from the quad?
Me: Yes, this is a view of the bridge now known as the Mizell Bridge, after Robert C. Mizell (1911C), long-time university administrator. In this photo, the photographer is standing near where visitors now enter the Carlos Museum from the ravine side of the building. The photo is rare because it shows not only the Mizell bridge but also, in the distance to the right, a bridge that no longer exists. The original drive into the campus crossed two bridges – one near where the Church School Building now stands, and the second behind the museum (Mizell). You can see a close-up of that first bridge on my blog post of July 27, 2017. In the July post, the photographer is looking toward where the Rich Building now stands.
Al: This is also a real photo card. Again dated from 1910 to 1930. The stamp was produced from 1908 to 1920. I think the postmark is 1923 or ’28? Where was this building? My mom, who was at Emory in the very early 1950s, does not remember it.
Me: This is the chapel in the Old Theology Building (formerly the home of Pitts Theology Library). The building opened in 1916 as one of the first two academic buildings on the campus, across from its twin, the Law School (now Michael C. Carlos Hall). When the theology school acquired the Hartford Collection in 1975, the entire building was converted to library space, and this chapel was deconsecrated and filled with shelves. You can read more about this space in my blog post of November 8.
Al: I believe this is a white-border card dating between 1915 and 1930. Now that I look at it again, I think I have the same image in color. I will have to look.
Me: This photo certainly was taken after 1926, when Candler Library, facing the viewer, was opened.
Al: I love this card. It again is a real photo card. The paper was manufactured starting in 1950. The blue lettering on the left says “swimming pool.” I wonder what game the writer marched into wearing blue jeans?
Me: Good question about the game; I don’t know what it might have been. It sounds like Karen was living on campus, in which case she may have been one of the first female students to reside on campus. That would date this postcard to after 1953. Her mother, Mrs. John E. Buhler, must have been the wife of the dean of the dental school at the time, Dr. John E. Buhler, who served from 1948 to 1961. (His deanship was marked by anti-Semitism in the school, a story told here.)
Al: I love the cars in this one. Post mark of 1971.
Me: They don’t make ‘em like that anymore! Wesley Woods was built by the Methodist Church in 1954 on a sixty-acre campus next to Emory and has been a partner of Emory’s ever since. In 1998 the geriatric hospital there–the first of its kind in the nation–became part of Emory Healthcare.
Al: “Lovely Glenn Memorial…” in 1955. Are those electric trolley wires in the top center of the photo?
Me: Yes, those are streetcar wires. The streetcar stopped running past there in 1948 or so, and the car in the photo looks about that vintage, so the photo may be a decade old.
Al: I know this is not technically Emory, but I also have read the Atlanta College of Physicians and Surgeons eventually became part of Emory SOM. Postmark 1909. Does this look anything like the new SOM classrooms? I wish I could read all of the message on the back where the sender describes what they did in each room. “#3 is where I look at frogs.” The last line mentions a Halloween party with a “girl as sweet as a pickle.”
Me: No, the latest SOM labs are a bit more up to date, thankfully. Looks to me like the card says “Ga. girls sweet as pickle.” I always thought they were sweet as peaches. It’s great to find these messages on the cards, though. Makes me wonder who will be reading my postcards a hundred years from now.
It bears a name at once both celestial and terrestrial, evoking an image of Jack’s beanstalk climbing from field to clouds, a green rope winding its way from Shakespeare’s “sullen earth” to farthest heaven, a stem of vegetation reaching to the night sky—starvine. And for the shuttle road that links Emory’s residential Clairmont Campus with the main campus—across a rainbow-arch bridge over the CSX railroad tracks—it lends an equally suggestive name: Starvine Way, perhaps a winding starlit path.
This obscure plant, the starvine, hides throughout Lullwater, the 150-acre preserve that also harbors the home of the Emory president. Starvine sprouts in other parts of the Emory Forest as well, a botanical treasure whose threatened existence in the Southeast, its only native habitat, makes Emory perhaps its most important home anywhere in the world.
I first became acquainted with starvine as a name on a list of plants indigenous to Lullwater. When the University was building the shuttle road in 1999–2000, it needed a name. Because the road hugs the edge of Lullwater, I searched the list of indigenous plants included in the report on Emory forests prepared in 1986 by biology professors Bill Murdy and Eloise Carter. And there was starvine–a poet’s name for a threatened species.
Also called bay starvine or magnolia starvine, its scientific name is schisandra glabra. Emory environmentalists have taken to calling it American starvine, to distinguish it further from its more prolific Asian cousin, Chinese starvine (schisandra chinensis). Slender tendrils with widely spaced, shiny green leaves trail along the ground or stretch up in little palm-tree-like stalks or twine themselves around slender saplings to pull themselves up toward the sun.
Born in leaf litter, the vine reaches for the light and sometimes shoots up twenty feet or more toward the tops of its host trees, which include the rare broad-leaved or umbrella magnolias (not the non-indigenous Southern magnolia, which was imported to these parts). The vine’s red berries open, when ripe, into a five-petal flower with a rounded star shape.
Around the starvine grow other wild medicinal celebrities: the bane berry bush with its small fruits that look like porcelain doll’s eyes (a poisonous plant, as the name suggests, except in very small amounts brewed in tea for headaches, coughs, and colds); sweet shrub (useful for nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea); spice bush (for colds, dysentery, intestinal parasites); and, perhaps most striking, wild ginseng (for higher mental and physical energy and reduction of stress).
These plants, growing on the north-facing slopes of Emory’s protected forested acres, make the woods of the campus places where idle strolling leads to scientific speculation. Carl Brown, an adjunct faculty member in Environmental Sciences, has taught me almost everything I know about starvine. Carl and others have been working with descendants of the Creek Indians who once inhabited this area to determine whether Native Americans used starvine for healing.
Kirk Hines, a horticultural therapist at the A.G. Rhodes Home on Emory’s Wesley Woods campus, has engaged residents of the home in planting seeds and cultivating an experimental starvine “vineyard” as one of the therapeutic activities he directs.
It may be time for the little plant to have its day in the sun — but it really prefers filtered light, with dappled shade. Halfway between earth and heaven.
For more about the cultivation and study of starvine at Emory, check out the “Emory Report” article by Kimber Williams.
One delight of my job is the invitations I receive to speak to various gatherings about days of yore at Emory. Such a gathering occurred during Homecoming last month as the Emory College Class of 1977 convened in Ackerman Hall of the Carlos Museum to renew friendships and swap reminiscences.
Emory Morsberger, who had served as Student Government Association president during the class’s senior year, recalled the astonishing fact that he won the Domino’s Pizza–sponsored pizza-eating and beer-drinking contest. What was astonishing about the event was not who won it—the identity of the victor is really immaterial—but that the university sanctioned the event at all. The drinking age in those years was 18. But still . . . Bishop Candler surely was turning in his grave.
Charged with the task of commemorating the class’s era in seven minutes or less, I went to work in Rose Library digging through the Campus yearbook, the Emory Wheel, and other sources, then penned a bit of doggerel to read aloud. For those readers who have memories of the era, some of the lines may ring with a note of familiarity.
Epic of the Class of Seventy-Seven
It was back in the autumn of seventy-three
When the Watergate scandal was raging,
And the gas lines were long because OPEC was strong,
And your parents were all middle-aging.
Pharrell Williams and FedEx were born in that year,
Hip hop launched a new genre of music.
On the other hand, Bruce Lee, Picasso, Jim Croce
All fell to the Grim Reaper’s choosing.
By the time that year ended King beat Bobby Riggs,
Nixon told the press “I’m not a crook.”
And the people before me—alumni/alumnae—
Had taken to life with a book.
It was then, as I’m sure you remember quite well,
That you came in your tie-dyes and blue jeans
To this old Druid Hills with its woodlands and rills,
Trading family and home scenes for new scenes.
And the fall of your first year at Emory was wild:
A Dooley’s Den coffee house opened;
Yom Kippur brought a war; gas prices still soared,
But at Horton’s, The Grille kept you copin’.
The dean who made Wonderful Wednesday resigned,
While the president looked toward retirement.
He enjoyed his pipe smoke while the students would toke,
Though today’s smoke-free campus would fire him.
In the fall of your second year traipsing the Quad
You could hear a quite famous exhorter,
As the great Margaret Mead told the students, “Take heed—
Your tuition’s nine-fifty a quarter!”
There was fear that old Emory was just for the rich,
While financial aid needed some boosting.
Meanwhile AMUC, alas, didn’t have enough class
As a place to support student roosting.
Through the culture at large there pervaded a sense
Of bleak doom that the era was rousing.
Yet if all went to pot, the doom simply would not
Put a damper on campus carousing.
By the time you were juniors a theme had emerged
In the pages of Campus, the yearbook:
Every party and dance seemed to offer a chance
For each student to have their own beer truck.
As September of seventy-six rolled around
You were wrestling with things existential:
Should you plan on more school, find a job, or play cool?
Meanwhile questions arose presidential.
For the nation was voting that fall to decide
Between Ford and our own peanut farmer.
While much closer to home, Sandy Atwood made known
He would take off his president’s armor.
As the board of trustees got a search underway
For the seventeenth leader of Emory,
Lots of other good things came on stage from the wings—
Let me name some and freshen your memory.
In November Theology remade its home
As a library, painting it pink.
Although students were pissed for the chapel they missed,
They soon left off from causing a stink.
In curricular matters, ten years of hard work
By a Methodist chaplain named Boozer,
Endowed a chair newish for studies quite Jewish.
David Blumenthal, hats off to you, sir.
At the business school two million dollars was tabbed
For enhancing the school’s future picture.
Soon a three-story stack was tacked onto the back,
And the Rich Building thus became—richer!
On the student front, life often felt like a grind,
Or so said a Wheel editorial.
The inadequate gym, dormitories quite dim,
And the ancient Alumni Memorial
Raised the question if twenty-five years farther on
There would be any student activities.
Surely something must change to address the full range
Of students’ creative proclivities.
As the search for a president grew more intense,
Unfortunately so did the winter.
That year it was colder than Aspen or Boulder—
Even Yankees at Emory felt bitter.
Well, the spring soon arrived, and the trustees announced,
After being with questions just peppered,
That theology deans were the stuff of their dreams—
They chose Laney to be Emory’s shepherd.
As you marched on the Quad in regalia in June
To receive your new-minted diplomas,
You may have felt shaken, as if now awakin’
From four-year-long undergrad comas.
For the world now before you was risky and cold
When compared to your warm alma mater.
But you went forth with grace and a smile on your face
Marked by Emory’s hard-won imprimatur.
Forty years have flown by in the blink of an eye.
Here you are for a wondrous regathering.
I have talked long enough about lots of old stuff
And should leave you to drinking and chattering.
But before I sign off, let me offer a toast
To the spirit with which you have leavened
Your Old Emory dear. Let us give a loud cheer
To the Class of Seventy-Seven!
Gary S. Hauk
Read to the reunion of the Emory College Class of 1977
At Carlos Reception Hall, October 21, 2017
Emory then and now 1977 2017
Fall enrollment (total) 7,572 15,252
Varsity athletic teams 8 18
Full-time faculty 904 3,000+
Degrees conferred 2,010 4,721
Total operating budget $136.3 million $4.8 billion
Sponsored research $25.7M $628M
Endowment market value approx. $165M $6.5B (8/31/16)
I was talking with Emory College junior Karan Malhotra about nineteenth-century secret societies when he suddenly asked, “What do you know about Archie Drake?”
Not a thing, I said. Who was he?
“There’s a sword in the alumni house with his name on it. His full name was Archelaus A. Drake.”
Hmmm. That name rang a bell, but I couldn’t place it. An antebellum Emory student? A faculty member who served briefly before disappearing from the school and its history? Not sure. But a sword in the alumni house? I’d never heard of it.
“I could show you the sword. Do you have time?”
We walked from the coffee shop to my car in the Oxford Road deck and drove to the alumni house, where we rousted Tom Brodnax, resident curator, and climbed the stairs to the Schley Library.
Karan walked to a far window, reached behind the sideboard there, and pulled out a sure-enough sword in a tarnished but emblem-adorned scabbard.
The thing cries out chivalry, knighthood, crusades. The pommel on the hilt is a knight’s helmet, while figures of knights adorn the scabbard and hand guard. The blade of the sword is engraved from guard to tip with scenes of knights on horseback, desert oases, and something resembling the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.
A scouring of available alumni records back to the Civil War turned up no Archelaus A. Drake, but faithful Google found two: Archelaus Augustus Drake, who lived from 1857 to 1929 and is buried in Texas; and Archelaus Augustus Drake III, son of Archelaus A. Drake Jr. and a member of the Citadel class of 1945. He enlisted in 1943 and and died in combat in Europe the next year. His nickname was Archie.
A search of the Emory website also turned up Archie Drake. His friend William Matheson, who attended Emory one year in the 1940s and for whom the magnificent reading room in the Candler Library is named, created the Archie Drake Prize in memory of his childhood friend in Macon. The prize in Archie’s name recognizes an Emory College junior who has demonstrated academic growth and leadership potential.
An engraving on the blade near the hilt has the logo of Pettibone Bros. of Cincinnati, Ohio, which apparently was the premier maker of Masonic and other regalia in the 1890s to 1920s. So this likely was a Masonic sword owned by the first Archeleaus Drake, Archie’s grandfather. The description of a sword up for auction online fits almost exactly the description of the Drake sword, from the reclining knight and red cross on the scabbard down to the Masonic emblem near the embossed name on the blade.
But the provenance of the sword is a mystery. It probably was passed from grandfather to son to grandson and may have come to Mr. Matheson after his friend’s death. It’s possible he then donated it while creating the Drake Prize.
Time for more detective work.
In 1985, Emory added a John Portman-designed wing to the west façade of the 1927-vintage dining hall and auditorium, which stood on one of the highest points of the campus. An earlier addition to the east side of the dining hall, dedicated in 1950, had led to the renaming of the structure as the Alumni Memorial University Center, or AMUC. Rechristened at its dedication in 1986 as the Dobbs University Center, in honor of its principal donor, R. Howard Dobbs Jr. 27C, the entirety of the new student-life center quickly gained the nickname of the DUC.
The year after the DUC opened, Emory observed its sesquicentennial, and part of the celebration of that milestone included the burial of a time capsule near the DUC. I commented on this time capsule in an earlier blog. Plans call for the time capsule to be opened in 2036, at the bicentennial, but no one said anything about digging it up before then.
With the demolition of the DUC this summer to make way for a new Campus Life Center (CLC)–which you can see in a drone’s-eye fly-through–construction crews had to dig up the time capsule and set it aside for reburial later.
Al Herzog, the Emory manager overseeing demolition of the DUC and construction of the CLC, sent me this photo of the time capsule last week to reassure me that it is safely in the hands of folks in Campus Life.
Al also sent an aerial view of the construction site, which shows the vacant area where the DUC once stood. The time capsule had been buried near the large bush in the lower right corner. In the back stands the old AMUC, with its 1927 façade covered by plywood for protection against construction debris. Plans call for restoring the AMUC as a stand-alone building.
This week (April 24–29) Emory Law School is ratcheting up the year-long observance of its centennial with a weekend celebration. The school opened its doors as the Lamar School of Law on September 27, 1916, bearing the name of Emory’s then-most-illustrious alumnus, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (see my post from January 1, 2016). On Saturday, the 29th, the school will honor another eminent alumnus, former US Senator Sam Nunn 62L. Former President Bill Clinton will speak at the gala dinner.
Happily, history will be remembered. The school has invited me to give a talk to alumni on Saturday afternoon, and the challenge has been finding ways to limit the storytelling to 40 minutes. There’s much to tell.
For instance, the decade of the 1930s brought to Emory Law women and men who would go on to have a profound impact on Emory, Atlanta, Georgia, and the nation. It was a decade of stars: Patricia Collins Butler 31L, Henry Bowden 32C 34L, Boisfeuillet Jones 34C 37L, Randolph Thrower 34C 36L, Ben Johnson Jr. 36C 40L.
Pat Butler was one of the 175 makers of Emory history celebrated during the University’s 175th anniversary in 2011. When she died at age 101, in 2009, she had left a trailblazing legacy. Although she graduated second in her class in 1931, she struggled to find a job in Atlanta but was hired to establish the antitrust library for the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. She went on to work for sixteen attorneys general, and with the case Johnson v. Shaughnessy, in 1949, she became one of the first female lawyers to argue before the Supreme Court. Together with Chief Justice Warren Burger she founded the Supreme Court Historical Society in 1974. May I add that while Emory law women were succeeding in the world, it would take Harvard Law until 1950 before it admitted its first woman, by which time Emory had graduated 25.
I can’t help wondering whether the social dislocations of the 1930s shaped the way these women and men viewed society and their responsibility for making it more just, more fair for everyone.
Just one more story for today—that of Randolph Thrower 34C 36L.
If you want to hark back to the politics of a different era, consider the life and legacy of Randolph Thrower. He was a Republican in a Deep South state that had been run by Dixie Democrats since the end of Reconstruction. To get a sense of how things have changed, note that as a Republican he drafted the 1969 Tax Reform Act that raised taxes on capital gains, and he was a founding member of the Lawyers Group for Civil Rights Under Law, an organization launched by President Kennedy to provide legal support for the civil rights movement. In 1987 he was a member of the ABA’s first Commission on the Status of Women in the Profession, which was chaired by an Arkansas lawyer named Hillary Clinton—who, appropriately, was the first woman to deliver the Thrower Lecture, endowed at the law school in his honor. The enduring mark of his integrity and commitment to the rule of law, however, was his being fired as IRS Commissioner in 1971 by Richard Nixon for refusing to use the IRS as a weapon against Nixon’s enemies.
Like Pat Butler, Randolph Thrower had surpassed his own century mark by the time he died peacefully at home in 2014. Centennials abound!
Gary S. Hauk 91PhD