Tuesday, September 27, 2011

27 September 1881: A Chapel for Lucy Cobb Institute

On this day in 1881, the
Southern Banner told of the path forward to building a chapel at the girls' school, Lucy Cobb Institute:

Nellie Stovall wrote her letter as part of a class exercise where all the students wrote letters to philanthropists in hopes of raising money to build the chapel. She chose New York banker and philanthropist George Ingraham Seney, who had given $130,000 to Emory University just a few years earlier. 

As luck would have it, her letter arrived at Seney's desk while Reverend T. S. Burke of Macon was visiting, and extolled the reputation of the Institute, thus encouraging Mr. Seney to reply to Miss Stovall with the proposition to donate $5,000 if the friends of the school could raise $4,000 "before the expiration of this year, 1881." 

The funds were raised, and Mr. Seney later donated another $5,000 to the chapel project. The design, "an octagonal building with an exquisite Victorian interior," was created by architect W. W. Thomas, who would later build the  Thomas-Carithurs House, aka "The Wedding Cake House," at the corner of Milledge Avenue and Baxter Street. The cornerstone for the chapel was laid on Mr. Seney's birthday, May 12th, in 1882. 

Seney-Stovall chapel was dedicated in 1885, by which time Mr. Seney had lost his fortune to the Panic of 1884 and was in the process of selling off his assets, including his beloved art collection, to pay his creditors. One of his largest philanthropic projects, a Methodist hospital in Brooklyn, New York, was temporarily put on hold until 1887 when more funds could be raised to complete it. Though the New York press was somewhat hostile to Mr. Seney's predicament, in Athens, he remained an honored patron of education. He expressed his thanks after an 1884 visit to Athens in a letter to Nellie Stovall, telling her,

I came into Georgia somewhat depressed & reserved, but every where have met such uniform kindness and delicate attention that the culmination at Athens quite overwhelm(ed) me. 
Suffice it to say that Athens places a glorious crown to the steady and magnificent ovation that has accompanied me since my entrance within your borders.
Georgia has vastly exceeded my anticipation in all that goes to make the elements of a happy home.
The Lucy Cobb Institute kept in contact with their patron, observing his birthday and sending Christmas packages each year of cakes, magnolias, holly, and smilax. In later years, he would also donate a pipe organ, eighteen paintings from his reconstituted art collection, and provide scholarships to worthy students. 

Miss Stovall kept in touch with Mr. Seney, and after writing to him to tell him of her engagement to Billups Phinizy, he responded that,

My recollections of Georgia and especially of Athens are of the most pleasant nature. Although my acquaintance is so limited, I have become very attached to the people of Athens to our lovely "Lucy Cobb." I don't know whether Georgia girls are brighter than average, or wither the instructors at Lucy Cobb are more competent, but certain it is a more sasisfactory exhibition of scholarship I have never witnessed than that at your Alma Mater.
The Seney family attended the wedding of Nellie Stovall and Billups Phinizy in April, 1886, as guests of the Lucy Cobb Institute. George Seney later rebuilt his fortune by investing in railroads, and died in 1893.

The Seney-Stovall chapel was somewhat abandoned after World War II, and was acquired by the University of Georgia in 1953. In 1961 it was saved from being razed, but a partial restoration was not completed until 1982. A group of alumnae and friends of Lucy Cobb raised the rest of the funds required, and a full restoration was completed in 1997. 

The chapel is now used by local theater and choral groups for performances, and as a venue for weddings as well.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

23 September 1884: Eugene Talmadge Is Born

On this day in 1884, Eugene Talmadge was born outside Forsyth, Georgia, to Carrie and Thomas Talmadge. Fifty-six years later, he would ignite the largest crisis in the University of Georgia's history, causing UGA and all other state-funded schools to lose their accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and dooming his re-election chances in 1942.

The controversy began in the summer of 1941 when Governor Talmadge, then a member of the recently created Board of Regents, acted to remove UGA's Dean of Education, Walter Dewey Cocking, on the charge that Cocking had advocated integrating a demonstration school near the University campus. Though the assertion had originally been made by a disgruntled former teacher without any evidence, and a ally of Talmadge on the Board had told him that the allegation had no merit, the Board voted to remove Dr. Cocking from his post. 

When the popular and respected UGA President Harmon Caldwell heard what had occurred, he sent word to the Board that he would resign if Dr. Cocking was fired without a chance to address the charges. The Board reconvened and conducted a four-hour inquiry that included testimony on behalf of Dr. Cocking from 16 College of Education faculty, President Caldwell, and the Presidents of Emory University and Agnes Scott College. The only person to testify against Dr. Cocking was the fired staff member, and the Board voted to rehire.

Incensed at this result, Governor Talmadge insisted that by fall quarter, Dr. Cocking would no longer be in office. He initiated changes to the Board of Regents in order to appoint more people who would vote for removal, and any other changes he wanted to make to the system. He asked for the resignation of three members, but was refused, and even altered the papers of appointment for one member to show the regent's term ending in 1941 rather than 1947, calling it a clerical error. His next vote to remove Dr. Cocking, with his newly constituted Board, passed 10-5.

At the same time, Talmadge was using Dr. Cocking's relationship with the Julius Rosenwald Fund, which had a large program of building schools for rural African-American students, to prove that Dr. Cocking was untrustworthy, and insisted that communist conspiracies meant that all state-funded libraries must remove any books or periodicals that he deemed as advocating "social equality" or communism . He also began removing more people from their positions in the University System, insisting that the schools be rid of "foreigners," which to Governor Talmadge meant that they were not from Georgia. 

On campus, tempers ran high. In October, the Southern University Conference had dropped the University of Georgia from its rolls, which caused outrage on campus. Students burned effigies of Talmadge on at least three separate occasions, and protested in Atlanta with motorcades 120 cars long. 

On October 31, 1942, the Red and Black published 16,000 copies of a state-wide edition distributed to all state colleges, alumni, and members of the General Assembly. The special edition included editorials, letters, articles about protest plans and solidarity pledges from private schools such as Emory and Mercer, poems about the situation, and excerpts of articles taken from state newspapers, the New York Times, Life magazine, and Time magazine. A front page editorial called for "all honest people of the state to cooperate with the students in the University System to put their power against the present 'dictator,'" and called those who did Governor Talmadge's bidding "a bunch of stooges," warning that "A tyrant always loses in the end and the small mice that follow the rat lose with him."

The Southern Association of Schools and Colleges created a committee to investigate what was happening in higher education in Georgia. At their December meeting, SACS voted unanimously to revoke accreditation at the University of Georgia and all other state-funded institutions. In order to allow current seniors to graduate, the invalidation would not go into effect until Fall Quarter, 1942. 

Though many schools had drops in enrollment due to the United States entry to World War II, UGA's dropped by 37%. Both the American Medical Association and the American Bar Association withdrew their support from Georgia's professional schools, and the situation received national attention. 

The lost accreditation was a step too far for most citizens of Georgia. During the 1942 gubernatorial race, Governor Talmadge was challenged by 36-year-old state Attorney General Ellis Arnall, and lost decisively due to the accreditation issue and the enthusiastic student campaign support for Arnall. On the day of his inauguration, Governor Arnall took the time to meet with two young University students, George O. Marshall and George Doss, just as Marshall, having enlisted in the Army, was about to report to Fort MacPherson.

Governor Arnall's first act was to pass reforms to the Board of Regents that diminished the influence of the governor and legislators on the schools, changes that were added to the Georgia constitution and passed by the citizens of Georgia in the next election.

Eugene Talmadge ran for governor again in 1946 and won. However, he died just weeks before taking office on December 21, 1946. His son was eventually elected by the legislature to take his place.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Heritage Room Newsletters Keep You in the Loop!

On this day, we'd like to remind you to subscribe to our two Heritage Room newsletters. They will be delivered to your email Inbox, and are a great way to keep up with genealogy and history throughout the year.

Our Genealogy and History Events newsletter covers everything from seminars on using land records and deeds for your family research to the latest Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation tours and twilight tours of Oakland Cemetery.  Our area has many fantastic educational and research opportunities, and we also let you know about distance learning opportunities with webinars and online courses provided by other historical and genealogical societies.

Our Genealogy Tips and News newsletter makes sure you will not miss out on newly available resources and discoveries. With information and links to 
how to organize a box of inherited family records, new newspapers added to free resources such as the Library of Congress's Chronicling America site, the name change of Footnote to Fold3, and what is available in our Heritage Room collection during construction (quite a lot!), we make sure you know what is new, what is available, and what can be helpful for the family researcher.

Click here (or either of the above newletter links) to read the current newsletter and subscribe to have them delivered. It couldn't be easier, and is a great time saver, so sign up today!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

4 September 1903: "Several Nice 'Cues"

On this day in 1903, the Athens Banner ran this story on their front page:

The people of Clarke county reveled in barbecues yesterday.
In several of the precincts elegant barbecues were gotten up by those interested in the bond election, and they were enjoyed by quite a number of people. 
One of the largest was that at Princeton, where the managers of the two cotton mills gave the barbecue to their operatives.
Athens Banner, 4 September 1903, p. 1, col. 7.

The bond issue was to pay for paving of public roads in Athens, and passed with 979 votes for the bonds and only 2 votes against it.  The day after election results were published in the paper, the Athens Banner noted that

The eyes of the people of Georgia are upon Clarke county. The results of the bond election put her in the very front rank among progressive counties of the state....
The county of Clarke recently led the way in Georgia for a nine months session of her public schools, now she leads the way for the extensive improvement of her public roads. She is a leader and the people of the county have every reason to feel proud of the stand she is taking among the counties of the state in everything that looks to the progress and improvement of the people.
Athens Banner, 5 September 1903, p. 1, cols. 1-2. 

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

1 September 1885: "Everybody Will Be Happy"

On this day in 1885, the Weekly Banner-Watchman published this happy assessment of the future of Athens:

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