Chapter 2


If Dr. James H. Carlisle defined the college’s first era, Dr. Henry Nelson Snyder defined its second.

A self-described “true son of the Old South,” Snyder was born in 1865 and grew up near Nashville, Tennessee. His autobiography, 1947’s An Educational Odyssey, offers useful insight into the cultural and historical forces that shaped his thinking—and that of his generation—as the Old South passed away and the New South was born.

Snyder came of age during Reconstruction, the approximately 12-year period during which the nation struggled to readmit the former Confederate states into the Union and to address the emancipation of roughly four million slaves. Tensions remained high throughout the period, particularly in the economically-devastated South fearful of its newly freed Black citizens (in Spartanburg, these passions resulted in Ku Klux Klan violence in 1870-71, including the murder of Spartanburg’s first Black judge, Anthony Johnston. The violence was bad enough that Spartanburg County was placed under martial law and federal hearings were held). Once the brokered resolution of the election of 1876 resulted in the withdrawal of federal troops from the South, Reconstruction came to its end and the systemized legal and social racial segregation known as Jim Crow began.

History classes normally emphasize the Jim Crow South’s segregation and acts of racial terrorism, but one must also consider how Jim Crow trained Southerners to understand race, slavery and their regional history. Jim Crow education blended classical 19th-century education with a romantic revision of American history that celebrated American, especially Southern, heroism and virtue. American history was the triumphant story of the conquest of North America from belligerent Native peoples. Moreover, Jim Crow education taught generations of southerners that slavery had been a benign system into which racial violence was introduced by Northern agitators and Black radicals. Snyder’s An Educational Odyssey describes how this era’s literary and cultural trends shaped his intellectual development. Growing up in this environment, Snyder became passionate about the liberal arts and the South’s regional potential, possibilities that he argues in his autobiography had to include the South’s Black population. Many of Snyder’s opinions expressed in An Educational Odyssey absolutely do not reflect modern sensibilities, but, as we shall see below, his New South sensibilities foreshadowed significant transformations to come. Snyder enrolled in Vanderbilt University in 1883, studying Greek, Latin, and English under an eminent group of professors, many with Wofford connections. He remained at Vanderbilt for graduate study and planned to go to Germany to work on a doctorate. The modern Doctor of Philosophy, or Ph.D., was introduced in Germany in the early nineteenth century, so Americans traveling to Europe to earn a research degree was common at that time. Yale University conferred the first Ph.D. in the United States in 1861. Snyder’s plans changed in 1890, however, when Wofford offered him an appointment to teach English and German at Wofford. The position offered an annual salary of $1,500 and a house that would be rent-free after his first year on the faculty. He was 25 years old and the offer was too good to refuse.

Or so he thought.

Arriving in Spartanburg in the fall of 1890, Snyder found what he describes as a “bleak” campus that, thanks to years of deferred maintenance, looked older than its 36 years. Many of the homes and buildings looked worn and neglected, and the unpaved sidewalks turned to mud with the smallest amount of rain. Spartanburg itself was not much more attractive to the young Nashville native when he stepped off his train from Atlanta. His initial impressions were that Spartanburg was little more than a large country town whose streets were “narrow, crooked, unpaved, [and] dusty.”

Snyder’s 1890 arrival was part of a significant reorientation for Wofford. Four out of the college’s six faculty members had resigned, so only President Carlisle, Daniel DuPré, and J.A. Gamewell remained. Each had longstanding affiliation with the college. Carlisle was a member of the original faculty, DuPré, an 1869 graduate, was the son of an original faculty member, and Gamewell, an 1871 graduate, had, as the 4 year-old son of an original member of the board of trustees, attended the laying of Wofford’s cornerstone . “Uncle Gus,” as he came to be known, served on Wofford’s faculty from 1875 until 1940, making him the longest-serving faculty member in the college’s history. Gamewell’s most important contribution was arguably directing the Lyceum series. Starting as a lecture series based on Wofford courses, the Lyceum evolved into an annual speakers’ series that brought a surprisingly diverse array of academics, politicians and performers to Spartanburg. For example, both Rev. Thomas Dixon, the popular Baptist minister whose 1905 novel The Clansman: A Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan inspired both a popular stage play that was performed in Spartanburg and D.W. Griffith’s notorious 1915 film The Birth of a Nation, and Booker T. Washington, who discussed his 1901 autobiography Up From Slavery, spoke on campus as part of the series! A September 25, 1938, Spartanburg Herald-Journal listed, among others, the following persons who spoke at Wofford as part of the Lyceum series: President Woodrow Wilson; Governor Nellie Tayloe Ross, the first woman to take the oath of office and serve as a state governor (1925); William Jennings Bryan; travel writer and adventurer Richard Halliburton; and Branch Rickey, who later integrated Major League Baseball when he signed Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

With Snyder and three other new faculty members, the college’s instructional quality improved. Snyder eventually made it to Germany, studying at the University of Gottingen in 1900-01 and traveling in Europe before returning to Wofford in the fall of 1901. He determined to continue work on his dissertation back in the United States and return to Gottingen in the summer of 1903 to complete his doctorate. However, President James Carlisle had submitted his resignation as president in the summer of 1901, though the trustees let it sit on the table for a year before selecting Snyder as his successor. Snyder was unanimously elected as the college’s president without anyone from the board even having a conversation with him about whether he wanted the job. Thus, in June 1902, at age 37, Henry Nelson Snyder became Wofford College’s fourth president. Though he never completed his Ph.D, the University of South Carolina conferred on him honorary Doctor of Literature and Doctor of Laws degrees. Snyder would serve as Wofford’s president until 1942, making him the college’s longest-serving president.

In his first year as president, the student body had 196 members, and 27 students, including two women, took bachelor’s degrees at the end of the year. Growth in the student body came fairly quickly, with around 300 students enrolling most years in the 1910s. Snyder sought to be a different kind of president than his predecessor. Carlisle had served as a moral leader of the campus and as chair of the faculty, but took on almost no administrative duties. While Snyder did not shrink from moral leadership and was a gifted public speaker, he readily assumed the administrative duties of the presidency while continuing in the classroom. Essentially, he became the first modern college president. Historian David Duncan Wallace noted that Snyder had the ability to keep the faculty harmonious, maintain good relationships with the state’s Methodist clergy, and possessed tact, character, and moderation. These abilities proved the trustees’ confidence in him. Over his long career, Snyder became a widely respected and active leader in Methodist higher education circles and in professional educational associations. A March 13, 1914, Herald-Journal article announcing Snyder’s planned address for men at the YMCA described Wofford’s president as “one of the clearest thinkers and most eloquent and logical and interesting speakers available,” commending him for his “way of attracting, interesting and instructing the man of everyday affairs in the humbler walks of life as well as the man of larger calling, the unlettered as well as the highly educated, and is equally popular with both.”

If Snyder was the college’s first modern president, he was also the modern college’s visionary force. Snyder insisted that Wofford College be a “free atmosphere” not “hampered by all sorts of narrow sectarian, ecclesiastical restrictions.” As he writes in An Educational Odyssey, President Snyder wanted a college that “however owed and administered, [was] first of all an educational institution, not a propaganda organization for specific doctrines and modes of conduct.” Wofford was to be “a real college of the liberal arts vitally informed with the spirit and philosophy of the Christian religion.” This meant that President Snyder was willing to make significant operational changes. For example, President Snyder was willing to hire faculty who were not Methodists because they were, in his view, outstanding teacher-scholars and exemplary gentlemen. Furthermore, President Snyder supported establishing departments that, for example, studied biology and religion scientifically. Teaching evolution and academic religious scholarship that challenged elements of the traditional Christian faith generated criticism. Snyder’s autobiography reveals that he addressed those critics personally, never informing faculty members of these concerns.

Snyder faced a deteriorating campus and had few funds to modernize it. He knew the college needed to grow, both by adding departments in which the curriculum was weak and in the number of students. He began to raise funds for new and refurbished buildings, something no previous president had attempted. Main Building was remodeled in 1902. Cleveland Science Hall was constructed in 1904 and the Whitefoord Smith Library was completed in 1910. The James H. Carlisle Memorial Hall, the first freshman-sophomore residence hall, opened in 1912. In particular, Snyder believed the new library and science building were critical to improving the college’s academic standing. They represented the first new academic buildings since Main Building opened in 1854.

Spartanburg was transforming alongside Wofford. Since 1890, the city’s efforts to modernize had borne significant fruit. The city’s population has reached 11,395 by 1900, up from 5,544 the year President Snyder arrived. New business, homes, hospitals, and hotels had been built along newly paved streets and sidewalks lit by new gas lamps; the city’s first trolley lines were established; and the city’s first waterworks had been established, among other improvements. City boosters were so proud of the city’s growth that the slogan “Spartanburg, the City of Success” was adopted in 1912. In 1917, Spartanburg was awarded Camp Wadsworth, a World War I training camp for soldiers. This led to another round of frenzied roadbuilding and improvements to accommodate what amounted to a second city on Spartanburg’s western border. The arrival of a diverse group of soldiers from New York and New England impacted Spartanburg significantly. Local establishments attempted to cater to the Yankees’ more urbane tastes by expanding cultural offerings like dances and concerts and importing New York newspapers and other items. The arrival of Northern Blacks to train at Camp Wadsworth resulted in local problems, including a tense stand-off between 100 Black and white New Yorkers and white Spartanburg locals that could have ended in a riot. The Black soldiers, the 369th Infantry Regiment, were eventually sent to Europe and fought as members of the French army. The unit, best known by its “The Harlem Hellfighters” nickname, received honors from both the American and the French governments and is perhaps best known for its band, which introduced jazz to Europe. Camp Wadsworth remained active from 1917 through the war’s end in 1919.

Snyder’s tenure saw continuous change in student life. In 1903, a group of students called the Philanthropeans petitioned the trustees and faculty to ban fraternities and other secret societies. After a confrontation between fraternity and anti-fraternity men led to a severe split in the student body, the trustees banned membership in any secret society after 1906. Students occasionally defied this prohibition, and some found themselves expelled for joining fraternities during this time period. However, by 1915, pressure mounted on the trustees to permit fraternities again, and the faculty passed new rules that allowed them to operate. This same era saw the creation of the Senior Order of Gnomes, a secret organization established, as its constitution stated to “gather together the most prominent and influential members of the senior class.”

In 1911-12, students created the college’s first modern student government organization, and John Lyles Glenn, Jr., was elected as the first student body president. Lyles was named a Rhodes Scholar in 1914 and was later appointed to a position on the U.S. District Court in South Carolina. Student publications’ visibility and importance increased during this time period. In addition to The Journal, the college’s literary magazine, members of the literary societies began publishing a yearbook, the Bohemian, in 1908 and a newspaper, the Old Gold and Black, in 1915. Student body growth led to the establishment of a third literary society, named for Carlisle, and in the 1920s, a fourth, named for Snyder. The era of the literary societies, however, had already begun to pass, as students found other pursuits more interesting.

Student extracurricular activities could generate controversy. Perhaps the most famous incident occurred in 1913, when baseball player Ty Cobb, a man known for his temper and dirty tactics like sliding into a base with his spikes high to slash anyone trying to tag him, and his barnstorming team played an exhibition game against Wofford. During the April 4 game, Cobb got into a heated exchange with student Rutledge Osborne, who was coaching on the third base line. The offended Osborne wanted to fight Cobb, who told the college student that he would meet him after the game. Apparently the entire team showed up to face Cobb and the confrontation had to be resolved by the police. Cobb threatened to settle the matter on April 7, in Greenville, where both Cobb’s and Wofford’s teams were scheduled to play at Furman. Cobb dragged Osborne off a hotel elevator and threw him into a room in which some of his teammates were waiting. Fearing an encounter with Cobb, Osborne had brought a gun with him, but he was overwhelmed by Cobb’s teammates and beaten.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, baseball, not football, was the more popular sport. The college played only a few football games a year, generally against intrastate rivals such as Furman, Clemson, and South Carolina, but the dangers of early football games led the college to ban intercollegiate play after 1901. Students played on class teams in what we would today call intramurals until 1914, when alumni and student pressure convinced the trustees to resume intercollegiate play. In the same era, students began playing organized basketball, though with no basketball arena on campus, students had to play games outside, at the local YMCA, or at Spartanburg High School. The first recorded game took place in 1906. Finally, Wofford basketball gained a home in 1929 with the opening of Andrews Field House on campus.

The Snyder administration saw some unexpected diversity. In 1905, Japanese national Buichi Muraoka enrolled at Wofford. According to the April 24, 1913, North Carolina Christian Advocate, Muraoka arrived in the United States in 1901 and, some time later, converted to Methodism. He enrolled at Wofford in 1905 and completed his degree in 1909. Columbia, Tennesee’s, October 20, 1911, The Herald and Mail reported that Muraoka was ordained a deacon in the Methodist Church on October 15 of that year. In 1912, Muraoka earned the Bachelor of Divinity degree at Vanderbilt. Muraoka spent three months at Princeton University before returning to Japan to enter the ministry in 1913. Fujikazu Toichi Murata joined Muraoka at Wofford in 1906. Murata and his brother came to the United States in 1903 to study agriculture. In 1906, Murata moved to Spartanburg from Oakland, California, to attend Wofford. After completing his Wofford degree in 1910, Murata earned the BD at Vanderbilt in 1913 and then moved to New York to earn a Master of Arts from Columbia University in 1914. Murata later held several ministerial posts in Japan, including years of service at the Methodist Kwassui Women’s College in Nagasaki.

We know little about how these Japanese students experienced Wofford College and Spartanburg. Rock Hill’s Evening Herald featured two stories about Muraoka and Murata lecturing about Japan at area churches in August and September of 1907. These lectures helped raise funds to support the young men’s education. Furthermore, we do know at least one of Murata’s classmates came to regret laughing at the “small yellow guy” after receiving “a painful lesson in judo.” The 1910 yearbook suggested that “Fuji” was popular with the “fairer sex.”

Dr. George Washington Carver, the Wizard of Tuskegee, spoke at Wofford on November 21, 1923, as part of a college lecture tour sponsored by the YMCA and Tuskegee Institute. Carver spoke at Furman on November 19 and spoke at Clemson on November 20. According to a Nashville Independent report on his tour, Carver logged over 2,000 miles in 15 days as he traveled throughout the Carolinas and Virginia. Carver’s December 11, 1923, thank you note to President Snyder is held in the college’s archives. In it, Carver commends “the warm and sympathetic reception that [he] received at your college.” Snyder acknowledged “the good hour” Carver gave to our students. Carver was arguably the most celebrated Black academic of his day and his agricultural innovations helped farmers across racial lines, so, on one hand, it was not surprising that he would be invited to speak at Wofford or any other segregated college or university in 1923. On the other hand, Carver’s invitation and the acceptance of his scholarship perhaps signals something important about Henry Nelson Snyder and an ethos slowly evolving at Wofford College.

Snyder amassed a group of faculty members who served together for the bulk of his administration. Five men who took their appointments before he became president served with him for extended periods of time, including DuPre (geology), Gamewell (Latin), Arthur Galliard Rembert (religion and Greek), John George Clinkscales (mathematics) and David Duncan Wallace (history). These men, all Wofford graduates, served at least into the 1930s. Others joined early in the Snyder administration, including Coleman B. Waller (chemistry), William L. Pugh (English), Edward H. Shuler (applied mathematics), James A. Chiles (modern languages), John L. Salmon (modern languages), and A. M. Trawick (religion). These professors made up the core of the faculty for nearly 40 years.

Snyder saw his share of crises and difficulties over four decades. During World War I, the army effectively ran the student body through the Student Army Training Corps, the predecessor to ROTC. Mobilization was nowhere near as universal as during World War II, however. The Great Depression saw the college struggle to meet its payroll and other bills. ROTC actually proved to be critical in continuing to operate the college in the 1930s. Most students were members, and the stipend and uniforms that the army provided helped them make ends meet. For many students, the stipend helped keep them in college.

Other challenges involved some of the college’s core values and reflect some issues that colleges still face today. One student’s poem, written for an English class and published in The Journal in the spring of 1936, caused a statewide controversy when a local textile newspaper editor saw it. The poem, which was meant to be critical of conditions in textile mills, managed to offend textile workers, who demanded the student be punished. Another student got into trouble for writing an essay critical of President Franklin Roosevelt’s conduct of foreign relations, an essay that mostly suffered the bad timing of appearing in the late fall of 1941. In both cases, the college defended the student’s right to free speech and a free student press.

The crowning achievement of the Snyder era at Wofford came in his last two years as president. On January 14, 1941, a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society, was installed at the college. This recognition, more than almost anything else, affirmed the college’s standing as an institution of superior academic quality.

Snyder suffered a heart attack in the summer of 1940, but continued in office for nearly two more years. In his final years in office, he and the trustees started planning for a development campaign, but the outbreak of World War II postponed the effort. Snyder played a quiet but influential role in the selection of Dr. Walter K. Greene, who graduated from Wofford in 1903, as the college’s fifth president. Snyder left Greene with a college that was stronger in nearly every way. The student body numbered around 500, including a small number of graduate students. Over twenty professors were teaching a wider variety of subjects, and about half of them held the Ph.D. Still, though the facilities had improved, the college remained short of financial resources. President Snyder died on September 18, 1949, 59 years and one day after his arrival in Spartanburg. He was 84. Esteem for President Snyder was so high that stores, all city offices, and the county courthouse closed for his funeral, which local reporting suggested was attended by more than 1,000 people.