Chapter 3

Thinking about “The Wofford of To-Morrow”: Wofford College, 1942-1968

Barely a week after Japan’s surrender ended the Second World War in the fall of 1945, Wofford announced a new postwar plan: “The Wofford of To-Morrow” [sic.]. The plan imagined building “tomorrow’s” Wofford through facilities upgrades (the renovation of Old Man, adding new academic, residential, and social spaces, and improving the campus grounds) and growing the college’s endowment. In other words, “The Wofford of To-Morrow” anticipated making physical changes to the campus, not cultural ones. The period between 1942 and 1968, however, saw demands for new tomorrows on several cultural fronts that the college’s leaders did not foresee in 1945. The world was changing and Wofford would have to change with it, often over the objections of long-serving faculty and alumni who wanted, to quote the late Phillip Covington, former Dean of the College and former acting president, “the whole thing preserved forever, as it was when all of us were young.” “The Wofford of To-Morrow” would have to reckon with major postwar cultural challenges like the transformation of American youth culture after World War II, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and strident challenges to 1950s consensus culture as it also faced several significant changes in its leadership and faculty.

An initial and disturbing call for change came just after war ended. In 1947, the South Carolina United Methodist Conference proposed merging Wofford College, Columbia College, and Lander College into one new denominational campus in Spartanburg that would serve both men and women. Such a move would have cost Wofford its identity as an all-male institution, as well as its historic setting. The proposal ultimately did not have enough support, but Dr. Walter Kirkland Greene, who had assumed Wofford’s presidency in 1942, was for a time also Columbia’s president. (The two institutions shared a board of trustees, and the Methodists sold Lander to Greenwood County.) The two colleges were 100 miles apart, so Greene logged many miles commuting between the campuses in an era before South Carolina had interstate highways. This experiment ended in 1950. Wofford retained its home and its mission, but it lost its president. Exhausted, Greene retired in 1951.

Wofford desperately needed funds because the student body’s size was increasing and necessary improvements had been deferred during the Depression and World War II years. The end of the war brought young men back to school on the G. I. Bill. During the 1946-47 academic year, over two-thirds of the students were veterans, and for the next four years they dominated the student body. The call to serve in World War II forced these scholars to delay their education. Many of them were further in the ‘non-traditional’ category by being married when they arrived for classes, which immediately led to a housing crunch. Wofford answered by quickly constructing married student apartments on the site of some old tennis courts (now the site of the Sandor Teszler Library). The young wives of these G.I.s changed Wofford’s atmosphere. They formed the “Wofford Dames” club, attended a special course on “contemporary facts,” and often took jobs in town to supplement the $90 a month in government aid that their husbands received. The Dames often conferred the degree of “PhT” – “Putting Hubby Through” – on their members when their husbands completed their degrees.

The pre-war gentlemanly-style of education was not adequate for men who had seen combat. They were aware that success in the post-war world would require far more than an acquaintance with literary classics or some dabbling in the sciences. President Greene implemented a change that certainly must have pleased these scholars. Wofford did not have a retirement plan prior to the Greene administration, so Wofford professors had a reputation of teaching well into their dotage or onto their deathbeds. Greene and the trustees imposed 70 as a compulsory retirement age, but also introduced a pension plan for faculty. This resulted in six professors with a combined total of 238 years of service retiring in 1947! The college hired a younger cohort of faculty to take the place of the greybeards, increasing the faculty’s size from 24 in 1940 to 43 in 1950. More than 30 of the faculty serving in 1950 had joined after World War II, including some of Wofford’s most famous and beloved professors of the late 20th century. In this era, Wofford also was able to recruit its first international faculty members, émigrés from communist nations who brought their academic expertise along with their search for freedom. Especially notable among them was Marie Gagarine, a Russian aristocrat who spent some of her childhood at the Tsarist court and fled Russia as the Bolshevik Revolution was about the topple the Russian monarchy. ‘Madame Gagarine,’ as she was known, came to Wofford in 1959 and was both the college’s first woman instructor and the first faculty member to teach and speak Russian. Her life story is recounted in her autobiography, From Stolnoy to Spartanburg: The Two Lives of a Former Russian Princess.

Wofford also welcomed two Cuban ex-patriates fleeing Fidel Castro’s Cuba, attorneys Joaquin DeVelasco and Ricardo Remírez, during this era. DeVelasco was appointed to the faculty in 1963 and Remírez came to Wofford in 1964. Both taught Spanish. DeVelasco appears to have been Wofford’s first tenure-track international faculty member. Dr. Ta-Tseng Ling, who held several positions in the government of the Republic of China, joined the Government faculty in 1966.

Student life in the 1950s and early 60s contained aspects of old ways and new. Though ROTC was theoretically voluntary, most Wofford students participated in it at some point in their careers, no doubt looking up to their veteran friends and relatives as role models. College administrators held firmly to the mode of in loco parentis, and expected Wofford students to clean their rooms for inspection, attend weekly chapel services, and dress up for dinner on Sunday. Wofford’s young men found a strong and memorable paternal figure in Dean of Students Frank Logan, who famously quelled the ‘Great Food Riot of 1965.’ The “riot” started spontaneously one Sunday evening when students expressed frustration with having hot dogs for the third time that week by throwing food, plates and furniture in the cafeteria. Students then spilled outside. Fires were set in trash bins and furniture was hurled off balconies from Wightman Hall (the original residence hall located next to the Burwell building). When local firemen and police were called to campus to put an end to the confusion, they were pelted by water balloons. Two officers attempting to enter Wightman were bombarded with wet rolls of toilet paper and sprayed with fire extinguishers. Dean Logan, who had been giving a speech away from campus, drove onto campus at the “riot’s” height, took the chief’s bullhorn and ordered the Wofford men to “Cut the crap out.” The Great Food Riot of 1965 ended instantly.

Housemothers provided a maternal touch in the dormitories. Hazing was not just for pledges; in the 1950s all Wofford freshmen were required to wear ‘rat cap’ beanies during ‘rat season,’ a time when they learned the history of the college, made signs for pep rallies, and were at upperclassmen’s beck and call. Homecoming queens were chosen from sweethearts at Converse, Columbia, Winthrop, or Limestone, as Wofford remained an all-male enclave. The Glee Clubs of the 1950s, known as ‘Moyer’s Men’ for legendary music Professor Sam Moyer, toured the state, serving as effective recruiters. Moyer ended each concert with the exhortation, “Go to the church of your choice, but send your sons to Wofford!” One college concession to student demands for change came with the construction of fraternity ‘lodges’ to give Greek organizations places to have meetings, host parties, and provide space for brothers to socialize between classes. After a half-century absence, ‘the row’ was once again on the Wofford scene, and some version of it has remained ever since.

With the prosperity of the 1950s, students had wider access to off-campus pleasures. Even those with limited funds could manage. One alum recalled that a student with only two dollars to his pocket could find a good time in town. Many dined out, choosing The Beacon for burgers and fries ‘o plenty,’ or heading to the Village Supper club for something swankier, perhaps a dinner and mixed drinks with a date. Students went bowling and took in movies. While the campus was theoretically ‘dry,’ Spartanburg was not, and Terriers could drink beer in their cars at various drive-ins. Those bold enough to seek out rougher adventures could patronize pool halls and barrooms like the infamous Porky Pig’s, which was for a time off-limits to students thanks to a particularly nasty brawl. Many legends of the gospel, jazz, and country music worlds performed next door at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium, including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Loretta Lynn, who held an impromptu concert for college kids in the parking lot after her show. Groups of students went to the mountains or rented houses at the beach on breaks. With far more social freedom than the previous generations had enjoyed, Wofford students made the most of it.

Wofford’s athletic reputation as a tough opponent was solidified in the two decades following World War II. From 1947-1952, legendary football coach “Phantom Phil” Dickens helmed the Terriers, leading them to an unusual 1948 season where the team tied the first five straight games before winning the final four. In 1949, Dickens led the Terriers to an undefeated 11-0 season, which was followed by a trip to the Cigar Bowl in Tampa that the Terriers lost to Florida State in what was considered an upset. Under Dickens, the Terriers also upset Auburn 19-14 in the 1950 season opener and defeated Furman for the first time in thirty-five years in 1951. Dickens saw his role as more than winning games. One player recalled, “A lot of men could have taught us about football, but Coach Dickens taught us about life.” Wofford’s basketball teams also produced respectable seasons, playing memorable games in Andrews Field House, while baseball games at Law Field were punctuated by the whistles of passing trains. Wofford produced many exceptional players in all sports. Two standouts were Jerry Richardson ’59, who later played in the NFL and became the owner of the Carolina Panthers, and Fisher DeBerry ’60, who served for twenty-one years as head football coach at the Air Force Academy and received the Commander in Chief’s trophy from President George H. W. Bush.

Perhaps the most memorable sparing match came not on the football field or the basketball court, but on Leonard Auditorium’s stage. Attendance at the Lyceum, Wofford’s public lecture series, had become something of a dreaded obligation for students, but on March 14, 1950, the community was electrified by a clash of poetic titans. Robert Frost was the scheduled speaker, but his friend and erstwhile foil Carl Sandburg, who lived in nearby Flat Rock, North Carolina, drove down for the occasion. Though both had known each other since 1917, they had developed profound differences in style and politics. Students took away important insights into the nature of friendship which permits deep disagreements. Herbert Hucks ’34, then the college’s associate librarian, had received permission from Frost to record the reading. Today, this amazing event has been digitally remastered, so that current students continue to benefit from the poets’ encounter.

Change came not only in lifestyle and academic debates, but in the physical structures of the campus. The college was in desperate need of renovation. Old buildings, such as Cleveland Science Hall, were crumbling. Old Main was in danger of toppling, and student housing was woefully inadequate. Dr. Francis Pendleton Gaines, who became Wofford’s sixth president in 1952 at the age of 33, brought a young man’s energy to the task of raising money. In 1954, a centennial campaign began, and in 1955 the number of trustees was expanded. One of the new trustees was Roger Milliken, a local business tycoon who pledged to give the college $1,000 for every percent increase in alumni giving. Despite his success in raising funds and the college’s national profile, Gaines abruptly resigned in 1957, and was replaced in 1958 by Dr. Charles Franklin Marsh. Fortunately, the new commitment to improving the campus was already taking hold. A building boom occurred in the late ‘50s and early 60s. Greene Hall and the first Wightman Hall were added. “Old Main” underwent a thorough renovation, while Cleveland Science Hall was demolished and replaced by the Milliken Science Building. The final addition of Shipp and DuPre residence halls allowed the college to increase its enrollment to 1,000 students by 1963.

“The Wofford of To-Morrow” also experienced the prejudices and turmoil of the time. Southern life always involved interactions across racial lines, but the Jim Crow South was still defined by theoretically rigid lines of racial separation. All Wofford students were white males and most came from middle- or upper-class South Carolina homes. Most were accustomed to and embraced the social status quo as the natural order of things. Black and white civil rights activism intensified after World War II, prompting many white South Carolinians, including Wofford administrators, faculty, and students, to voice their opposition to calls for racial equality as Communist or racial agitation that would destroy what they believed to be southern racial harmony. Although the general attitude of the student body was hostile to civil rights, occasional signs of dissent appeared. In 1948, a group of about 50 students marched in Morgan Square to protest the acquittal of the mob that lynched Willie Earle. When some faculty suggested the need to punish the student protesters, Religion Professor A. M. Trawick responded that he had never been prouder of Wofford students. In 1956, students sought to bring local civil rights attorney Matthew Perry to speak to a social science group on campus. The college blocked the appearance, but Perry spoke to the student body in chapel in 1968.

On Monday, May 22, 1961, The Spartanburg Herald’s headline informed the city that “Wofford Students Burn Cross on Campus.” The student protest was occasioned by two Wofford freshmen, Scott Goewey and Daniel Lewis. The New Yorker and Pennsylvanian were the first white persons to join Claflin and South Carolina State students in picketing stores that would not serve Blacks. Police arrested the Black activists, but Goewey and Lewis were simply detained and released to Dean Logan. While the college’s leaders met in a late-night private conference on Sunday to discuss what steps to take, 200 students, 25% of the college’s 800-man student body, gathered in front of Main. Some were wrapped in white bedsheets that made them look like they were wearing Klan robes. Goewey and Lewis were burned in effigy atop a burning cross on the steps of Old Main. Additional reporting suggests that most of the students in attendance were first-year students who came to watch, not participate, so it is unclear how many active participants there were. According to the Herald article, assembled students called for the two be expelled, denounced integration, and screamed anti-black slurs. One student was quoted as arguing that Wofford were “not protesting against their beliefs. We just don’t like the way they’re dragging down the name of Wofford College with them.” The two students lived in Carlisle Hall, which, according to a May 23, 1961, follow-up article, was pelted with “eggs and soft drink bottles.” Goewey and Lewis left Wofford’s campus on Monday, May 22, for their respective homes. The college never revealed whether they chose to withdraw or if they were expelled. The Herald reported on May 24 that Wofford stated that Goewey was scheduled to take his final exams at home. His mother, interviewed for the article, replied that the college had not been in communication with the family. There is no known evidence of disciplinary action being taken against the students who protested in front of Main.

The college’s official response reflects the tightrope that Wofford attempted to walk in the first half the 1960s. President Marsh issued a statement that appeared in the May 22 issue of The Sumter Daily Item. Its first paragraph appears below:

Wofford College deeply regrets events on Saturday at Orangeburg and at the campus on Sunday night. On both occasions some of our students acted rashly and without due consideration of the effect of their action on the college.

The assertion of the effective equivalency of protesting segregation and students being burned in effigy is perhaps shocking to modern readers, but it reflects the stark reality that race was such a hot button issue that efforts to integrate schools since 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education decision had resulted in violence. White South Carolinians were generally hostile to the Civil Rights Movement and perceived racial liberalism could easily convince conservative families not to send their sons to Wofford. Furthermore, Wofford needed the financial support of its alumni and the Methodist Church to survive. Alienating supporters could destroy the college financially.

Facing these realities, it may also be surprising that Dr. Marsh wanted the Board of Trustees to approve admitting qualified Black students just three years after the cross burning. In October 1963, President Marsh sent a memo to the Board of Trustees outlining the pros and cons of admitting Black students. Why did Marsh support desegregation? The decision to admit Black students was couched in pragmatic, not moral, language. Marsh insisted that Wofford needed to change its admissions policies to be consistent with practices at 63 of the 76 Methodist four-year colleges and all of the Methodist seminaries and universities; to compete with the state-sponsored schools that were opening their doors to Black students; and to guarantee that the college’s ability to receive federal financial aid dollars would not be jeopardized. On May 12, 1964, Wofford’s Board of Trustees voted to admit all qualified students regardless of race. Reaction to this decision was mixed. Some alumni and churches denounced the decision and ceased supporting the college while others celebrated the decision as appropriate for a college dedicated to Christian values and principles. The college’s archives contain dozens of letters addressed to President Marsh demonstrating the wide range of sentiments.

In August 1964, Spartanburg’s Albert W. Gray was admitted as Wofford’s first Black student and the first Black student to enroll at a private college in South Carolina. Gray’s admission was reported in newspapers throughout the state. The following year, Douglas Jones, also from Spartanburg, was admitted to Wofford. Gray was drafted and sent to Vietnam, so he did not graduate until 1971. Jones became the College’s first Black graduate when he earned his degree in 1969. Adjusting to attending a formerly all-white institution offered challenges. As students at Spartanburg’s Carver High, Gray and Jones were heavily involved in academic and social activities. Wofford’s social atmosphere was often hostile to the new Black students and, therefore, alienating. Racially-motivated pranks were common and some faculty reportedly discriminated against the Black students. At the same time, Gray reports that Dr. Lewis P. Jones of the Department of History was particularly supportive of him and played a critical role in convincing him to remain at Wofford when he intended to transfer.

In 1962, President Marsh gave a prophetic speech at the Alumni-Senior banquet. Addressing college critics who were quick to demand the firing of professors or the removal of students who raised controversial issues, he reminded his listeners of President Snyder’s commitment to campus speakers for “liberty and tolerance, though their audience might be far from agreement with their utterance.” Marsh acknowledged that progress at Wofford, especially in terms of academic improvement, was happening with painful slowness, but commended his institution’s commitment to improving the faculty and widening student opportunities. Wofford’s greatest innovation---opening its doors to all races and both sexes---was coming, as the post-war era of snail-like change gave way to an outpouring of change, challenge, growth, and creativity.

“The Wofford of To-Morrow” was finally on its way and the next decade would test the college’s capacity for change.