The Senior Order of Gnomes

In 1915, European nations began teaching the world how terrible modern war could be. Woodrow Wilson neared the end of his first term as President of the United States, continuing to urge the adoption of his "New Freedom" program. The most popular motion picture that year was D.W. Griffith's Birth of Nation, simultaneously a high point in cinema art and a low point in American race relations.

Largely because enrollments were growing and academic offerings were becoming more diverse, it was a time of great change in American college student life. Planned in the nineteenth century by the various literary (debating) societies or the class officers, student activities after 1900 came to center around modern student government associations, athletics, honor or interest groups and social fraternities and sororities. At most colleges, student discipline traditionally had been handled by the faculty; as more and more research-oriented PhD's joining the teaching staffs, they gradually abdicated this role, turning discipline over to deans or student honor courts.

At Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC, 1915 was the founding year of a mysterious organization called the Senior Order of Gnomes. According to the group's 1934 constitution, the purpose of the organization is to gather together the most prominent and influential members of the senior class, and to establish a goal for underclassmen which may be attained only by consecration to those things which make students of the highest caliber." Membership cannot exceed five members from each senior class. The Gnomes from each class elect the Gnomes of the succeeding class.

But little more than that is known about the origins of the Senior Order of Gnomes. The Bohemian (yearbook), The Journal (literary magazine) and even the newly organized student newspaper, the Old Gold and Black, make no mention of the organization until the spring of 1917. The names of the founding fathers of the Gnomes are not known, nor are the members of the order from 1915 and 1916. Most intriguingly, the reasons why the students saw the need for such an honorary society remain hidden.

Two possible explanations have been suggested.

In 1899, a serious controversy developed at Wofford when a large group of students organized an anti-fraternity group called the Philanthropeans, perhaps as an outgrowth of the anti-Masonic movement prevalent in many churches at that time. According to Dr. David Duncan Wallace's History of Wofford College, this organization gained a majority in the student body in 1906. The faculty and trustees responded by prohibiting student membership in secret societies, closing the seven fraternities then chartered on the campus (Kappa Alpha, Chi Psi, Chi Phi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Pi Kappa Alpha and Kappa Sigma).

Announcing a policy banning fraternities was one thing, and driving them off the campus was another. Wallace, then on the faculty himself, noted in his history that there were numerous chapel announcements warning about clandestine fraternity rites. Nine well respected students were expelled from the college in November 1913, when they joined Kappa Alpha Order at an initiation at the University of South Carolina. Although all but one of them eventually finished their degrees at Trinity College (now Duke University), it was an especially bitter episode in the college's history, lingering until the board of trustees granted the students Wofford degrees in 1937.

Agitation to reinstate the fraternities under appropriate college regulations continued into 1915. In October of that year, it was revealed that there were seven "social clubs" on campus with a combined membership of 58 students. (Later, one of these turned out to be Zeta chapter of Pi Kappa Phi, with a national charter dated 1911). A student honor court, the faculty and the trustees finally agreed to bow to student pressure. All but two of the old fraternities soon regained their charters at Wofford.
Given the secrecy surrounding the Senior Order of Gnomes in those years, it is possible that the organization began as a sort of shadowy "interfraternity council," designed to work toward the reinstatement of the social fraternities and to oversee the critical commitment to mutual secrecy by the different organizations.

Although it does not account for the lack of information about the early days of the organization, there is another explanation that is perhaps more logical in its simplicity. According to higher education historian Frederick Rudolph, at least 76 Southern institutions established special honor societies during the "Progressive Era" to encourage the preservation of some threatened college traditions, and to recognize what might be called "old fashioned" honor, character and virtue, much as Phi Beta Kappa had as its purpose the recognition of an academic elite.

Whatever its original purpose, the Senior Order of Gnomes had clearly evolved in that direction by the 1920's. The late William Klugh Childs was a Gnome in 1925. President of the student body, captain of the basketball squad and a state champion tennis player, he was also a member of the (college) president's club, Block W and several other organizations. "From what I remember," he said many years later, "the Gnomes were chosen because of their character rather than outstanding abilities or student offices held. They were quiet protectors of high moral standards."

Members of the Senior Order of Gnomes have served Wofford College well through the years, as successful men and women in a variety of professions, as outstanding citizens and ambassadors, and as loyal alumni and benefactors. At least 10 Gnomes have served as members of the Board of Trustees. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines a gnome as a "guardian of precious ore or treasure." Regardless of the origins of the order, the name seems appropriate.

1916-17 J. D. Griffeth, B. B. Williams
1917-18 W. E. Burnett, W. H. Easterling, J. H. Porter, G. D. Sanders
1918-19 W. D. White, R. H. Outz, A. N. Brunson, N. P. Smoak, A. B. Rivers
1919-20 B. F. Carmichael, E. C. Mitchell, J. W. Potts, W. L. Bozeman
1920-21 B. Thompson, W. P. Hood, R. C. Lucas, A. H. Best
1921-22 J. B. Berry, W. C. Pearcy, G. R. Welch, M. S. Cleaton, R. H. Zimmerman
1922-23 F. M. Kinard, T. G. McFadden, B. Wham, H. L. Kingman
1923-24 M. B. Wilson, N. W. Bennett, A. H. Stokes, T. H. Stokes
1924-25 W. K. Child, E. C. Best, R. A. Durham, S. J. McCoy, Jr., F. W. Roberts
1925-26 J. N. Holcombe, S. B. Knotts, Jr., S. R. Easterling, E. H. Gregg
1926-27 E. C. Morgan, D. W. Lawton, H. J. Bennett, Jr., E. E. Exum, J. C. Sweet
1927-28 R. C. Major, J. E. Linder, J. J. Parnell, F. H. Shuler
1928-29 J. M. McLeod, D. J. Jones, D. F. Patterson
1929-30 J. B. Taylor, B. L. Scoggins, F. L. Parnell
1930-31 M. A. Owings, B. S. Hall, A. M. Moseley
1931-32 W. S. Bethea, P. M. Widenhouse, G. T. Myers
1932-33 J. L. Black, G. S. Eubanks, R. W. Spears, C. P. Jackson, M. L. Holloway
1933-34 H. Hucks, Jr., J. A. Bouknight, R. F. Cecil, G. B. Eaker
1934-35 L. M. Cecil, Jr., B. H. Brown, Jr., W. C. Herbert Jr., V. R. Hickman
1935-36 J. B. Caldwell, W. R. Anderson, H. E. Barrett, T. A. Willis
1936-37 P. R. Moody, J. O. Berry, W. W. Kellett, E. M. Lander, Jr.
1937-38 T. K. Fletcher Jr., J. M. Ariail Jr., W.A. Jones, W. D. Livingston
1938-39 William H. Gladden Jr., Richard S. Ballenger, Floyd I. Brownley Jr., Sheldon M. Dannelly
1939-40 James Shank, Ralph Atkinson, Baker Lucas Jr., John A. Workman
1940-41 T. Emmet Walsh Jr., J. Anthony White, R. Dewitt Guilds Jr., Sam H. Wofford Jr.
1941-42 W. L. Mills Jr., F. E. Gillespie, J. W. Ballenger, A. A. Brockman
1942-43 Aubrey Faust, Don Carmichael, Fletcher Padgett, George Whitaker, Jr.
1943-44 No members selected
1944-45 William P. Cavin, Walker H. Ford, Robert H. Pace
1945-46 C. E. Jones, John B. Stone, Morrell L. Thomas
1946-47 J. C. Guilds Jr., Larry A. Jackson, Howard E. Moody, Henry B. Rollins
1947-48 George D. Cooksey, Jr., Dewey H. Bell, Eben Taylor, Paul A. Wood
1948-49 Ben Joseph DeLuca Jr., William Benjamin Hynds, Carlisle Rast, Chester Howell Stevens
1949-50 Jake Jennings, Ralph Cannon, Francis Nicholson, Phil Clark
1950-51 Phil Jones, Dick Steadman, Tommy Williams, Willis Woodham
1951-52 Ed Berckman, George Fields, Chris Sharp, Byron Wilkinson
1952-53 Jack Carroll, John Cottingham, Ted Morton, John Younginer
1953-54 Bob Brown, William Light Kinney, Gaylord May, Graham May
1954-55 Charles D. Barrett, James S. Barrett, Allen Hoffmeyer, William C. Reid
1955-56 Otto Anderson Davis, Ferry Jeter Hammond Jr., Walter Woodrow Sessoms, Harry Hart Wallace
1956-57 George S. Duffie Jr., Donald L. Fowler, Jack M. Smith, Craig Templeton
1957-58 Archie Barron, Dick Gibson, Bonner Thomason, Wallace Watson
1958-59 Charles Bradshaw, Robert Fogarty, A. V. Huff, Marvin O’Neal
1959-60 J. Risher Brabham, David S. DuBose, Donald R. Latorre, Marion D. Myers
1960-61 Leland E. Burch, Dan B. Maultsby, Don M. Maultsby
1961-62 Donald J. Greiner, W. Donald Britt, John T. McKinney, Jr., Peden B. McLeod
1962-63 B. Spencer Culbreth, G. Robert Richardson, Jr.
1963-64 Harry S. Bryant, John A. Morrow, William C. Patterson
1964-65 Gerald E. Burns, Jr., Charles M. Stuart
1965-66 Robert F. O’Dell, Randal M. Robinson
1966-67 Hubbard W. McDonald, Jr., John T. Miller, James R. Rountree, Jr.
1967-68 Neal W. Dickert, John A. Hendrix, William H. Willimon
1968-69 William E. Harkey, John D. Wilson
1969-70 Edward J. Hamilton, Marvin D. Iseman
1970-71 Gaines M. Foster, Dow N. Bauknight, Robert A. Barber, Jr., Thomas J. Leclair
1971-72 Michael H. Calloway, Charles E. McGill, Jr.
1972-73 Jack D. Griffeth, Bradley B. Williams
1973-74 Edward T. Hinson, Jr., Frederick E. Brogdon, Jr.
1974-75 John O. Moore, Peter C. Murray, Dennis W. Shedd, W. Al Tisdale, J. Richard Williamson
1975-76 John B. Yorke, Thomas L. Jackson
1976-77 C. Stanley Sewall, Jr., E. Morgan Armstrong
1977-78 Armondo G. Llorente, Sally N. Barber, Chris S. Collins, Gregory P. Miles, H. Bruce Williams
1978-79 Michael A. Johnson, Wade Ballard
1979-80 William R. Saffold, Joyce A. Payne
1980-81 Debora Johnson, M. Alice Buddin, George H. Grant, Jr.
1981-82 LeNoid T. Best
1982-83 Kimberly A. McCrea, Christopher V. White
1983-84 J. Calhoun Watson, Joy Wilder, Kevin G. Mundy
1984-85 Jeff D. Soracco, Paula I. Binovec, D. Todd Morgan
1985-86 W. Collier Slade, William A. Zeiher, Jr.
1986-87 Robert S. Blair, Jr., Kevin P. Michaels, Vicki M. Young
1987-88 Plato J. Askew, Jr., Jan Mouzon Brabham, Furman L. Buchanan, C. Todd Walter, Jr.
1988-89 Stanley Eason Porter, Harold Joe Willson, Jr.
1989-90 Alva Kenneth Anderson, Jerry Lee Lewis
1990-91 Erin Michele Bentrim, Agnes Adella Dorcas Moorer
1991-92 Margaret Cooper Green, Brian Joseph Hennecy, Gregory Allen O’Dell, Susan Benton Ryscavage
1992-93 Pamela Clarke Sanderson, Wendell Keith Jones, Katherine Michelle Watt
1993-94 Everett Keith Chandler, Sarah Elizabeth Likis, Catherine Denise Williams
1994-95 Robert McLain Adams, Alison Gail McPherson, Kimberly Ann Shealy, Daniel Tyrone Sulton
1995-96 Sally Sue Garris, Paul Curtis McPhail, Nicole Redmond, Jennifer Lee Vernon
1996-97 William Francis Malambri, III, Beth Alise Mangham
1997-98 Amanda Patricia Burgess, Julie Elizabeth Harris, Luke Hamilton Maybry, Scott Franklin Talley
1998-99 Anthony Johnston Leigh, James Daryl Campbell, Margaret Huntley Smith, Tatanisha, Beth McDougald
1999-2000 James Aaron Hipp, Regan McKenzie, Lanecia Anee Rouse
2000-01 William Allen Bridgers, Samie Clowney, Allen Peace Thompson, Mary Elise Voitier, Elizabeth Layne Wilkes
2001-02 William Joseph Hutto, Avery Belton Greenlee, Anthony Charles Presitpino, Jr., Sara Joanna Ramsey
2002-03 Mary Rebecca Terry, John Michael Montgomery
2003-04 Steven Blanton, Beth Byars, Mary Egbuniwe
2004-05 Beth Butler, Curtis Gaylord, Aja Russell, Allyn Steele, Josh Whitley
2005-06 Margaret Beacham, Bryon Fields, Zachary Hinton, Christopher Shugart
2006-07 Wilkes Brown, Brian Fast, Lewis Lovett, Katie Ruthsatz, and Bess Snyder
2007-08 Kelsi Koenig, Laura Murray, Ashley Glasgow, Matt Watts
2008-09 Harry Andrew Bryan, Kristen Taylor Davis, and Brent Troxell
2009-10 Kyle Bennett Livingston, Sara Brunson Riggs, Elijah (Trey) Robinson III
2010-11 Claudia Albergotti, Noah Dahlman, Regina Fuller
2011-12 Eric Breitenstein, Joseph Hiram McAbee, Amanda Saca
2012-13 Erin Nicole Frost, Sejal Pravin Naik, Ronald Lewis Norman, Mary Grace Wallace