Thursday, July 23, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History July 26

President Score Greets New Southwestern Students and Emphasizes School’s History, July 31, 1943

The last week of July seems like a strange time to start a new academic term, but in 1943 war time exigencies meant a reshuffling of the academic calendar to accommodate the new program on campus.  As a matter of fact, the new calendar was one of the least of the changes that had surrounded the campus for the past few years.

The World War produced important changes in the United States even before Pearl Harbor.  A draft was instituted, and industrial production to help the allies increased.  Both developments cut into the number of young men choosing to enroll in colleges and universities.  Southwestern University faced the prospects of declining enrollment and declining tuition payments with apprehension. SU enrollment had dropped to 376 for the 1942-1943 academic year.

One solution to increase enrollment and also contribute to the war effort was to participate in one of the programs the federal government had started to train military personnel.  Such a program would require considerable readjustment, but it was certainly worth the effort.  
Thanks to the efforts of President Score, Congressman Lyndon Johnson, Secretary of Commerce Jesse Jones, and other influential friends of Southwestern, the school received official notification in February 1943 that it would become a V-12 site. Southwestern would help train military aviators so badly needed in both Europe and the Pacific Theater.

  Among the changes that had to take place was a shuffling of student housing.  Laura Kuykendall Hall became the USS Kuykendall.  The women who had previously lived there moved to Mood Hall or to the newly purchased Sneed House across University Avenue from the campus.  Civilian men who had been living in Mood Hall were dispersed among a variety of facilities including private residences.  

As new students entered in July, 1943, President Score called them to an assembly.  Dr. William C. Finch (later SU President) gave a lecture on the history of Southwestern—after all many of the new students had not chosen Southwestern, they had been assigned there.  President Score then addressed them on the standards of conduct to which they must conform.  He then turned the assembly over to Ray Davidson, former civilian SU student and now in the V-12.  Davidson spoke of the school’s traditions and led them in three school songs,

The first was Hail, Alma Mater, the official school song.
The second was the Pirate Fight Hymn, followed by the Southwestern Hymn.  The fight song is not as well known as the Hail, Alma Mater, so here is the text:

Pirates fight for old Southwestern
For your Alma Mater dear,
Pirates fight for old Southwestern
For Victory is near.
To Southwestern we’ll be loyal
Till the sun drops from the sky
Remembering until the end
Pirates, fight, never die.

The fight song was especially significant because a considerable portion of the audience was about the take to the gridiron wearing the Pirate colors.  There were many V-12 students who had played collegiate football for regional powers such as UT, TCU, Baylor, and SMU.  The Pirate football team  went on to successful seasons and two victories in the Sun Bowls of 1944 and 1945. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History  July 19

Rev. Frank Gary of Galveston Addresses Epworth Leaguers in Indianapolis, July 22, 1898

The 1890s are rightly known as a very bleak period for African Americans.  During the Reconstruction era the Republican Party had attempted to create a base of African-American voters in the South who were naturally grateful for the role of the Republican Party in the abolition of slavery.  By the 1890s though, party leaders recognized that such a strategy was not working.  With the withdrawal of Republican support, there was nothing to stop a full-fledged attack on rights of African Americans.  The Jim Crow system of segregation of the races, denial of voting rights, and an increase in lynching characterized the 1890s. 

Methodist youth, however, provided one small counter current to the flood of racism that was washing over the United States.  That one small action was the convening of annual conventions of the Epworth League.  Those conventions embraced both the MECS and MEC Epworth Leagues and included young Methodists from the U.S, Canada, and England.   When Leaguers began planning these conventions, northern Leaguers demanded integration, and they got it.  The integrated nature of Epworth League conventions meant they had to meet in the northern states and Canada where integrated convention facilities could be provided.

The 1899 Epworth League Convention was held in Indianapolis.  One of the speakers was the Rev. Frank Gary of St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Galveston.  St. Paul’s had an interesting history.  It was formed by members of Reedy Chapel when a majority of Reedy Chapel members decided to switch denominations and become an A.M.E. church.  Not all the members wished to become A.M.E. so they obtained property on Ave. H between 8th and 9th Streets, and created an M.E. C. church pastored by the Rev. Samuel Osborn. 

St. Paul’s MEC was one of the most prominent churches in the Texas Conference, but just two years after Rev. Gary’s participation in the Epworth League convention, his church sanctuary was destroyed by the hurricane.  

Under Gary’s leadership, the congregation decided to relocate, this time to Broadway, a more prominent location. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History  July 12

Amarillo Methodists Open New Church, Pay off Debt on Same Day, July 14, 1907

Of all the large cities of Texas Amarillo is the northernmost, and serves not just the Texas Panhandle, but also large sections of New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas as an important commercial and cultural center.  

Amarillo is also home to one of the great historic churches of Texas, Polk Street United Methodist Church.  On July 14, 1907 a congregation of 3000 worshiped for the first time in a new building.  There was still a $8400 debt on the $33,000 building, but Rev. C. N. Ferguson used the enthusiasm of the opening to ask for pledges to pay off the debt.  The appeal was successful as $9000 in cash and pledges came in on that one day. 

Methodism had grown up with the city of Amarillo.  In 1902 a church costing $4000 was erected at 802 Polk Street.  That church was insufficient as Amarillo boomed as ranchlands were converted to farming, and population increased. 

Polk Street hosted the Northwest Texas Annual Conference of 1907 and Bishop W. A. Candler the following November.  One should remember that in 1907 the Northwest Texas Conference embraced the entire territory of what is today the Northwest Texas and Central Texas Conference.  That meant that preachers and laity all the way from Round Rock and everywhere in between had to go to Amarillo for Annual Conference.

Just twenty years later, during the pastorate of L. N. Stuckey, the church moved again, this time six blocks to the south.  That 1928 building cost a half-million dollars—just in time for the Depression and Dust Bowl to reduce agricultural receipts and therefore Amarillo’s economy to a fraction of what it had been during the boom years of the 1920’s.  

Polk Street was able to withstand the economic problems, and during Eugene Slater’s pastorate (1953) it erected a $450,000 activity center.  Membership at one time exceeded 4500.  

Polk Street Methodist became known for its prominent preachers.  There was once a rule that preachers could stay in an appointment only four years.  The best-known preachers of that era developed a rotation system, in which the biggest churches rotated preachers among themselves.  Polk Street Methodist became one of the churches in that rotation and thus received preachers by transfer from other conferences.   In addition to Stuckey and Slater (later elected bishop) preachers filling the appointment were (among others) Sam Hay (also later bishop), Oscar Sensabaugh (see column from two weeks ago), Ira Key, Neal Cannon and several others ministers who provided leadership in other annual conferences and the entire denomination.   Polk Street UMC continues to value it heritage of ministry to the Texas Panhandle and beyond.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

This Week in Texas Methodist History  July 5

W. B. Carter Receives Salvation While Riding Black Mule, 

When is the last time you heard one of your fellow congregants testify about his or her conversion?  

 It’s probably been a long time.  For 19th century Methodists, though, stories of personal conversion were not just common, they were an expected part of revivals.  The arc of the story is simple---first a feeling of despair over one’s great sin and the consequence of eternal damnation as a result of that sin, then a period of struggle followed by surrender.  The final stage was elation, joy, and a desire to tell others so that they could also experience the happiness.

The conversion experience was so profound that the converts repeated their stories often and in public.  Here is one such account, probably from the 1880s, as recorded by John E. Green. . .

Many a mean man and not a few wicked women have I known to be checked and changed by the power of the Gospel.  A remarkable case was that of W. B. Carter, a big, burly fellow from Milam County who, while in the fervor of his first love, attended a great meeting we were holding at the historic Chappell Hill and Belleville  camp ground where I have often worked in revivals and where I have had some of the happiest times of my ministry.  Carter was earnest and enthusiastic.  He made himself agreeable to everybody and all soon learned to love him.  One morning at a prayer and praise meeting feeling was running high, almost to the “popping-off point.”  Brother Carter arose with tears of joy running down his face and said, “Brother Green, I got more to be thankful for than anybody.  I was too mean to live, meaner than the devil wanted me to be.  From bad to worse I went until recently.  I live a little way out from Cameron and several miles out beyond my place there is a country church where the Methodists were having a big meeting.  I didn’t care anything for religion, but went to that meeting fro fun.  I was riding a little black mule.  After a few nights I felt a mean feeling creeping over me, and the first thing I knew I was at the mourners’ bench and there I felt sill meaner.  Every time I would go to the altar, I’d get meaner and meaner.  I was discouraged and said, “I won’t go any more, I get not better, but worse,’ One night I was riding home between two men on horses.  One was a Baptist and one a Methodist, but both mighty good men.  A half mile from the church we got to a ravine where the limbs of trees reached across the road, making it so dark I couldn’t see my hand before my eyes; I was in the dark more ways than one and I was so miserable.  Then one of the men said, ‘Carter, you don’t have to go to the mourner’s bench any more.  Just surrender fully now and trust the Lord this minute and He’ll save you right here.”  The truth was made plain.  I trusted Jesus.  I got happy and shouted, “Glory!’ and my mule ran away.  I couldn’t quite shouting and that mule wouldn’t quit running, but the Lord didn’t let the mule hurt me.  I held on to the Lord with one hand to the little black mule with the other and ran several miles shouting.”