ROBERT C. LAWRENCE, Class of '98 (Nineteen)
March Issue, WAKE FOREST COLLEGE ALUMNI NEWS,
In the Spring of 1922, I was
a verdant, gawky youth but I could whack a typewriter and I was clerk
to Dr. Columbus Durham, Corresponding Secretary of the Baptist State Convention.
One day while banging away on the machine I observed someone standing
over me, and looking up I saw a frock coated silk hatted gentlemen carrying
a gold headed cane. Said he: "Young man, when you come to Wake Forest
I will give you your tuition for acting as my secretary." They told
me the gentleman was Dr. Charles E. Taylor President of Wake Forest College!
I had not even thought of college up to then, but I thought of it thenceforth.
In those days the college
had a preparatory department, taught by the regular college professors,
where they started you off in Latin grammar and in elementary Algebra
– but even that was over my head. But when school opened, I reported to
Dr. Taylor and he made out a schedule of my classes: Latin Language and
Literature; Algebra; Political Economy; Physics; English. I carried the
schedule off to my room and got down the college catalog. It sounded strange
to me. John B. Carlyle was professor of Latin, but it seemed to me that
they might let me learn something about the language before requiring
me to start in on its literature! And Political Economy, Enoch Walter
Sikes, professor. Didn't everyone know that both political parties spent
every dollar they could get, and that there was no such thing as political
economy? And physics: John F. Lanneau professor Dr. Taylor must have gotten
things mixed up. I wanted to be a lawyer, not a DOCTOR! Mathematics: Luther
Mills, professor. But I felt quite at home when it came to English: Benjamin
F. Sledd, professor.
INTRODUCTION TO PROFESSORS
I cautiously felt my way around
and soon found that I was entering a strange world. The irreverent called
Dr. Taylor "old Aorist." What did Aorist mean? I was too proud
to inquire. I soon found that the Euzelian motto "I. C. T. Q."
meant "I chew tobacco quietly," but even here they got the quietly
part wrong. I was given to understand that young Professor Hendren Gorrell
of the chair of Modern Languages (I thought Dr. Sledd was Professor of
English) was spending all his spare time courting the eldest daughter
of President Taylor -- a quest in which he was finally successful. I thought
they had given Professor George W. Paschal quite a raw deal. He had to
teach Latin AND Greek, whereas I thought one of these was quite enough.
I was told -- and soon observed -- that Prof. Sledd was newly and muchly
married. And down in the department of Chemistry was a young man, Professor
Charles E. Brewer. His stuff smelled the worst and the names of his chemicals
gave me a headache in themselves, even if they did not smell to high heaven.
I met William B. Royall Professor of Greek. From him I finally learned
what "Aorist" meant. Later on, when the going in Greek got pretty
rough I cut a class one day and cooked up a beautiful excuse, an excuse
which I could have put over on another member of the faculty with a straight
face and without batting an eyelash, but when the time came I could not
even try to put it across — not on the saintly William B. Royall.
My reputation as a typist
becoming bruited abroad, divers of the faculty brought me their manuscripts
to be typed. I fared fairly well with Professor Sledd's, because I could
always attribute errors in orthography to inability to read the manuscript,
but this excuse would not serve for William Louis Poteat, Professor of
Biology, whose manuscript was copper plate. What a man! He grew upon me,
he grew into my affections and for forty years I worshipped at his shrine.
The time came when it seemed to me that his figure filled all space, from
the lowly earth to the vaulted skies, and how I rejoiced in the greatness
of the man! I once thought he was all mind; then I decided he was all
soul; now I know that both elements filled his being. Ave atque vale !
HAD TO WATCH BAILEY
Among the lordly seniors on
the campus that year were Senator Josiah William Bailey, said to be somewhat
given to tying freshmen to tombstones, taking cows up into the belfry
of the dormitory and similar recreations. Personally, I never believed
these reports, but there were those who did. Federal Judge Yates Webb
was courting Miss Willie Simmons, and playing baseball in his spare time
-- which was little. My future law partner Stephen McIntyre, was a tough
man to take on in a debate even then. And there was our townsmen, the
beloved Charles H. Durham, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lumberton,
who was as influential on the campus then as he has since been down here
in Robeson. There was the orator, Samuel J. Porter, late pastor of First
Baptist Church of Washington, D. C. Nor can I overlook the brilliant Charles
P. Sapp, editor Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. Some of these gentlemen competed
for the Thomas Dixon Essay medal, and I earnestly assured each of them
that he would surely win, for it seemed to me that the last paper I read
was the best.
My work with Dr. Taylor did
not consume too much of my time and I liked it. I took his dictation right
on the machine. He never hesitated for a word, and his letters never needed
revision unless it be for my atrocious spelling. At that time the question
of "State Aid" to the University was quite a live issue, for
it seemed that the denominational schools could not compete with the tax
supported institution. Dr. Taylor made a notable contribution to the literature
of this subject in his monograph on "How Far Should a State Undertake
to Educate." Even this manuscript was revised but once.
THREW WATER THEN
I recall one day when a group
of worldly students were gathered in a room right over an entrance to
the old dormitory. They had a paper sack filled with water, and were waiting
for a certain student to emerge from the doorway below. Footsteps were
heard in the hall below and a figure was seen to emerge. The bag was dropped
but missed him. I leaned far out of the window to watch the proceedings.
Horrors! The man below was not the student, but Dr. Taylor! The Doctor
glanced up, observed the open mouthed group in the window, gravely raised
his hat and stalked off. Next morning I had a feeling that something was
coming my way nor was I disappointed. When my work was over he said: "Robert,
if I were you I would not lean out of a window so far. NEXT TIME YOU MAY
FALL OUT." With which Parthian shot he dismissed me, and I stumbled
down the steps feeling somewhat foolish. I was a silent witness to many
anxious conferences on finances, usually between Dr. Taylor and Prof.
Carlyle. It seemed that the College ALWAYS needed money. Following the
conferences one or the other would usually go off on a trip, and I wrote
scores and scores of letters on the subject. When conditions would become
acute, the Doctor would go up North and when he returned, he usually brought
some checks back. But I recall one trip from which he returned in gloomy
dejection for all those seen in the North merely said they would think
the matter over. About two weeks later, the gloom was lifted by receipt
of an express package by the Doctor which contained $100,000.00 in gilt
edged securities, the gift of Jabez A. Bostwick, Standard Oil magnate
of New York. Other gifts came from this same source. When I was in the
Doctor's class on Moral Philosophy I was anxious to make a good record
just to show him what a smart Secretary he had. Therefore when we studied
Psychology, I boned down to it and MEMORIZED the mess. When examination
time came, I was proudly able to answer all the questions, and put quotation
marks around the answers, just to call the Doctor's attention to one perfect
paper. I hung around hopefully for several days expecting to be told that
I had put up the best paper on Psychology in the history of the College,
but nothing was said. Finally the marks came out and I got only 93. I
was chagrined, not to say peeved or aggrieved. I sought out the Doctor
and boldly taxed him on the subject of my mark. "You gave me only
93 on Psychology." "Yes, sir." "Did I not answer all
the questions correctly?" "Yes, sir." "Gave them in
the exact language of the book, did I not?" "Yes, sir."
"Doctor, I MEMORIZED that book, and I think I should have had a hundred
anyway." "Do you think a PARROT should have a hundred for memorizing
POLLY WANTS A CRACKER?" shot back the Doctor. For forty years now
I have been trying to think up an appropriate come back to that, and some
of these days it will come to me. Then I shall sit down and write Charles
E. Taylor, Jr., who is quite a banker down in Wilmington and tell him
what I could have said to the Doctor, had I been disposed.
TAYLOR RENDERED GREATEST
Of all the men I have known
who were connected With Wake Forest I think he served the college most
in his generation. It is even now reaping fruit from seed sown by Dr.
Taylor; and is reaping the reward of his wise and farseeing leadership.
One day I heard that a man
named Gulley was going to open a law school in connection with the college.
This was right down my alley, for I had determined to be a lawyer since
the age of ten when I had been office boy to Pace and Holding, Raleigh
lawyers, W.H. Pace being at that time President of the Wake Forest Trustees,
and attorney for the college. So When Mr. Gulley (I should say- my brother
Gulley- we both being lawyers) came, I attended his first lecture on Municipal
law. Why should a man begin a new school by talking about little things
like TOWN LAW, I wondered, when he could have talked about something big
like the Federal Constitution. But I finally grew to understand his modus
operandi. I sat at his feet for many months; and he has sat in my heart
for many years. Of all the teachers I have known he most possessed the
art of transferring his own thought into the minds of his students. When
the roll is called of those who have served Wake Forest, fifteen hundred
North Carolina lawyers will answer "here" for Dr. Gulley.
GOOD POLITICAL ARENA
When I was at Wake Forest
the Literary Societies were the great force in college life. There revere
no fraternities, except it was darkly hinted that the Kappa Alpha's had
a mysterious organization, the members of which met at two o'clock in
the morning in the woods on the outskirts of town. I wondered what they
DID after they met!
The Literary Societies were
much alive, and membership in and attendance upon, one of them was compulsory.
And Society, politics! Brand a veteran politician learned all the tricks
and quirks of his profession right here! For it required quite as much
strategy, quite as much wire pulling, tight rope walking, platform straddling,
and other political artistry to put over an election here, as it did upon
much larger arenas. I recall the large political figure of Father Wright.
If you wanted an office in HIS Society, you went to Father Wright, hat
in hand, and he looked you over. If he was satisfied, in you went; otherwise
outside, you stood in the frigid air.
And secrecy! Mystery surrounded
the very building, and the names of the officers were guarded quite as
effectively as the gold in the vaults of Fort KNOX, over in Kentucky.
I recall distinctly one Euzelian president, who worked hard to get elected,
and then felt the glory slipping from him when he reflected that he could
not TELL anyone about it.
This but scratches the ground
of recollections of Wake Forest in the early nineties. Lift a glass and
say: "Here's to Wake Forest!"