AUBURN UNIVERSITY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES DEPARTMENT


SYNOPSIS OF THE HARRY M.  PHILPOTT ORAL HISTORY, RG 901


Interview of February 9, 1990

When Philpott became president of Auburn, there were three finalists--himself, E.T. York, and Dean Colvard. Philpott and Colvard withdrew, but Frank Samford was determined that Auburn not have another agricultural man as president. This went back "to some long standing difficulties Dr. Draughon had with the Extension Service from the Duncan administration." p. 7.

Once Philpott was under consideration, York, who was a colleague at Florida, made contacts with the agricultural community in Alabama who approached Governor Wallace in Philpott's behalf. Philpott met with Wallace prior to his selection and the governor spent most of the time discussing the Selma to Montgomery march. One thing Philpott liked about Auburn as opposed to Florida was the relative administrative flexibility and the lack of a cumbersome state hierarchy in higher education. Auburn had constitutional boards and was not under the state board of education in Montgomery. During most of his administration, Philpott operated relatively free of close scrutiny by the board. Three trustees voted against his selection, including Bamberg, who did not come to a board meeting form more than two years. pp. 9-12.

Duncan had used the extension service as a political machine. When Draughon became president, some in extension weren't pleased that a non-agricultural person had been selected. The extension director and assistant director "really tried to run rough shod over Dr. Draughon. He fired the two of them. This created quite a ruckus, but there were enough votes on the board of trustees behind Dr. Draughon." pp. 19-20.


Interview of February 16, 1990

Governors Wallace and James made board appointments without consulting Philpott, but Brewer did consult him. On one occasion, Philpott went to the governor regarding a board appointment. That was on behalf of Frank Samford, Sr., who had to resign due to ill health. Samford requested that his son be appointed in his place and that was done. p. 24.

Philpott knew Brewer better than any of the other governors. They had worked together on the Alabama Education Study Commission. p. 25.

Generally, the board did not become involved in the details of governing the university while Philpott was president. Toward the end of his administration, when Governor James was elected, they did, however. The governor was trying to increase public school appropriations and asked Philpott to lead the way for higher education to relinquish funds for primary and secondary schools. pp. 27-28.

As governor, Wallace was easy to work with because he liked to run for office, but did not like to run the government. He was in office for 10 of Philpott's 15 years in the presidency. Wallace never said anything about hiring black faculty or the admission of black students, including student athletes. p. 28.


Interview of March 8, 1990

Before ACHE came into existence, each institution of higher education took its case to the legislature separately. pp. 41-42.
President Rose (University of Alabama) and President Draughon realized during the early 1960s that it was best to present a common face to the legislature, which they usually did. This continued with Rose and Philpott. Nothing like the rivalry that had existed between Denny and Duncan existed under Philpott. On behalf of the University of Alabama, for example, he testified against establishing a second medical school in Mobile. pp. 44-45.

The Montgomery Chamber of Commerce wanted a white, four-year college. They wanted it affiliated with either Auburn or Alabama, or as a separate institution. Alabama had an extension center in Montgomery, but they also had their hands full with Birmingham and to a lesser degree Huntsville. Thus Alabama urged that Auburn take responsibility for the four-year school in Montgomery. The Montgomery delegation helped in establishing AUM, but was less effective in supporting subsequent appropriations. This may have been because they were split between Democrats and Republicans. pp. 45-47.

ACHE grew out of a [1968?] recommendation of the Alabama Education Study Commission. At that time, higher education had "grown like Topsy," with junior and senior colleges. In his 1969 recommendations to the legislature, Governor Brewer followed the commission's recommendations closely. pp. 50-51.


Interview of March 23, 1990

Governor Lurleen Wallace established the Alabama Education Study Commission in 1967. Philpott served as chair. Lt. Governor Brewer served on the commission until Governor Lurleen's death in 1968, at which time he became governor. The report then became the basis for Brewer's recommendations of the 1969 legislature, although he did not push the recommendation for increased property taxes because he thought it would not receive legislative support. pp. 52-53.

Some people called ACHE a "toothless tiger" because it did not have absolute veto power. Part of the reason was the Alabama and Auburn had constitutional boards. To have done otherwise would have required an amendment to the constitution. Philpott would not have favored a "super board." He did not want Auburn to give up the authority of its constitutional board. pp. 60-61.


Interview of July 27, 1990

At the time AUM was being established, Joe Reed was head of the Alabama Teachers Association, a black group. They filed suit in federal court to block the establishment of AUM on the grounds that it was designed to be a segregated institution. Morris Dees represented them. Frank Johnson was a member of the three-judge panel that upheld establishing AUM. The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, which dismissed the case. pp. 259-261.

DC 1-12-99


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