Tide Hop, April 1981: The University's 150th birthday

Tide Hop, April 1981: The University's 150th birthday

Photo illustration CW / Kylie Cowden

Rebecca Rakowitz

The University of Alabama, which opened on April 12, 1831, celebrated its 186th birthday yesterday. While 186 is a substantial number and worthy of recognition and reflection, the UA community was much more eager to celebrate the University’s 150th birthday in 1981. Both The Crimson White and The Tuscaloosa News came out with special Tide-Hop-like editions highlighting the University’s history. Today we look back 36 years at the April 12, 1981, special edition of The Crimson White, which was appropriately named “Sesquicentennial,” and featured stories about student rebellion, yankee hatred, the University’s true birth year and University firsts.

Student Rebellions: The University prides itself on being a place of tradition, and according to the headline of a page two article, student rebellions on campus are “traditional.”

“During the early years of the University, administrators and faculty actually feared for their lives at the hands of their young charges,” the article read.

The article goes on to explain the “iron-fisted” reign of the University’s first president, Alva Woods. The article said his relationship with the students was “at best,” an armed truce, and “at worst,” open warfare.

University student Clemment Clay wrote to his father in 1834 and said that matters were growing worse daily.

“On Saturday night there was an open and audacious rebellion,” Clay said. “…[About 10 students] met with their horns and tin pans and with pistols and clubs commenced firing, shouting, etc. Mr. Tutwiler went out to them and they left him and came in pursuit of Dr. Woods.”

According to the letter, the students threw brickbats and shot at Woods.

“[Woods] availed himself of an open window and jumped in it.”

The students doubled their masses and went on a search for Woods who had gone into hiding.

“Dr. Wallis came out, and they told him if he approached, it was at his own peril, cocking their pistols at the same time,” the letter read. “they broke in the chapel and rung the bell, stoned Mr. Wallis’ window, and at about 1 a.m. stillness was procured by their own drowsiness.”

According to the article, faculty members were chosen as scapegoats for the situation and discharged, with most of the original faculty being “forced away” by 1836.

The article went on to detail “offenses” for which students were charged for in the early days of the University. Students had been expelled for attending a circus, charged with destruction of Bibles and blasphemous language and for throwing missiles from dormitories.

“Other cases toward the end of the 1840s involved…removal of all doorknobs from the public rooms in the Lyceum and the Rotunda,” the article said.

Yankee Haters: Below the rebellion article ran another article with stories of student “misbehavior.”

Based off a lecture by Grady McWhiney, a distinguished senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Southern History and Culture, the article started off by explaining how many southerners disliked northern schools and the way they “brainwashed” their children.

“Southerners hesitated to send their children to Northern colleges, however, where anti-southern teaching was the norm, and young students were ‘brainwashed’ of their traditional southern values…[and] ‘imbued with doctrines subversive to Southern society,’” the article said.

The piece went on to explain that as much as parents did not like their children attending schools in the north, University students did not like having northern professors.

“At the University, students barricaded the door to the room of an unpopular Yankee professor and put a blower on top of the chimney to smoke him out,” the article said. “When red-eyed and shaking, he found that he could not open his door, he raised a window to get aid and the boys threw rocks at him.”

1819: Though 1831 is a valued number at The University of Alabama, and though Sesquicentennial was commemorating the University’s opening in 1831, the first article of the edition explained that campus’s history dated back much earlier – back to 1819 when the state endowed 46,080 acres of land to establish a state university.

Several sites throughout the state were considered for the University’s campus, including Montevallo, Athens, Greensboro and Lagrange, but the article reports that Tuscaloosa was chosen because the state capitol was there from 1826-1846, and because of its “transportation system” by the Black Warrior River.

“One could get to Tuscaloosa by steamboat easily,” Professor Charles Summersell told the CW.

University firsts: Tucked inside “Sesquicentennial” was a list of “Firsts for the University.” A select number of firsts are as follows:

  • May 1, 1881: First A-Day held
  • June 28, 1893: Board of trustees approved admission of women
  • Jan. 11, 1894: The first CW was printed
  • April 15, 1926: “Yea Alabama” first “appeared”
  • March 25, 1952: First spring break was announced and consisted of five days
  • Nov. 22, 1955: First televised Alabama pep rally
  • Feb. 6, 1956: Autherine Lucy became first Black student at the University
  • June 1, 1959: First freshman orientation
  • Sept. 21 1960: Mallet Honors Assembly opened
  • June 13, 1963: The University’s zip code (35486) went into effect
  • Sept. 3, 1963: Saturday classes were abandoned
  • Feb. 4, 1971: Jim Siegler became first SGA president to be impeached
  • Dec. 2, 1977: “Tram system” went into effect