A.V. Huff Oral History
A.V. Huff and Courtney Tollison
Video interview with A.V. Huff, former Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean, and Professor of History at Furman University. Dr. Huff begins the interview talking about growing up in Columbia, SC, and his education at Wofford College, Yale Divinity School, and Duke University, where he received his Ph.D. in History. He began teaching History at Furman in 1968, living in the dorm as a new faculty member. Dr. Huff speaks of Furman during the turbulent times of the late 60's and early 70's. He touches on race relations, Betty Alverson and the start of the Collegiate Educational Service Corps (now Heller Service Corps), the Wesley Foundation during those years, the SSOC (Southern Student Organizing Committee), and the activism on campus. Dr. Huff talks about former Furman Presidents Gordon Blackwell and John Johns, as well as Deans, Francis Bonner and John Crabtree, and long time assistant to five Furman Deans, Peggy Park. Other highlights of the interview are Dr. Huff discussing Furman's split with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, the curriculum change from the semester system to a trimester with a winter term, the beginning of Furman's Foreign Study program, and the relationship with the city of Greenville and Furman over the years.
Beatrice D. Plyler Oral History
Beatrice Plyler and Courtney Tollison
Audio recording of an interview with Beatrice Plyler (1911-2011), widow of former Furman president, John Laney Plyler. Mrs. Plyler talks about her family and growing up in Berkeley County, SC, as well as meeting her future husband, and their marriage in 1932. She discusses the early years of her marriage, anecdotes of John Plyler as a husband and father, daily life, and a few things President Plyler shared with her about his childhood and family. Mentioned by Beatrice in the interview are Judge Clement Haynsworth, Alester Furman, Jr., and Charles and Mickey Daniel. Mrs. Plyler discusses, in depth, the building of the new Furman campus, from choosing the property, meeting with architects, and picking out colors and furniture. She talks of how she and John were influenced by a trip to France and England, and how seeing the beautiful gardens, lakes, and fountains gave them ideas for the new Furman campus.
Betty Alverson Oral History
Betty Alverson and Courtney Tollison
A video interview with Betty Alverson, the founder of the Collegiate Educational Service Corps (CESC), what is today known as the Heller Service Corps, at Furman University. She also was the first director of the Student Center at Furman. In her 2004 interview, she shares memories of being a Furman student in the 1950's, and the faculty and staff that meant so much to her, like Laura Ebaugh, Winston Babb, Maguerite Chiles, Junius Gladney, and Dr. Olivia Futch. Betty speaks about returning to Furman in 1965 and becoming director of the new Watkins Student Center. She speaks in detail about CESC, and also talks about the beginning of May Day Play Day and other programs like Film Arts, Talk a Topic, Values Dinners, and Dialogue. She shares memories of the turbulent times in the 60's and 70's, and some controversial matters of that time, like dancing on campus, etc. Betty speaks about working with Furman Presidents Gordon Blackwell and John Johns, as well as Chaplain L. D. Johnson, and Dean of Students, Ernest Harrill. She also spends a portion of the interview talking about Furman's split with the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Betty Durham Owens Oral History
Betty Durham Owens and Courtney Tollison
Betty Durham Owens, born in 1934, grew up near Furman's old campus in downtown Greenville, and in this 2004 oral history audio, she shares some of her memories associated with Furman. She talks about playing on the old campus as a child, roller skating in front of the library, going into the Bell Tower, as well as the beauty of Furman during that time. She mentions "the Plyler boys," and remembers the house of their father, President John Plyler. Betty married a Furman student, and she discusses life in married-student housing at Furman in the 1950's. Betty talks about her love for Furman football, she mentions Vince Peone, and also describes being at the basketball game when Furman's Frank Selvy scored 100 points, as well as the feelings of joy and pride on campus, and in the community, after the game. Betty speaks of her long lasting Furman friends and relationships with Furman professors, and her continued love for Furman and Furman athletics.
Carl Clawson Oral History
Carl Clawson and Courtney Tollison
A video interview with Carl Clawson, the 2004 Belltower Award Recipient. Mr. Clawson was the Resident Engineer and Director of Planning and Construction at Furman University from 1955 to 1983. Thirty-one structures were built at Furman under his direction. The video begins with a walking tour with Mr. Clawson. He explains the layout and design of the Furman campus. Carl talks about the construction of Furman's new campus, and campus life at that time. He speaks of the master plan, and how Dr. Plyler wanted a "Williamsburg, walking campus," so a Colonial Style was used. He explains how parts from the downtown campus were used in the construction of certain areas on the new Furman campus. Carl explains why Furman needed to move from downtown Greenville. He shares the story of how he got the job at Furman, as well as anecdotes from his job interview and first meeting President John Plyer. Mr. Clawson gives a detail account of how the Bell Tower on Furman's Lake was constructed. He personally climbed the old Bell Tower on the downtown campus to record it's exact dimensions because the original plans did not exist. He talks about the decision to put the replica on the peninsula at the Furman Lake, how he did the surveying and layout, and gives details of the construction process. Mr. Clawson finishes the interview briefly speaking about the construction of the Student Center in the 1960's.
Charles Townes Oral History
Charles Townes and Courtney Tollison
Video interview with Dr. Charles Townes, Nobel Prize winning American physicist, and inventor of the maser and laser. Dr. Townes graduated Furman in 1935. He begins his interview talking about what he considers to be his greatest accomplishments, what inspires him, and how he would like to be remembered. Dr. Townes speaks of his childhood in Greenville, SC, and his interest in science as a boy. He explains how it was at Furman that he decided to study Physics. He mentions Physics Professor Hiden Cox as one of his favorite Furman professors. Dr. Townes briefly speaks of life during the Great Depression. He talks of going to the California Institute of Technology, taking classes under Oppenheimer, and later working with Bell Labs during World War II on radar bombing systems. Dr. Townes talks in detail about his work with NASA during the Space Race, and the first landing on the moon. He speaks of the Cold War, and his time advising President Reagan on the MX Missle. Dr. Townes shares memories of Furman, studying science, modern languages, the band, and swimming. He briefly talks about what he is involved in at the time of this interview, traveling to Pakistan and Germany, meeting with other scientists. Dr. Townes finishes the interview discussing his thoughts on faith, religion, and science, and the relation between them.
Cleveland Sellers Oral History
Video interview, and oral history of Cleveland Sellers, American educator and veteran civil rights activist. The video begins with Mr. Sellers showing historical photographs of himself and other prominent figures during the Civil Rights Movement. He then speaks of his life in Denmark, SC, during the 1940's and 50's, and what it was like for a young African American there in that time. Mr. Sellers proceeds to discuss the transition from segregation to integration, and the effects on the African American community. He talks about becoming a young activist and working with older activists in the 1960's, and discusses sit-ins, Birmingham, and Mississippi. Topics discussed are the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), the responsibilities of being a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, the feeling of family among activists, women leaders and the role of sex and gender in the movement. Mr. Sellers also talks about the financial hardship of activism, training organizers, the dangers of the movement, and the safety precautions and procedures they used. He ends the interview talking about his transition from civil rights activist to an educator, teaching young people of different races and attitudes in the present day, and his teaching style. In this interview Mr. Sellers speaks of Septima Poinsette Clark and also Stokely Carmichael.
DeWitt Jackson Oral History
DeWitt Jackson and Courtney Tollison
Video interview with DeWitt Jackson, World War II hero, winner of two Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart. DeWitt Jackson was born in Fountain Inn, SC, in 1920, and in this interview Mr. Jackson speaks of his life, growing up as a child of a sharecropper in the 1920's and 1930's, and the difficulties he faced as a young African American getting an education. He talks about attenting the historic Bettis Academy and Junior College in Edgefield, SC. Mr. Jackson discusses going into the service, his training, being a rifleman in the 371st Infantry Regiment of the 92nd Division, and fighting in Italy during World War II. He tells how he was injured. Mr. Jackson proceeds to talk about returning from war, and the difficulties of coming home and facing racism and segregation in the 1940's. After living in Indiana for many years, Mr. Jackson gives details of returning to upstate SC and starting a job as a cook at Furman University in the early 1970's. He reflects on his time working at Furman. He mentions Furman basketball player, Clyde Mayes. Mr. Jackson talks about the changes in the South throughout his life, and he compares life in Indiana to life in Greenville, SC. He finishes his interview with stories of his mother being a midwife in the 1920's and 30's.
Ed Jones Oral History
Ed Jones and Courtney Tollison
Video interview of Dr. Ed Jones, 1954 Furman graduate, history professor, and first Department Chair of the Asian Studies Department at Furman. Dr. Jones begins by giving his history, growing up in Saluda County, going into the Marine Corps, and afterwards, starting Furman in 1949. He descibes the old Furman campus, downtown Greenville, and talks of the history courses he took as a student. Dr. Jones speaks about graduate school and his first teaching job, and how he came back to Furman to become a professor. He shares memories of President John Plyler, and a few anecdotes. Dr. Jones gives details of Furman's development of Asian history courses. He mentions Dr. Frank Bonner, and the development of Furman's faculty over the years, talks about the development of the foreign study program and the Asian Studies Department. Dr. Jones briefly talks about integration at Furman, and President Blackwell and Dr. Bonner during that time. He also discusses the growing diversity of Greenville, SC, throughout his years at Furman.
Elizabeth Peace Stall Oral History
Elizabeth Peace Stall and Courtney Tollison
Video interview of Elizabeth Peace Stall, Furman Trustee and Founding President of the Peace Center for the Performing Arts. Mrs. Stall begins speaking about growing up in Greenville, SC. She gives a brief family history and speaks about their business in the newspaper, radio, and television industry. Her father went to Furman in the late 1920's, and she talks about the scholarships her family has given to Furman. Mrs. Stall gives details of the development of the Peace Center, talks about her involvement in community development, St. Francis Hospital , PTA's, and gives details of her involvement with the desegregation of the Greenville County Schools. Mrs. Stall speaks of her time serving as a trustee for Furman, Hollins College, and Presbyterian College. She talks about her thoughts on Furman as a young girl, and Furman's relationship with the city of Greenville, how it was, and how it is currently, and talks about Max Heller and the development of the Greenville downtown area. She mentions Presidents David Shi, John Johns, and Gordon Blackwell, and talks about being a Furman Trustee and the issues she deals with at the university. Mrs. Stall closes the interview speaking about her involment in the Community Foundation of Greater Greenville, her father's love of Furman basketball, and attending the Furman game in 1954 when Frank Selvy scored 100 points.
Ernie Harrill Oral History
Ernie Harrill and Courtney Tollison
Video interview with Dr. Ernie Harrill, former Dean of Students. Dr. Harrill taught Political Science at Furman from 1949 to 1983. He begins this 2003 interview discussing his arrival at Furman. Dr. Harrill explains how he got the job, and gives his impressions of the old downtown campus when he arrived. He tells stories of his early teaching days, and talks about the tough conditions in the classrooms, very cold in the winter, and hot in the summer. Dr. Harrill tells stories of student life on the old campus, and shares some of his experiences with controversial situations, and also some funny situations. He talks about the groundbreaking of the new campus, and describes the new campus. Dr. Harrill speaks about Julius Gladney, Betty Alverson, President John Plyler and his wife Bea Plyler, President Gordon Blackwell, Olivia Futch, and Marguerite Chiles. He talks about his time as Dean of Students and controversial fraternity issues, as well as desegregation at Furman. Dr. Harrill gives some details on the installation of Furman's Phi Beta Kappa chapter in 1973, and he closes talking about President John Plyler and Dean Francis Bonner, what they were like, and what it was like working with the two men.
Eugene Proctor Oral History
Eugene Proctor and Courtney Tollison
Video interview with Dr. Eugene Proctor. Dr. Proctor attended Furman in the late 1930's, served as a Furman Trustee for 25 years, and served as Chairman of the Board for 6 of those. Dr. Proctor begins the interview talking about the inauguration of President Gordon Blackwell, as well as his close friendship with Dr. Blackwell. He reflects on his time as a Furman student, student life in the late 1930's, and President Geer's time as President. Dr. Proctor speaks about his time as a Furman Trustee, and issues such as on-campus dances, fraternities, desegregation, the Ford Foundation grant, and building the science building. He remembers Dean Robert Daniel, Professors Sumner Ives, and John Sampey. He talks about working with Herman Lay, Alester Furman Sr., and Alester Furman, Jr., the hiring of Dr. Gordon Blackwell as President, as well as what it was like working closley with President John Plyler. Dr. Proctor shares anecdotes of Dr. and Mrs. Gordon Blackwell, as he was very close, personal friends with both. He speaks of Dr. Blackwell's legacy, and closes the interview speaking of the arrival of Dr. John Johns, what Dr. John's was like as president of the university, and the differences between Dr. Johns and Dr. Blackwell.
Frances Furman Hewitt Oral History
Frances Furman Hewitt and Courtney Tollison
Video interview with Frances Furman Hewitt, great-great-granddaughter of Richard Furman, namesake of Furman University. Mrs. Hewitt begins the interview sharing memories of growing up in Greenville, playing with Charles Townes as a child, and attending Greenville High School. She talks about attending Greenville Woman's College during the Depression, remembering May Day, the old campus, and certain professors that taught there, as well as dating during that time, meeting her future husband, and Furman football games. Mrs. Hewitt tells how she fits in the Furman family line, and shares memories of her Uncle Alester Furman, cousins Lucy and Alester Jr., and her Uncle Eugene Kincaid Furman. She gives details of Cherrydale, home of Furman's first president, James Clement Furman, and playing there as a child. She tells stories about President John Plyler and his wife, and Mrs. Hewitt concludes the interview talking about her children and granchildren, and her family's relationship with Furman University over the years.
Gary Clark Oral History
Gary Clark, Andrew Barksdale, Brian Wertz, and Rhett Williams
Audio interview with Dr. Gary Clark,1974 Furman graduate, and the current Athletic Director at Furman University. In this 2008 interview, Dr. Clark shares with current students his experiences playing on one of the first integrated basketball teams at Furman, discussing race relations on the team, at Furman, and in the Greenville community. He talks about the difference in race relations as he came from his home in Chicago to the South in 1970, to play college basketball. Dr. Clark mentions other controversial issues at the time like long hair and clothing styles. He discusses the change he's seen in diversity from his time as a basketball player in the early 1970's to a present day Furman administrator. Dr. Clark talks of current diversity issues in college coaching and recruiting and discusses how Furman handles these issues.
Hardy S. Clemons Oral History
Hardy S. Clemons and Courtney Tollison
Audio interview with Dr. Hardy S. Clemons, Furman Trustee Emeritus, and former pastor of the First Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. Dr. Clemons is a 1955 graduate of Texas Tech University, and later earned a Doctorate of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Furman in 1994. In this 2004 oral history, Dr. Clemons discusses his work in civil rights early in his career in Texas. He tells of how he came to Greenville First Baptist, and how his relationship with Furman began. Dr. Clemons tells of his friendships with Gordon Blackwell, John Johns, and David Shi. He details the changing nature of the Southern Baptist Convention throughout the 1970s and 1980s, how it affected Greenville First Baptist, and gives his opinions regarding the causes and effects of the split between Furman and the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Dr. Clemons discusses the split between Greenville First Baptist and the Southern Baptist Convention as well. He discusses Furman's religious identity since the early 1990's, and speaks of some controversial issues the board faced during his tenure as a trustee.
Ingrid Erwin Oral History
Video interview with Greenvile SC lawyer, Ingrid Erwin, 1978 Furman Phi Beta Kappa member, and graduate. Ms. Erwin begins talking about her family, attending Furman, and Don Aiesi, one of her inspirational professors. She discusses the process she went through applying to law school directly after graduating Furman, and talks about her experiences as a young, Southern woman at the University of Virginia School of Law. Ms. Erwin tells of the differences between Furman and law school. She talks about why she became a lawyer, gives advice to students interested in going to law school, and discusses her law career after graduating. Ms. Irwin speaks about some of the discrimination she has faced as a woman lawyer, what the career is like, and gives advice to future lawyers, including how to survive this tough occupation. She also talks about some issues important to her, and discusses the things she is involved in outside of her career.
Jim Leavell Interview
James Barry Leavell III, Eli Kibler, Eva Kiser, and Kylie Fisher
As a founding member of Furman's Asian Studies Department, Dr. Jim Leavell recounts the history behind Furman's adoption of a Non-Western curriculum (later called the Asian-African requirement) and subsequent establishment of an Asian Studies curriculum and department in the late 1980s. Between 1995-1998, Leavell held the position of Chair of Asian Studies. In this interview, Leavell also traces his journey to Furman and scholarly interests in studying Japanese history and culture.
This oral history is part of the Untold Journeys project.
Jim Pitts Oral History
Jim Pitts and Courtney Tollison
Audio recording of an interview with retired Furman Chaplain, Jim Pitts. Jim Pitts graduated Furman in 1960, came back as Assistant Chaplain in 1967, became the Chaplain in 1981, and retired in 2003. Chaplain Pitts talks about his early memories of Greenville, SC, and mentions Dr. David Ramsay, Greenville Woman's College president. He talks about what led him to attend Furman, life as a student in the 1950's, getting married as a Furman student, and the relationship between the Greenville Woman's College and Furman. Chaplain Pitts speaks of his time as Assistant Chaplain and Chaplain at Furman, highlighting big issues like the first social dance on campus, integration, race relations, the SSOC, Student Protest Era, Vietnam and the draft lottery. He speaks of the Furman Civil Rights Tour, and hosting Billy Graham, Jimmy Carter, John Kerry, and Benjamin Mays. Chaplain Pitts praises Betty Alverson, founder of Furman's CESC, and retired faculty member Tom Cloer. He goes into detail discussing Joe Vaughn, Furman's first African American undergraduate student. He also gives details about the separation between Furman and the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and working with President Johns during that time. He closes the interview discussing his concerns for Furman's future and identity, his retirement, and his hope for Furman's future.
Joe Roberts Oral History
Joe Roberts and Courtney Tollison
Audio interview with Joe Roberts, 1952 graduate of Furman, and assistant to President Gordon Blackwell and President John Johns. Mr. Roberts begins the interview talking about Furman's Phi Beta Kappa chapter and it's importance. He praises Francis Bonner, discusses Bonner's importance to Furman, and describes how he worked with each Furman president throughout his career. Mr. Roberts speaks about the Daniel bequest, the history and building of the chapel. He gives an in-depth recounting of the severance between Furman and the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Mr. Roberts outlines the history, causes, and gives specific examples of conflicts. He discusses his work throughout the process, and speaks about the reaction after the split.
John Crabtree Oral History (2004)
John Henry Crabtree Jr. and Courtney Tollison
Video interview with Dr. John Crabtree. While at Furman Dr. Crabtree served as a professor of English, Dean of Students, Chair of the English Department, Academic Dean, and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean. Dr. Crabtree begins the interview talking about getting his job at Furman, and his arrival to the new campus in 1957. He gives a history of his different positions held at Furman, and speaks in detail about Francis Bonner and his legacy. Dr. Crabtree talks about his role in helping Furman obtain a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, changes in faculty and student rules over the years, curriculum reform in the 1960's, the development of Furman's Foreign Study Program, Rhodes Scholars, and the G.E. College Bowl. He praises Professor Willard Pate and Dr. Francis Bonner. Dr. Crabtree speaks of his biggest challenges and accomplishments as Dean, and gives his list of some of the great Furman Professors during his time. He addresses the highlights and controveries he faced as the Dean of Students. He discusses the different Furman presidents he worked with over the years, and closes the interview talking about Furman's hiring of Dr. David Shi as president of the university.
John Crabtree Oral History (2007)
John Henry Crabtree and Myles Surrett
Video interview with Dr. John Crabtree. While at Furman Dr. Crabtree served as a professor of English, Dean of Students, Chair of the English Department, Academic Dean, and Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean, and Professor Emeritus of English. Dr. John Crabtree, a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, first came to Furman in 1957 as an Associate Professor of English. In this oral history Dr. Crabtree remembers the old Furman campus in downtown Greenville, SC. He describes the buildings where he taught, where his office was located, speaks of the architecture, the library, amphitheater, football stadium, etc. He speaks of his impression of the campus when he first arrived, the beauty of it, as well as it's conditions. He tells of where he lived when he began working at Furman. Dr. Crabtree also descibes his memory of the layout of the old downtown campus and how it relates to present day downtown Greenville.
John Duggan Oral History
John Duggan and Courtney Tollison
Video interview with John Duggan, Greenville attorney, and 1969 graduate of Furman University. Mr. Duggan was very involved in student activism and the Southern Student Organizing Committee during his time as a Furman student. He begins the interview talking about growing up, and the influences that framed his way of thinking about politics, race, and religion. Mr. Duggan shares many stories about student life on Furman's new campus in the mid to late 1960's. He praises Ernie Harrill and Betty Alverson, shares anecdotes, and talks about being one of the first volunteers with CESC. Mr. Duggan discusses student activism on campus at the time, during the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam and the draft, the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy. He also details on-campus controverises like compulsory chapel, dancing on campus, and the speaker ban policy. He praises President Gordon Blackwell for his leadership during these years, and shares memories of Joe Vaughn, June Manning, Al Reed, Theron Price, Francis Bonner, and L.D. Johnson. He closes the interview talking about the great faculty in the History Department during his Furman years.
John E. Johns and Martha Johns Oral History
John E. Johns, Martha Johns, and Courtney Tollison
Audio recording of an interview with former Furman President, John E. Johns, and his wife Martha Johns. Dr. John E. Johns (b. 1922- d. 2007) and his wife, Martha Mauney Johns, are both graduates of Furman University. After serving as president for eight years at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, Dr. Johns returned to his alma mater to serve as the president of Furman University. In this interview, Dr. and Mrs. Johns discuss their time as Furman students, his time in Word War II, how he became Furman president, and his time as president. They share memories of Dr. Delbert Gilpatrick, Bea Plyler, Francis Bonner, President Gordon Blackwell, Joe Roberts, Wayne Weaver, Gordon Bennett, and Homozel "Mickey" Daniel. They speak about Furman's 1988 National Championship, and the 1976 National Champion Women's Golf Team. Dr. John's and Martha go into great detail about the split between Furman and the South Carolina Baptist Convention. Other highlights of the interview are the Daniel bequeath, the Hollingsworth bequeath, and how Furman has changed in the last 50 years. Near the conclusion Dr. Johns and his wife do his famous Furman cheer.
John Plyler Jr. Furman Driving Tour
John Plyler Jr. and Courtney Tollison
Furman driving tour with John Plyler, Jr. The tour takes place on both the current Furman campus at 3300 Poinsett Highway and on the site of the old main campus.
John Plyler Jr. Oral History
John Plyler Jr. and Courtney Tollison
Video interview with John Plyler, Jr., son of John L. Plyler, former president of Furman University. Mr. Plyler begins the interview talking about the president's home, and growing up there, on the old Furman campus in downtown Greenville, SC. He remembers his parents' two month European tour which inspired many parts of Furman's new campus. Mr. Plyler highlights a number of Furman faculty that he remembers, and shares memories of the old Furman campus, and his father. Mr. Plyler speaks of the effects World War II had on Furman, and Furman's relation to Greenville during his father's presidency. He gives details about successful Furman alumni over the years. Mr. Plyler also details the planning of Furman's current campus, the use of the land before the current campus was built, and concludes the interview talking about the science building, Plyler Hall, it's construction and naming.
Oral histories recorded by Furman faculty and/or students. Most of the recordings highlight the University's rich history. Notable interviewees include Charles Townes, President John E. and Martha Johns, Lillian Brock Flemming, and John Plyler, Jr.
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