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Cordell Hull – Peacemaker

30 Oct

Last year, I was asked to write an article about Cordell Hull for the Tennessee Baptist History Journal. During the process, I did quite a bit of research. However, the best part of the assignment was the day I spent at his birthplace. My parents joined me on the drive through the backroads of Tennessee, and we spent the day looking at the scenery and talking about all kinds of things.

The article was recently published, but I could find no online resource. Instead of sharing a link, I decided to share the article. Oh, if you have never heard of Cordell Hull, then let me introduce you to the man.

In 2013, the State of Tennessee proposed the demolition of the Cordell Hull Building, which has housed government employees since the 1950s. Uproar ensued as preservationists and citizens expressed outrage toward the plan, and, after furious debate, state officials determined that renovation of the Cordell Hull Building was the best option.

Despite the intensity of the argument, few people mentioned the person for whom the building is named. Perhaps that was because Middle Tennessee is dotted with places named in his honor: Cordell Hull Dam, Cordell Hull Lake, Cordell Hull State Park. Perhaps it was because people who argued against the demolition of the building did not realize the important role he played in the history of the United States and the history of the world. As Harold B. Hinton wrote, “There are scores of Tennesseans who have helped mightily in the building of the United States, and Cordell Hull must be numbered among them.”[1]

On October 2, 1871, Cordell Hull was born in a log cabin on a twelve-acre farm rented by his sharecropper father, Billy.[2] In his memoirs, Hull described Olympus, the nearest community, as “the only store in the entire section. This was also the post office.”[3] This was also the rural setting from which he learned the value of hard work and from which his love for learning began.

Hull’s childhood was filled with days working with his siblings in his father’s fields. They cultivated oats, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, corn and made molasses to give all of that a sweeter flavor.[4] When his father bought a larger farm and built a store, Hull continued to assist the family economically. At age eleven, he clerked at the store, and, as Hull wrote, “Sometimes a customer would come in and ask for the man in charge. I would reply proudly, ‘I am the man in charge.’”[5] His father agreed, as he once stated, “Cord was always just like a grown man, from the time he could walk.”[6]

Hull also helped his mother, Elizabeth, with spinning, weaving and milking the cows.[7] However, it was from his mother that he gained his love for learning. Hull wrote:

With all her work, however, she taught us our A B C’s and the first portion of Noah Webster’s old blue-back speller, which was current for generations in all public schools. She required us children to read the Bible as much as possible, and she herself read it constantly.[8]

Obviously, religion played an important role in the daily life of the Hull family, and Cordell Hull looked fondly upon this foundation of his faith. In his memoirs, he recounted:

The people of our section were mostly Primitive Baptists and Methodists…We had to go between one and two miles to the Primitive Baptist church on Wolf River, though sometimes services were held in private homes. The preacher was generally a farmer who tried to make a living on a farm and also undertook to preach. He was known locally as “the preacher.” Members of the church gave a little toward paying the preacher but not much.[9]

Hull continued:

Sometimes they had a preacher come from a distance and then they held splendid meetings. People went to the church from far and near. They walked or rode on horseback or in wagons and carts. There were no buggies in the ridge country at that time. Young men joined up with girl friends and went together to church. The boys wore stiff-standing paper collars, which on hot days were pretty well wilted down by the time they got to church walking or riding. I shall never forget the solemnity and fervor with which those people sand the hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.”[10]

He also remembered the important role of faith in local society when he wrote:

If a person was “skeptical,” he was promptly discovered and branded as an infidel, which rendered him somewhat unpopular and at that time deprived him of the right to testify under oath. Such persons were few and far between. The social life in the ridge country revolved largely around the church.[11]

Hull’s work ethic; thirst for knowledge; and strong faith served him well as his world expanded through higher education, but, at a time when rural families often chose one son to pursue a professional career, he first had to convince his father with what Hinton called “the most important speech in his life.”[12] Local parents established a debating society because, as Hull wrote, “they were deadly earnest that their children should get the utmost from their schooling.”[13] In 1885, Hull took his turn at the podium and argued that George Washington was more important to American history than Christopher Columbus. In front of a crowded room, he won the contest, and his father decided that his son “should go away to the best school he could afford,” which was the Montvale Institute in Celina, Tennessee.[14]

From Montvale, Cordell Hull matriculated to a normal school in Bowling Green, Kentucky and, after a few semesters, transferred to the National Normal University in Lebanon, Ohio.[15] Normal schools specialized in training students to become teachers. Despite this training, Hull wanted to study law, and his father rented an office in Celina where his son could begin reading the law.[16] Lawyers had been learning in this fashion for decades, however, in last decades of the 19th Century, the American Bar Association asserted that more rigorous training was needed.[17]

In 1891, Hull enrolled in the law school at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee, an institution with the reputation of developing some of the nation’s best legal minds.[18] As Hinton wrote in his biography of Cordell Hull, “Ever since the Civil War many of the greatest figures in Tennessee’s legal and political life have had their principal training at Cumberland.”[19] Hull recalled, “When I went to Congress sixteen years later I found in Washington four or five Senators, one Justice of the Supreme Court and twelve to fifteen Congressmen who were graduates of Cumberland University.”[20]

In addition to his academic growth, Hull gained experience outside the classroom that prepared him for the future. At age fourteen, he attended his first court session and first became interested in law. At age seventeen, he read his first newspaper, the Nashville American and listened to the ideas of men who gathered at the general store. From them he learned that “a person can’t ever amount to something unless he stands for something.”[21]

When Hull traveled to Bowling Green, he rode a train for the first time, and, when he attended school in Lebanon, Ohio, he first experienced life outside of the South.[22] However, his political career began back home when he was asked to speak at a rally. The organizers ran out of speakers but remembered his previous debate performance. At age sixteen, Hull spoke in support of Grover Cleveland for president of the United States. Cleveland lost, but, a few years later, Hull was elected Chairman of the Clay County Democratic Committee.[23]

In 1892, Hull ran for the State Legislature. While not yet old enough to hold office, his birthday would come before the general election. Until that time, he had to face a formidable opponent for the Democratic nomination. Realizing that he could not win in a party convention, Hull maneuvered his opponent into a primary election. He bought and horse; stumped throughout four counties; and carried each one.[24] He also won the general election and served in the State House until 1897.[25]

At age thirty-one, Hull became judge of the Fifth Judicial District.[26] Despite the fact that he served for only four years, people called him “Judge” for the rest of his life. As Hinton wrote, “In talking to a considerable number of men throughout the region where he lived for thirty-five years, I heard only two call him by his first name…The rest called him judge.”[27] He continued, “Mrs. Hull learned to call her husband ‘Judge,’ which she does to this day when speaking of him.”[28]

Through his judgeship, Hull became well known throughout the region, and some Democrats believed he would be a strong candidate for Congress in the 1906 election. Facing a strong primary opponent, he traveled throughout the district and relied on his father’s vast friendships. Hull won by fifteen votes and easily carried the general election.[29] This began a twenty-four year career in the United States House of Representatives, broken only by a two year stint as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and placed him in position to impact the nation.[30]

In Cordell Hull: A Biography, Harold B. Hinton called Cordell Hull “Father of the Income Tax,” and the moniker is appropriate.[31] In 1907, Hull first introduced a comprehensive income tax bill but knew that it had little chance for passage. For years, he refined his plan and included it in as many speeches as possible. However, the Supreme Court had ruled the income tax unconstitutional.[32] Then, the political climate changed.

In 1912, Woodrow Wilson, who wanted a lower tariff and a new revenue stream in its place, won the presidency, and, a month before his inauguration, the constitutional amendment allowing an income tax was ratified. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, Hull was tasked with writing a new bill and introducing it to Congress. The income tax became law in October 1913, and, in his memoirs, Hull wrote, “Today the principle is so widely accepted that it seems difficult to visualize the need for the immense struggles that occurred before its adoption.”[33]

In 1914, the First World War began, and Hull saw an opportunity. As he later wrote, “To me, the war, disastrous as it was in all respects, offered both tragedy and a springboard for constructive legislation.”[34] This meant the introduction of his bill to tax inheritance, a revenue stream that Hull had been studying for several years. In 1916, President Wilson signed the Federal and State Inheritance Law.[35]

The end of World War One brought victory to the United States and the Allies. However, due to disagreement in the United States over joining the League of Nations, it brought defeat to President Woodrow Wilson and the Democratic Party. For the next decade, the Republican Party dominated national politics, and Cordell Hull felt the effects of his party’s decline. He lost one election bid for the House of Representatives and, when he made a comeback, lacked the power that he once held.[36]

The opportunity for Hull’s reemergence came in the early 1930s. In 1929, the stock market crashed during the administration of President Herbert Hoover, a Republican, which provided the Democratic Party an opportunity to regain control. That same year, Tennessee Senator Lawrence Tyson passed away. Hull, who had often thought about running for the Senate, announced his candidacy for the seat.[37]

During the Democratic primary, Hull faced the Memphis-based political machine of Boss Ed Crump and accusations of being out of touch with Tennesseans. His opponents talked about his car having a Washington, D.C. license plate and about him needing a driver from Washington to take him over Tennessee roads. However, Hull’s popularity with the people and national Democratic leaders brought victory in the primary and in the general election.[38]

In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt won the presidential election, and a Democrat inhabited the White House for the first time in twelve years. Hull wrote, “At long last, my party was back in power and I felt confident that a fruitful period of work and accomplishment lay before me and those of similar views.”[39] Despite that remembrance, he could not have envisioned that he would become the longest-serving Secretary of State in the history of the United States.

According to Hinton, “Through the preconvention days of 1932 Senator Hull had probably been the closest Congressional adviser Governor Roosevelt had.”[40] This placed him in the forefront of the new president’s mind for a cabinet appointment, but Hull did not see himself as a candidate. As Hull described:

At that moment I was to experience a great surprise. Mr. Roosevelt stopped over in Washington in January on his way to Warm Springs, Georgia, and sent for me to call on him at the Mayflower Hotel. Then and there, without much introduction, he offered me the Secretaryship of State.[41]

For over a month, Hull contemplated the offer and wondered if he could accomplish more in the Senate or as a member of the president’s cabinet. In February, Hull met with Roosevelt and explained, “If I accept the Secretaryship of State, I do not have in mind the mere carrying on of correspondence with foreign governments.”[42] The president-elect agreed, and Hull accepted the offer.

On March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt took the oath of office and embarked on the longest and one of the most influential presidencies in American history.[43] On the same day, Cordell Hull took the oath for his office. Over the next decade, he faced economic decline throughout the world and the rise of dictatorships in Europe and Asia. However, he wanted to first become a good neighbor to the nations of Latin America.

The United States had a long policy of intervention in Latin America that caused feelings of resentment and distrust. Hull worked through these issues at the 1933 Pan-American Conference and laid the groundwork for Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy. He continued to strengthen this policy throughout the by working with diplomats at the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace in 1936 and at the Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics in 1940.[44]

Despite this success, turmoil and violence defined Hull’s term as Secretary of State. Fascist and dictatorial leaders bent on war gained power around the world, and he knew to observe them closely. Of Adolph Hitler, Hull wrote, “Right from the beginning we faced one problem after another in our relations with Germany.”[45] He also faced problems with Benito Mussolini of Italy, Hirohito of Japan and others as they took steps toward war.

In his memoirs, Hull wrote, “I made it clear that, if Europe and Asia took the courses which the Axis nations were charting for them, war was certain to engulf the world.”[46] On September 1, 1939, Cordell Hull was proven to be correct when Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. He spent the previous six years trying to prevent war. Now, Secretary Hull and President Roosevelt tried to steer the United States through war.

On September 5, Roosevelt declared the neutrality of the United States.[47] However, he and Hull knew that the nation must assist the fight to uphold democracy in Europe. After a political fight with isolationists, the Lend-Lease Act passed, and the administration gained the ability to ship weapons to nations fighting against the oppressive regimes.[48]

For two years, the United States assisted the Allies of Europe while watching the advances of Japan in Asia. As Hull wrote, “We considered Japan’s expansionist ambitions an eventual danger to our own safety.”[49] With that in mind, he spoke with Japanese delegates about protecting the sovereignty of Asian nations and the economic role of the United States in that part of the world. Those talks continued until December 7, 1941.

On that morning, Hull waited in his office for a meeting with representatives from Japan, but he first received a call from the president with news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. An hour later, the envoys arrived, and Hull admonished them for continuing talks of peace while planning an attack. He wrote, “I have seen it stated that I “cussed out” the Japanese envoys in rich Tennessee mountain language, but the fact is…no “cussing out” could have made it any stronger.”[50]

The next day, the United States declared war on Japan, and, a few days later, declared war on Germany and Italy. While Roosevelt planned for the fight, he directed Hull to plan for the peace. Thinking about Woodrow Wilson’s failure to convince the United States to join the League of Nations, Hull believed there needed to be “a viable and practical structure by which the peace of the world could be successfully maintained.”[51] He formed a committee of Democrats and Republicans to complete the task, and, in 1943, the State Department completed the “Charter of the United Nations.”[52]

Due to ill health, Hull retired and, while appointed to the American delegation, could not attend the first meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco.[53] However, President Roosevelt had already stated what everyone involved already knew. Cordell Hull was the “Father of the United Nations.”[54] In 1945, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace “in recognition of his work in the Western Hemispheres, for his international trade agreements, and for his efforts in establishing the United Nations.”[55]

On July 23, 1955, Cordell Hull passed away and left a legacy of public service that began in rural Tennessee and ended with an attempt to create everlasting peace for the world.[56] Hull must have been thinking of those days when he ended his memoirs by writing:

If we are willing from time to time to stop and appreciate our past, appraise our present and prepare for our future, I am convinced that the horizons of achievement still stretch before us like the unending Plains. And no achievement can be higher than that of working in harmony with other nations so that the lash of war may be lifted from our backs and a peace of lasting friendship descend upon us.[57]

     [1] Harold B. Hinton, Cordell Hull: A Biography (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1942), 4.

     [2] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park, Tour, July 30, 2016.

     [3] Cordell Hull, The Memoirs of Cordell Hull, vol. 1 (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1948), 3.

     [4] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [5] Hull 1948, 12.

     [6] “The Hulls of Tennessee,” LIFE, March 18, 1940, 81.

     [7] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [8] Hull 1948, 5.

     [9] Ibid., 8.

     [10] Ibid., 8.

    [11] Ibid., 8.

     [12] Hinton 1942, 25.

     [13] Hull 1948, 14.

     [14] Ibid., 15.

     [15] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [16] Hinton 1942, 29.

     [17] Albert J. Harno, Legal Education in the United States: A Report for the Survey of the Legal Profession (1953), 19.

     [18] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [19] Hinton 1942, 30.

     [20] Hull 1948, 27.

     [21] Ibid., 24.

     [22] Ibid., 23.

     [23] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [24] Hull 1948, 29.

     [25] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [26] Hull 1948, 38.

     [27] Hinton 1942, 25.

     [28] Ibid., 10.

     [29] Hull 1948, 43.

     [30] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [31] Hinton 1942, 129.

     [32] Hull 1948, 48.

     [33] Ibid., 71.

     [34] Ibid., 75.

     [35] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [36] Hinton 1942, 166.

     [37] Hull 1948, 134.

     [38] Ibid., 136.

     [39] Ibid., 154.

     [40] Hinton 1942, 203.

     [41] Hull 1948, 156.

     [42] Ibid., 158.

     [43] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [44] Ibid.

     [45] Hull 1948, 236.

     [46] Ibid., 665.

     [47] Hinton 1942, 341.

     [48] Ibid., 348.

     [49] Cordell Hull, The Memoirs of Cordell Hull, vol. 2 (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1948), 982.

     [50] Ibid., 1097.

     [51] Ibid., 1625.

     [52] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [53] Hull 1948, 1721.

     [54] Ibid., 1723.

     [55] Cordell Hull Birthplace and Museum State Park.

     [56] Ibid.

     [57] Hull 1948, 1742.

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My iPod Has Issues – It Has Been a Busy Day

11 Oct

It has been a busy day. It all started with a Historic Lebanon meeting at 7:30. Then, I went to work and prepared for my 9:30 class. After a quick lunch, it was time for my 12:30 class. At that point, I spent time at the copy machine making tests. That involves pushing more buttons than they push in a NASA control room.

I left campus and went to the bank. There were deposits to make. Then, it was to a meeting about city council issues. When that meeting was over, I drove to a meeting of the James E. Ward Agriculture and Community Center Management Committee. Yep, that is a along name. A lot of government committees have long names.

At that point, I went back to campus to finish making copies of tests. Of course, that involved pushing a bunch of buttons. On a mission to find copy paper, I ran into a couple of the other history professors and talked to them for a bit.

After all of that, I made it home to have a dinner of cold pizza. To wind down, I decided to have a little bourbon and see what is going on inside the mind of my iPod.

“Chain of Fools” by Aretha Franklin

“Keep A Knockin'” by Little Richard

“Changes” by David Bowie

“You Could Be Mine” by Guns N’ Roses

“Sleeping Bag” by ZZ Top

“Standing in the Safety Zone” by The Fairfield Four

“Tombstone Blues” by Bob Dylan

“Lady Marmalade” by Labelle

“I Just Can’t Help Believing” by B.J. Thomas

“No Better for You” by Gay Crosse and the Good Humor Six

“Bye Bye Love” by The Everly Brothers

“Westbound and Down” by Jerry Reed

“Honey” by Bobby Goldsboro

“Next to Me” by Clyde McPhatter

“We Will Rock You” by Queen

“Bring It On Home to Me” by Sam Cooke

“Help Me” by Joni Mitchell

“Ain’t That a Shame” by Fats Domino

“Baby Please Don’t Go” by Van Morrison

“I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher

 

 

From Huntingdon to Huntington

17 Jul

Last week, we made a short trip Pennsylvania. My wife has family in Huntingdon, a small town in the central part of the state, and they invited us to stay at their home for a few days. We used that time to explore and a great tour of a small college. Here are the highlights.

On the first day, we drove through five states – Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. It was a long drive through Appalachia, but we saw some beautiful landscapes. When we left the interstate around Altoona, we did not realize that we would not be on the interstate for a few more days. Instead, we would be taking back roads through farmland.

On the second day, we passed through some of that farmland on the way to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Hersheypark was our destination. The girls rode a ton of rides while my wife and I rode a few. I must be getting old because the monorail was my favorite because it took us by part of the old Hershey factory.

One of these days, I am going to get back there and check out the history of chocolate.

Oh yeah, we had a slight surprise when we got back to Huntingdon. We went to a local restaurant for dinner, and my wife order a salad with grilled chicken. She received a salad topped with grilled chicken and french fries. She was, in a word, appalled. We later learned that french fries on salad is a central Pennsylvania thing. I guess it is like grits is a southern thing. Although, I can handle french fries on a salad better than I can handle grits.

On the third day, we got educational. Huntingdon is home to Juniata College, and the family we were visiting used to be the president and first lady of the liberal arts institution.

It is a beautiful campus with a great quad for student to gather. I think my stepdaughter liked it until she saw the dorm room. We had to explain that what she saw is pretty typical for dorm rooms.

After that, we drove a short distance to State College to the campus of Penn State. This was not an official visit. I simply wanted to see the football stadium. Of course, I had to wear the colors of my team behind enemy lines.

I was also told to go to the Creamery. It was a great suggestion. The ice cream was awesome.

On the fourth day, we headed west to two sites that my wife and I really wanted to visit. This was a day to show my stepdaughter and her friend something about our past. After a bit of a drive through the countryside, we arrived at the Flight 93 National Memorial.

On September 11, 2001, the flight was hijacked, and the passengers learned of the other hijackings through calls to their loved ones. At some point, the passengers decided to attack the terrorists. As they struggled, the plane crashed into a field.

It is a sobering place to visit. For those of us who remember, it brings back memories of that terrible day. For those of us who do not remember, it brings questions of what happened. For all of us, it provides a true example of heroism.

As I walked through the museum and over the grounds, I kept wondering what the passengers were thinking. Did they know they were going to crash somewhere and wanted to make sure it was not another building? Did they think they could take over and have a chance at landing the plane? All we know is that they prevented the plane from hitting something in Washington, D.C., which was only 20 minutes away. Investigators think the plane was heading for Capitol Hill.

After visiting the memorial, we drove through more countryside. This time we really hit some back roads and passed farm after farm. Finally, we made it to Fallingwater, the home famously designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. My wife and I visited another of his designs earlier in the year, but this is the iconic one that I have always wanted to see.

He designed the home for the Kaufmann family, who wanted a view of the waterfall on their land. Instead, Wright built it on the waterfall.

Amazingly, the house was built during the midst of the Great Depression.

When we left Fallingwater, we headed toward home but could not make it all the way. We stopped in Huntington, West Virginia for the night. The girls stayed at the hotel and watched Netflix while we went to dinner. We found a great place near downtown called Savannah’s and took a table on their patio. Our waitress was a local student who was majoring in History and Anthropology. Now, she has the right idea.

 

A Few Students of Castle Heights Military Academy

9 Jun

From 1902 to 1986, our city was home to Castle Heights Military Academy, a school that attracted students from all over the world. Those of us who have been around for a while have heard a bunch of stories about the school. The rivalry between the cadets and the local guys. The great athletic teams. The people who received a great education within its halls. One day, I will write about those stories. However, this is story is about a few students who made an impact.

Many of the Castle Heights cadets went on the great success, and a few of them went on to a level of fame.

Pete Rademacher won the heavyweight boxing gold medal at the 1956 Olympics. He made his professional debut by fighting Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title. As far as I know, it is the only time that someone had a shot at the belt in their first fight.

General Wesley Clark, who ran for president in 2004, also attended the school.

Danny Evins, the founder of Cracker Barrel, went to Castle Heights and was one of its major benefactors for many years.

Heck, Benito Mussolini even sent some young men to Castle Heights before the outbreak of World War II. I have seen a photograph of the Rotary dinner that was held in their honor.

However, two brothers who attended Castle Heights rose to greater fame than any of those. They altered the course of music history and, as a result, became iconic figures. One of them passed away in 1971 at the height of his fame. The other passed away just a few days ago.

It is difficult to imagine them wearing the uniforms of Castle Heights cadets, but Duane and Gregg Allman did just that. Up above is a picture of Gregg as proof.

The Rocket Scientist Next Door

8 May

A few weeks ago, I interviewed Charlie Bradshaw, a man who lives down the street. This is what I wrote about him.

Charlie Bradshaw walked into his professor’s office without knowing what to expect. He had enlisted in the Navy and entered the V-12 program for training, which was why he was taking Calculus at Sewanee and was facing the uncertainty of this meeting.

The professor began by going over the details of Charlie’s C average but quickly put his grade book aside. This was not a meeting of condemnation. Rather, it was a meeting of encouragement. He saw Charlie’s talent and encouraged him to think about Mathematics as a career. About this meeting, Charlie said, “I didn’t know how important it was to concentrate on what you’re good at.” With that, a lifelong love of Mathematics began.

Charlie finished the V-12 program and was shipped to the Pacific Theater of World War II to prepare for the invasion of Japan. He saw action at Okinawa but, like thousands of America’s enlisted men, was spared the dangers of invasion when President Harry Truman ordered the use of two atomic bombs. Six weeks later, Charlie found himself walking through Hiroshima, the first city hit with an atomic bomb. When asked what he thought as he took pictures of the carnage, Charlie stated that “we can’t have another war with these weapons.”

After the war, Charlie completed school; joined the faculty at Tennessee Polytechnic Institute; and settled his family in Cookeville. In 1951, a new opportunity arose when he heard about recruiters at a local hotel interviewing people for positions at a new government facility in Huntsville, Alabama. Charlie got a new job but had to delay his departure for two weeks. His wife was about to have a baby. Charlie said, “I always knew I didn’t want to spend a career in teaching, in the classroom, but I loved Cookeville. It had good fishing, and I sort of didn’t want to leave, but it was such a big opportunity.”

That opportunity took Charlie into the world of Wernher von Braun, the German rocket scientist who surrendered to American forces at the end of World War II. While von Braun and his German colleagues built rockets, Charlie’s team calculated their flight times and trajectories with a “slide rule and desk calculator.” Each second of the flight had to be computed, which took two weeks and numerous chalkboards. To complete this job, women were hired. Charlie said:

We eventually hired math aides who were women. They were better at it than men. They were more patient. But, Washington didn’t have a civil service classification for them. We had to get Washington to figure out what to call the job, and they decided on Computers.

In 1953, they launched Redstone, America’s first guided missile, and it followed the path that Charlie’s team had calculated. However, the days of the “slide rule and desk calculator” were coming to an end. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory received the first computer in the South, and Charlie transferred to east Tennessee to oversee its installation. This meant that he was the resident expert on computers – the nonhuman kind.

In 1955, Charlie returned to Huntsville as the Deputy Director of Computation and installed the first computer at that location. By this time, there was an international competition to put something into orbit. Charlie remembered:

We had the capability to put the Redstone in orbit, but Eisenhower didn’t want to use a military missile. That’s when they started Vanguard, and it was a tremendous failure. Vanguard never made it. The Russians beat us. Then 85 days later, we were in orbit. Redstone was ready, and the calculations were all done. We could have beaten them, but we weren’t allowed to.

With a string of successful launches, the Mercury program was established to take people into space. Now, Charlie’s calculations did more than determine the trajectory of a rocket. They determined where to have ships waiting to pick up returning astronauts.

In 1962, the stakes were raised when John F. Kennedy announced the goal of putting a person on the moon. According to Charlie, this had always been von Braun’s goal, but concerns remained. Charlie explained, “We always knew sending people to space would happen, but we still had questions about whether man could survive on the moon.”

At one point, President Kennedy toured the Huntsville facility and met the administrative staff. He was introduced to von Braun and other German scientists. After meeting a line of people with German names, he was introduced to someone named Charlie Bradshaw. The president immediately responded, “How did you get in here?” Charlie remembered, “I thought since he was president I better not laugh, but everyone else did.”

Charlie got in there by being one of the best mathematicians in the nation and stayed through the Apollo 11 mission that put the first men on the moon. Looking back at that event, Charlie could not help but think about the president who set the goal and the tragedy that befell him. In Charlie’s mind, the assassination of President Kennedy inspired the space community to make his dream a reality. Charlie reflected, “John F. Kennedy’s death made it happen.”

In 1970, Charlie left the space program to direct the installation of the first computer at Vanderbilt University and oversee its operation. He immediately had trouble with the faculty. Charlie stated:

Physics got into the nuclear business, and they thought they owned the computers. That was one of the big battles we had. They didn’t think computers ought to be used for other things. But then the divinity school started using it and eventually they let students use them to do their theses. But at one point, the Faculty Senate prohibited computers on the campus from being used for word processing.

Charlie remained at Vanderbilt until his retirement, then he taught classes at Cumberland University. Looking back on his career, Charlie said that sending rockets into space made him more interested in the universe, and that interest led him to become a stronger believer in God. In fact, he stated, “I become more of a believer the more I learn.” Without a doubt, Charlie has learned a great deal.

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of Graduation

6 May

Another academic year has come to an end. Some students have packed up to go home for the summer. Other students have packed up to go on with their lives. They will take their degrees into the world and use the information that they have learned.

Graduation is always a day of excitement and pride. However, it is also a day of sadness because people who have been together for a couple of years leave campus and walk with their families in different directions.

Their lives will also take them in different directions. Some will follow the path of which they planned. Others will take detours along the way. Some of them will stay in contact with their former classmates. Others will disappear from view.

In high school, I had a good friend with whom I used to hang out. Heck, we knew each other before high school. After the high school graduation ceremony, we stood around in our regalia and talked. My mom took a picture of us. That was the last time I ever talked to him or saw him.

That is the story of graduation. It is a time to look to the future. Graduates tell each other that they will stay in contact and talk. Then, they leave campus to go to their family celebration. They busy themselves with getting jobs. Days turn into weeks. Weeks turn into months. Months turn into years. With all of that going on, it is difficult to stay in contact and talk.

Many of them will stay friends forever. Many of them will move on down the road and never look back.

Yes, that is what graduation is all about.

From Hong Kong to Wall Street With Some College in Between

12 Dec

This has been a great weekend in the history of our family. My nephew graduated from the University of Tennessee. I have sat through many graduations, but this was by far the best. The arena was full of people ready to watch their people walk across the stage, and there he was sitting on the front row.

He graduated from the Honors College with a double major in Finance and Chemistry. He did all of that and graduated Magna Cum Laude. That was definitely a first for our family.img_2183

On top of all that, he had some great experiences. During one semester, he studied in Hong Kong and spent a lot of that time traveling around Asia. He went from the temples of Angkor Wat to the casinos of Singapore. He also spent a summer as an intern on Wall Street. As if that was not enough, he worked as an intern at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where his name was included in an article published in a prestigious scientific journal.

I could not be more proud of him if he was my own. He had a great college experience, and I know it is just the first step toward great things to come.