Alabama has a long history of higher education, beginning in
1918 when the federal government authorized the Alabama territory to "set aside
a township for the establishment of a seminary of learning."
On Dec. 18,
1820, a seminary was established and named The University of the State of
In 1827, Tuscaloosa, then the state's capital, was chosen as the
university's home. On April 18, 1931, inaugural ceremonies were held, and
Alabama's first university opened.
Currently there are fourteen public
universities: Alabama A&M University, Alabama State University, Auburn University,
Auburn University at Montgomery, Jacksonville State University, Troy University,
University of Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University
of Alabama in Huntsville, University of Montevallo, University
of North Alabama, University of South Alabama, University of West Alabama
and Athens State University.
On each of these university campuses, there
is at least one academic building, complex or structure named for Bibb
These campus structures were named in honor of the Bibb Graves
family who was instrumental in the development of government and public
education in Alabama.
William Wyatt Bibb was Alabama's first governor.
His main accomplishment was the establishment of the government and the framing
of the state's constitution.
Wyatt Bibb died at the early age of 39. The
centrally located Alabama Bibb county is named in his honor.
death, his younger brother, Thomas Bibb, by virtue of his position as president
of the Alabama
Senate, automatically became governor.
Thomas Bibb served as governor
of Alabama from July 1920 to November 1821.
During his administration,
the establishment of the government continued and the capital of the state was
moved from Huntsville to Cahaba. During legislative sessions, numerous acts
concerned with local municipal government were passed.
Thomas Bibb served
in the Alabama House of Representative from 1828 to 1829.
cousin David Bibb Graves was elected the 40th and the 42nd governor of Alabama
(1927-1931 and 1935-1939).
David Bibb Graves was known as the education
governor, who did more than anyone else in promoting education in the
Despite being a member of the Ku Klux Klan and being elected to
office by their endorsement, David Bibb Graves instituted a progressive program
of reforms especially in the field of education.
During his first term as
governor, funds for schools and teachers salaries were increased, the price of
textbooks decreased and several new schools were built.
To fund these
programs, taxes were levied and tolls were collected on the state's
When president Woodrow Wilson created the Muscle Shoals
Commission to recommend methods of disposing of or utilizing the nitrate plants
that were built in 1918 to produce needed ammunition and explosives for World
War I, Gov. David Bibb Graves appointed Florence native W. F. McFarland to
During David Bibb Graves'
second term in office, educational reforms continued in the form of free
textbooks for first through third grades, and the school term was lengthened
from four to seven months.
Bibb Graves attracted national attention
during his second administration during the Scottsboro Boys era.
after four trials, Bibb Graves, anxious for the spotlight to be reflected from
his state, agreed to pardon the defendants. But after an interview with the
young men, Graves reversed his decision.
On Dec. 7, 1938, President
Franklin Roosevelt wrote a letter to Gov. Bibb Graves urging him to go forward
with the pardon.
Chief Justice of the United States Hugo Black also urged
Graves to grant the pardon.
Despite the pressure, Graves refused to
reconsider the pardon and left office in 1939 without granting it.
action came as a surprise to some because when the U. S. Supreme Court ruled
that the Scottsboro Boys were unfairly convicted on the grounds that blacks had
been "systematically excluded from the jury roll," Gov. Bibb Graves reacted
positively by sending a copy of the Supreme Court decision to every judge in the
state with this note:
"Holdings of the U. S. Supreme Court are the
Supreme laws of the land. Whether we like it or not, it is our patriotic duty of
every citizen and the sworn duty of every public officer to accept and uphold
them in letter and in spirit … This decision means we must put the names of
Negroes in jury boxes in every county."
In 1937, when Franklin D.
Roosevelt named Sen. Hugo Black to the U. S. Supreme Court, Graves appointed his
wife Dixie Bibb Graves (who also was his cousin) to serve the remainder of
Black's term, making her Alabama's first woman senator.
For their role
and contributions, especially in the area of education, Alabama schools,
university buildings, streets, bridges and even an Alabama county have been
named in honor of the Bibb Graves.
Some Bibb Graves university campus
structures serve as classrooms, dormitories and auditoriums, others such as the
University of North Alabama Bibb Graves Hall, houses administrative offices.
Bibb Graves Hall was constructed in 1930 during the administration of
Henry Willingham. In addition to functioning as the administrative headquarters
for the university president, vice president and offices of admission and
financial aid, it also serves as classrooms for history and
About Doris Metcalf
Doris Metcalf, a retired educator, is the author of 13
resource books. She received a bachelors degree at Stillman College, Tuscaloosa;
a master's degree at Ohio State University, Columbus; an EdS degree at the University
of North Alabama, and gifted education certification at the University of
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