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Transcription

JEREMY HORTON: I am here with Mr. Harwell. Starting out, tell me about your early life. When and where were you born and where did you grow up?

HOYT HARWELL: I was born in Jacksonville, Florida. And at three weeks old I moved to Whistler, Alabama which is a suburb Mobile because my daddy had taken a pastorate there so I grew up in Mobile. He pastored that church five years and then another church in Mobile twenty year. And then in his later years he pastored a country church up the road. So I grew up in Mobile. I went to Murphy High School, which then was biggest high school in Alabama and then came to Samford in 1948. At Murphy I played football for two year and at Samford my first year we played with what we called the Sportsman’s Club which was not officially endorsed by the school. So we could get an ‘H’, letter ‘H’ for playing but we had to have an SC in the middle of it—“Sportsman’s Club” so sort of independent of the school. We were sort of half way 1:00representing the school and halfway not. Anyway I went two years and then dropped out and worked a year to get enough money to finish up. Came back and finished in ‘53. Meanwhile, I had three siblings in college at the same time. I’m the oldest so I had to, sort of, help them also. But during my junior year, I got on with the Associated Press in Birmingham as a teletype operator. That means the other people would write stories and I would put them in tape and 2:00send them out to newspapers and broadcast stations and things like that. Then when I graduated I moved to Mobile and also into the news writing part of Associated Press. Worked there a few years and then worked in Atlanta a few years and then came back to Birmingham. They had the AP office in ‘66, I think it was. Headed that office until I retired in ‘92. I have been retired since then.

JEREMY HORTON: Awesome. Okay, so what were your parents’ names and what did they do for a living?

HOYT HARWELL: My father was Hoyt Harris Harwell. He was from Georgia originally and he was a Baptist pastor all his life. And my mother was Eleanor Upchurch, originally, and she was from North Carolina and raised in Central Florida. And she was excellent on the piano and the organ; musician, so everywhere daddy was 3:00a pastor she was the accompanist and he lead the music. He was a musician as well as a preacher. So that’s their names.

JEREMY HORTON: Excellent. So what was your childhood like? You mentioned you had siblings, talk about your siblings a little bit.

HOYT HARWELL: Well, we all, we all grew up in Mobile and, interesting, my daddy’s church, West End Baptist at the time and was two blocks from a Catholic Church. Father Burns was the priest there. So all the children in that neighborhood all played together and Father Burns let us use his little gym to play basketball and so forth and we just had a normal, fun life. We played baseball all summer and basketball in that little gym and then pick up football games in the colder weather. And didn’t, didn’t have any big problems. We 4:00just had fun. Every time we cleared off a lot for baseball they would start building houses on it so we would have to clear another place to play. We were on the edge of town then so there was room, not like it was downtown. In our pickup games we had kids from six years old to sixteen or seventeen, same game. All the kids would make allowances, of course, for the younger kids, pitch them underhanded and so forth and there were no coaches. Coaches would have ruined our game, you know, and we just had fun. I don’t know what else you need to know. I had what I consider a happy childhood.

JEREMY HORTON: And were all your siblings brothers or did you have any sisters?

HOYT HARWELL: I had four brothers, they are still living, they are all younger. I’m the oldest and then I had two sisters. One of them died two weeks old. Barely remember her. And the other one died, Eleanor Ann Harwell, she was a 5:00church musician and a denominational musician in Georgia and Arkansas and Alabama and she died about five years ago. So just five brothers left now.

JEREMY HORTON: I am sorry to hear that. So how did you end up at Howard College?

HOYT HARWELL: Well my father was a pastor as I mentioned and Howard had an allowance to help preachers’ kids financially and that was one reason: money. And of course daddy wanted me to go to a Baptist school, a small school and I think he felt as a pastor he ought to support Baptist education and Baptist schools. I think that was it also.

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JEREMY HORTON: What did you study?

HOYT HARWELL: I studied, after my first two years I went into journalism. Majored in journalism and minored in business. And I wrote for the Crimson. And my last year, I edited, I was editor of the Crimson. And it is still happening, the Crimson. Still call it...

JEREMY HORTON: So what were some of the hobbies and leisurely activities observed by the students while you were at Howard? So you, mentioned, you were obviously a sportsman, so what kind of other things did y’all do?

HOYT HARWELL: Well I played ping pong. My daddy built a ping pong table for us to play on when I was growing up so I got to be pretty good at it and came in 2nd at the school tournament at ping pong. We had what they used to call, 7:00something call called an H-Day and a bunch of games on the campus, different kind of games we played and that kind of thing. But I didn’t have a whole lot of time to play while I was in college. I was working virtually all four years one way or the other, so. But it was fun, I had fun. I was in the Army Reserve and had a meeting once, one night a week and I worked two to three different type jobs so I stayed pretty busy.

JEREMY HORTON: So H-Day, was that just a bunch of games kind of in the quad, having fun? Or was that, were there other things that happened on H-Day? Can you talk about that a little bit? Do you remember?

HOYT HARWELL: No, well games mainly, and all male (?) type things, you 8:00know, and just fun games, yeah. Softball. . .

JEREMY HORTON: Okay and you mentioned the Army Reserve, they just met 1 time a week and nothing else?

HOYT HARWELL: Yes just one night a week.

JEREMY HORTON: Where would you go to eat when you were in college?

HOYT HARWELL: Well there was a place called Andrew’s Barbecue which was within walking distance and then there was a little sandwich shop on campus and I ate a lot, most meals probably there. It was very small. There was also a bookstore. A combination bookstore and sandwich shop.

JEREMY HORTON: Alright, so my next question is kind of funny. Where would you take girls on dates when you were in school?

HOYT HARWELL: That’s a funny thing. I, when I started my senior, junior year I had to have a car because I working downtown. But my brother Jack who was in 9:00school same time, a year behind me to start with although he caught up with me when I dropped out, he took my car more than I did with that issue. We would go to mainly campus functions. Every once in a while we would go to a movie but there were a lot of things on campus: the basketball games and the school choir had some concerts and thing like that.

JEREMY HORTON: Awesome. That’s a big help. So what was the East Lake campus like? You mentioned in your article that it was small.

HOYT HARWELL: It was small and it was old and we stayed in what had been Navy Barracks during the war, the Second World War. The Navy had their program out there so they put some barracks out there. A lot, most of the boys lived in 10:00those barracks. Which were not, they were not the Taj Mahal--they had one big bath, shower room and they sat on the back side of the campus so. And, that is where we lived, those barracks.

JEREMY HORTON: Did it change? Did the campus change at all while you were there?

HOYT HARWELL: No, I wrote one editorial critical of the school. And that was, we had a lot of potholes around those Navy barracks and the people who had cars had to dodge all the . . . That resulted in them, they brought some trucks and filled in the holes but what was the question? I am sorry.

JEREMY HORTON: I asked if it had changed, the campus, while you were there.

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HOYT HARWELL: Oh no, no major changes while I was there. Now, when I was there they made the decision to move the campus to Homewood, but that move and the new campus came after I left. So I was sad they changed the campus and changed the name so it left me high and dry. Although Howard College is still a part of Samford University.

JEREMY HORTON: Right, the arts school. So during your two years when you dropped out what were you doing?

HOYT HARWELL: One year I worked at the Mobile Press Register. Copyboy. Did some writing, news writing down there for them. Got ink in my blood as they say.

JEREMY HORTON: Alright so, moving on to maybe a little more serious questions. Just say what you know or what you remember if you don’t, it’s totally fine. 12:00What were some of the racial attitudes at Howard during your time as a student?

HOYT HARWELL: Racial?

JEREMY HORTON: Yeah, student, faculty, administration.

HOYT HARWELL: Well we had no black students at all, to start with. And, as far as any overt attitudes there weren’t any. It wasn’t an issue that I recall. The Civil Rights movement really didn’t start until the late 50’s and 60’s and I was out of there by, in ‘53 so. I recall no, nothing along that line. That’s not a good answer but that’s the way it was.

JEREMY HORTON: Did you know Major Davis and did you like him?

HOYT HARWELL: Yeah. And I liked him real well and he had and he and I had conversations because his first name was the same as my last name, Harwell G. 13:00Davis, but we could never make any connection between the two. But yeah, I knew Major Davis real well.

JEREMY HORTON: So tell me about your impression of him.

HOYT HARWELL: Well he was a, had been a legal man. He had been a State Attorney General I think, years earlier, so he ran a pretty tight ship. Didn’t condone anything that was untoward as far as students were concerned. But I think he did a good job. He was very visionary in planning that new campus. Getting people to back it, especially Samford families from other families. He knew that that campus in East Lake would not do over many more years so. Here’s an interesting thing that I don’t know if it means anything or not but at Marion, 14:00Alabama, where Howard began is also where Judson began, and Judson is still there, and also where Marion Military Institute began and it’s still there. All three of them started there at that same time. And then Howard moved to East Lake.

JEREMY HORTON: Awesome, excellent. So as a newspaper editor during, was it ‘52-‘53 you were a newspaper editor?

HOYT HARWELL: I edited, I edited the paper ‘52-‘53, yeah.

JEREMY HORTON: Do you remember any major events, or just things you reported on, that happened to the student body or anything like that?

HOYT HARWELL: No nothing out of the ordinary. Let me, I will tell you one thing I wanted to point out to you would be, which would be horrible now, our main source of revenue for the student paper was cigarette ads.

JEREMY HORTON: Really? That’s very interesting.

HOYT HARWELL: I’m trying to find some. The whole last page were just cigarette ads. Of course they wouldn’t let that happen now. Oh there is an Air force ad. 15:00Anyway I don’t see any right now but we had a lot of them.

JEREMY HORTON: So cigarettes were the main revenue for the newspaper?

HOYT HARWELL: Yeah, yeah one of the main ones. That was before the Attorney General said it wasn’t good for you and a lot of people smoked without thinking anything about it. That’s just the way it was.

JEREMY HORTON: That’s very interesting. So what other student activities or groups did you participate in?

HOYT HARWELL: I was in the Omicron Delta Kappa. I was inducted into that and 16:00then also Trident, do they still have Trident out there? Trident was a scholarship society. Which I think evolved, don’t they have Phi Beta Kappa now or do they? I don’t, don’t know. It would be equivalent to Phi Beta Kappa except Samford didn’t have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter because some reason it didn’t qualify. It was very hard to get one in a college. But I was, my grades were such that I got into that scholastic society. And my other activity was that I got into the ODK which was the leadership scholarship I guess.

JEREMY HORTON: So what was it like working for the Associated Press during the 17:00Civil Rights Movement?

HOYT HARWELL: Well, that’s a whole other chapter. I covered a lot of those things. I covered the Freedom Riders, from when they went from Montgomery to Jackson, Mississippi. I followed them in my car. We went through Selma at 80 miles an hour with a highway patrol escort. I think Alabama was having trouble and wanted to get them on in to Mississippi. So I covered that and then the church bombing, the Birmingham church bombing. I worked in Atlanta when that happened and I flew over that Sunday morning right after it happened and spent a week here covering that story. That’s the two big ones.

JEREMY HORTON: Those are huge, yeah.

HOYT HARWELL: I went to Chicago in ‘68 to cover the Democratic National 18:00Convention for Alabama and Georgia and South Carolina and North Carolina newspapers. That was a wild week when the hippies tangled with Mayor Daley and his people. I didn’t sleep much that week.

JEREMY HORTON: Yeah, I bet. Wow.

HOYT HARWELL: Got back to the Palmer House (where we were staying) finally late at night and it was filled up with stink bombs and stuff like that. It was horrible. That was a bad week. But other than that it was... That was a sort of, indirectly racial story because there was a big dispute over whether they would seat Alabama delegates who were white or black. That was ‘68. That was right in the middle . . . they finally worked out a compromise where they gave half and half and each one of them had half a vote as I recall.

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JEREMY HORTON: Alright so one last question for you then I would love to look through that with you a little bit: what is your most fond memory while attending Howard?

HOYT HARWELL: Of Howard?

JEREMY HORTON: Yeah.

HOYT HARWELL: I think the working on this paper and also the friends that you meet and still have some of them. A lot of them are gone now, of course, but you meet a lot of them. But in working with the paper I was able to deal with a lot of different people, writing stories about their organizations and their activities and so forth so I pretty well had a good feel for everything that was going on, on campus because of working on the paper, yeah. I enjoyed that.

JEREMY HORTON: Awesome. I am actually going to add one more question, were there a lot of student, like, activities and social events on campus on a regular basis?

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HOYT HARWELL: Oh yeah. A lot of things. The, the Greek societies had a lot of things. Parties and dances.

JEREMY HORTON: Dances?

HOYT HARWELL: But they had all of those off campus.

JEREMY HORTON: I was going to say, there’s no dancing on campus.

HOYT HARWELL: They had those off campus. I was not a fraternity member. I didn’t have the time to start with nor the money, but then they had what were called the independents who didn’t belong to any of the great groups and we had a lot of intramural basketball playing and the independents would play the fraternities teams and that kind of thing. Yeah so there were always some things going on.

JEREMY HORTON: Excellent. Well thank you very much for your time Mr. Harwell.

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