Harwell Goodwin Davis
HARWELL GOODWIN DAVIS: At the time I was asked to be president of HowardCollege, I was the tax collector for the United States government for the State of Alabama, Collector of Internal Revenue. It was a good position and I thought it carried the promise of an assured future. One day, Mr. Crawford Johnson came to my, called at my office. He stated that he had been appointed to suggest a president for Howard College. Then I realized, probably from newspaper accounts, that it was a difficult position. He said that he knew that there were a good many men that were able to handle the job but he considered that I was the most available. And he said that if I would accept the position, that he would 1:00support me with his time and his money. When this offer got some publicity, there began to build a pressure that I accept the position. Not so much, in my opinion, to secure my services as president as to secure the financial support of Mr. Johnson. He was a liberal multi-millionaire. But it was not this pressure that caused me to accept the position. One afternoon, during World War One, I was ordered to move my command into position where I could, under cover of 2:00darkness, move into a gap in the front line and be ready to attack at the H-Hour the next morning. To reach that position, it was necessary to march several kilometers through what had been battlefield a few days before and from which we had not been able to remove all of our dead. As I was marching with my command to reach the position I saw a young officer, sitting by the side of the road, leaning against the bank of a small cut we were passing through. My first 3:00impression was that he had not been in an attack because his uniform was not soiled. He looked so life-like that I decided that he had fallen asleep from fatigue and I went across to wake him and tell him to join his command. When I reached him, and placed my hand on him, I found that he had been killed. In that dramatic moment, I realized as never before that I was travelling along that road in the twilight of that afternoon in virtual safety because that young man, 4:00and others like him, had given his life to clear the way. And in that moment, I resolved, that if I should return to my native land, that I would endeavor to serve my God and my fellow man a little better than I had in the past. So while Mr. Johnson was talking about Howard College and its presidency, somehow I was seeing that handsome young officer sitting beside the road in the Argon Forest in France. And it almost seemed to me that he was asking if I remembered the 5:00resolution that I made that day. What was the verse that Colonel McCrae said in his poem "In Flanders Field?" "To you, from failing hands, we throw the torch. Be yours to hold it high. If you break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Field." As illogical as it might seem as a valid reason on which to base a serious action, to me it was a challenge to 6:00keep faith with that resolution. A challenge somehow that I did not dare ignore.