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University History

Essential information about the history of the University of West Georgia and links to key digitized materials from the university's history

The A&M Years (1906-1933)

  • 1906: The General Assembly of Georgia passed the Perry Act, creating an agricultural and mechanical school in each of the 11 (increased to 12 in 1919) congressional districts in the state. These A&M schools were secondary schools designed to prepare rural youth for farm life.
  • 1907: The 275-acre farm of Bluford A. Sharp, located west of Carrollton, was selected as the site of the Fourth Congressional District A&M School and purchased by the Trustees for $9,625.00. On July 9, the Cornerstone on the academic building was laid. The event attracted to campus the largest group ever assembled in the county [estimated to be 12,000], including  Governor Joseph M. Terrell. On December 6, the family of John H. Melson, first principal of the A&M school, arrived on the campus. Snow and ice covered the ground, the water was frozen and there were no electric lights, walkways or driveways.
  • 1908: In January, the Fourth District A&M School opened its doors under the leadership of Principal Melson. “We Learn to Do by Doing” was adopted as the motto for the school. When the school opened there were only 2 automobiles in Carrollton. On January 27, Mrs. Penelope Stevens Melson, wife of the principal, became the defacto librarian when she conducted a “book shower.” This provided the nucleus of a library when 325 volumes of nondescript books and bound volumes of magazines were contributed by local citizens. The books were placed on a single shelf in the linen closet on the East side of the dormitory lobby. On February 19, a newly organized baseball team defeated Carrollton High School 16-4. The following day the team chose its official colors – dark blue and red. These became the school’s colors.
  • 1909: In October, a ten-year-long tradition of holding a “Fourth District A&M Fair” began, held each October on the back campus. Activities included exhibits of farm products, crafts, culinary arts, and entertainment such as a greased pig chase and 3-legged races. Evening entertainment was of a carnival nature. One of the most popular attractions was Miss Mahalay Lancaster’s fortune telling booth. These fairs were eventually relocated from campus, much to the relief of faculty, but continued as a county event.
  • 1912: Today’s Honors College  building was built as the home of the A&M Principal, J.M. Melson, and until 1962 was located where Cobb Hall is now. It continued to serve as the home for principals/presidents of the institution until 1967. It was moved to its present location in 1962.
  • 1916: In the summer, the stone horse-mounting block belonging to Creek Indian Chief General William McIntosh was moved to the grounds of the A&M School from McIntosh’s plantation on the Chattahoochee River. McIntosh, who signed the treaty for removal of his tribe from the area had been murdered by members of his own tribe.
  • 1919: Principal Melson asked the governors of 13 states for the gift of an oak tree variety native to their particular state to be planted on the front campus, which until that time had been a cotton field. Martha Munro joined the faculty as an English teacher after her father, George P. Munro, left the Trustees.
  • 1920: On April 20, Irvine Sullivan Ingram, age 27, was hired as principal of the A&M School by the Trustees. In 1921 he married Martha Munro.
  • 1929: In May, the then Governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was commencement speaker at the Fourth District A&M School.
  • 1932: On January 1, a legislature-enacted law became effective that organized Georgia’s public institutions of higher learning into a unified system under a chancellor and a Board of Regents. The Board of Regents took the position that high school education was not an appropriate function of the state to perform and should be left to local municipalities and school districts.
  • 1933: In March, The Board of Regents announced plans to cease the operation of Bowdon College ( opened  in 1856) and all remaining A&M schools  to establish a new junior college on 1 of 3 campuses in West Georgia: Carrollton, Bowdon, or Powder Springs. Presentations  and claims in support of given locations were invited to the Regents’ meeting scheduled for April 15, 1933. A mass meeting at the Carrollton City Hall planned the community’s procedure for a campaign to win approval of the Carrollton site. On the forefront of this activity was Irvine Ingram, though he had been told by 1 of the Regents that he could not expect to be named as its first President. On April 15, the Board of Regents chose Carrollton’s A&M School as the campus and Irvine S. Ingram as the new President of the college which they gave the name West Georgia College. On April 24, the final commencement exercises were held for the A&M School.

The Junior College Years (1933-1957)

  • 1933: In August, West Georgia College began enrolling its first junior college students. Outside the city limits of Carrollton, the college had its own postal address, known as GENOLA. The name was derived from two women – Minna Ola Adamson, wife of Congressman W.C. Adamson of Carrollton and Eugenia Mandeville – daughter of Leroy Clifton Mandeville. Irvine Ingram was the postmaster of  GENOLA. On September 25, The first student body of West Georgia College assembled on the campus. The first Alumni Association was also formed. In October, the Debate Club was organized. The school then began the process of choosing a school emblem. A majority of the student body chose the name “Hill-billies” as the school emblem. Within an hour after news of this selection had been made public on campus, petitions circulated to change the name. Eventually,  “Braves” was selected due to the area’s Native American heritage and the fact that students had found arrowheads while working in campus fields.
  • 1935: On March 1, West Georgia College’s first intercollegiate debate took place at Americus, GA.
  • 1937: In January, President Ingram sent a proposal for an experimental rural education project to the Julius Rosenwald Fund in Chicago, IL. The fund was noted for its assistance to Negro education in the South. Over a period of 10  years, the Fund invested almost $250,000 in West Georgia College. It nearly cost Ingram his job because segregationist Governor Eugene Talmadge was a bitter enemy of the Rosenwald Fund. In the Fall prize money was offered by various segments of the campus to choose a new and distinctive alma mater. The award went to Aaron Buckalew for “West Georgia Alma Mater” for which he had composed both words and music. The new alma mater replaced the old one in 1938. During the same fall semester, West Georgia College became 1 of 7 schools in the state chosen as the site of a National Youth Administration (NYA) residential work center which, among other things, made wooden rifles for military drills and became a national defense unit in 1940.
  • 1940: A third year of preparation for those pursuing careers in education was added to West Georgia’s two-year program, financed by the Rosenwald Fund.
  • 1946: Within a three-month period, Carroll County schools were highlighted in Look, Saturday Evening Post and The New York Times for their innovative efforts. In November, the Saturday Evening Post carried an article by Norman Rockwell, illustrated with the artist’s paintings and drawings made on location at Oak Mountain School, one of those cooperating with West Georgia College.
  • 1947: The first homecoming was held.
  • 1949: In November, the first meeting of the “College in the Community” (later named “College in the Country”) was held. This was a program of adult education aimed at reaching many in the community who, because of the Great Depression, had been unable to continue their education. WGC attained world-wide prominence for this program in the 1950’s. This eventually became the Division of Continuing Education on campus.
  • 1953: The “Studycade” was inaugurated – a classroom on wheels which took local citizens by chartered bus into distant communities in the US and Canada for comparison and exchange of ideas.

The Senior College Years (1957-1996)

  • 1959: In March, West Georgia College was authorized to grant the AB degree with majors in Math, History and English. In 1960, major in Biology added.
  • 1960: William H. Row, former academic dean of the College who had come to West Georgia in 1946 as teacher of speech and drama and chair of the Division of Language, Literature and the Arts, became President of West Georgia College. Unfortunately, a fatal heart attack removed him from the presidency after only 9 months. Upon his death, former president Irvine S. Ingram returned as acting President and retired again after naming his successor a second time.
  • 1961: In August, James E. Boyd became President of West Georgia College. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Georgia, he was also a member of the Junior College faculty from 1933-1935, serving for 2 years as head of the Mathematics and Science Department.
  • 1963: In the Summer, the first Black student, Mrs. Lillian Williams, enrolled at WGC.
  • 1964: Attorney General Robert Kennedy came to campus to dedicate the campus chapel as the Kennedy Chapel in honor of late President John F. Kennedy. Constructed in 1893 in downtown Carrollton and used by the Episcopal Church and later by the Catholic Church, it was moved to the campus in 1964.
  • 1967: Graduate work instituted with MA degrees in English, History and Psychology and the M.Ed. for Certification purposes.
  • 1968-1969: Sororities and Fraternities were organized on campus and became nationally affiliated in 1970 and 1971.
  • 1971: In March, James E. Boyd left West Georgia College to become Vice Chancellor for Academic Development in the University System. Within a month he was chosen as Interim President of Georgia Tech. In the Spring, Ward Pafford, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Emory University with a Ph.D. from Duke University, was appointed as president of WGC. Governor Jimmy Carter was among those attending his inauguration on October 29, 1971.
  • 1971-1972: The Specialist in Education and MBA programs were established.
  • 1972: The Debate team rose from regional to national prominence by qualifying for the National Debate Tournament for the first time.
  • 1974: The Men’s basketball team, under Coach Roger Kaiser, won the national NAIA playoffs. The Lady Braves Basketball team, under Barbara Brown, won a state championship.
  • 1975: In July Maurice K. Townsend, a political scientist who was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa at Boston University in 1949 became West Georgia College’s 5th president. His 1st  major construction project was the expansion of the college library. In the course of his presidency he personally donated 6,905 volumes to the library.
  • 1980: The 23-year-long-dormant intercollegiate football team was re-established. That same year, the College adopted a new logo, patterned by sculptor Henry Setter of the Art Department, on the horse-mounting block of Creek Indian Chief William McIntosh.
  • 1982: The Football team, coached by Bobby Pate, won the national championship in Division III.
  • 1994: Beheruz N. Sethna, with Ph.D. from Columbia University and BA degree with honors from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, became first person from an ethnic minority to head a predominately white or racially-integrated institution in Georgia when he was named President of West Georgia College.
  • 1995: A former Fulbright scholar, Sethna successfully approached the Faculty Senate to establish an “Advanced Academy” on campus to provide opportunities for outstanding juniors and seniors in high school to take regular college courses and receive both high school and college credit.

The University Years (1996-Present)

  • 1996: In June, West Georgia College became the State University of West Georgia and the three undergraduate units became Colleges rather than Schools.
  • 1997: In April  a new logo symbolizing the torch of knowledge was adopted to replace the McIntosh stone logo. During the Fall the Freshman Center (now the Excel Center) was established to help students excel in their initial college work and beyond.
  • 1998: The University received approval for its first doctoral program, an Ed.D. in School Improvement.
  • 1999: On June 9 the Honors College became an official part of the State University of West Georgia and held the distinction of being the only such college in the state of Georgia.
  • 2001: The construction of the Technology-enhanced Learning Center (TLC) was completed.
  • 2004: The University awarded its first three doctoral degrees.
  • 2005: On January 12, by a vote of the Board of Regents, the State University of West Georgia became the University of West Georgia. For the fifth time within seven years, more students from the Honors College were accepted to present research at the annual meeting of the National College Honors Council than from any other college or university in the country. For the fourth time in four years, the university co-ed cheerleaders won the UCA College Cheerleading National Championship in Division II.
  • 2006: In August, UWG celebrated 100 years!