#Terps100: Surprise Find: George Simler

As we assembled the all-time roster of University of Maryland men’s basketball players over the summer, we came up with some unlikely finds, some gentlemen who were better known for their achievements later in life than they were for the exploits on the hardwood.

We’ve already told you the stories of Charlie “King Kong” Keller, the only Terp to ever play in baseball’s All Star Game and World Series, and author Munro Leaf, most famous for his beloved work The Story of Ferdinand.

But did you know that we had a future lieutenant general playing for the Terps under head coach H. Burton Shipley in the 1940-1941 season?

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George Simler, born in 1921 in Johnstown, PA, entered the University of Maryland in fall 1940 and played freshman football and basketball and ran track for the Terps, but left in June 1941 when he was called to active duty in the Navy.

Two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Diamondback  published a letter he sent to the university community, showing his love for Maryland and how much he missed being on campus:

Nine days later, he enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces on December 18, 1941, and  he received his pilot wings on August 5, 1942.

Simler served two combat tours as a pilot in the European Theater of Operations during World War II. He was shot down in July 1944 but successfully evaded capture and returned to the Allied lines two months later. Following the war, he returned to the university serve as a professor of aerospace science and tactics and to complete his education. As he finished out his student days, he rejoined the football team, participating in the Terps’ first-ever post-season bowl game, the Gator Bowl, versus Georgia on January 1, 1948. Five months later, he received his degree in Military Science and was awarded the Sylvester Watch, given to the man who typified the best in Maryland Athletics.

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Terrapin football team, 1947. Simler (#40) is third from right in the second row.

Following graduation, he took on a variety of assignments for the Air Force in the U.S. and overseas, including command of various fighter groups and director of operations of the Seventh Air Force and the Headquarters of the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam, even flying several combat missions during that conflict. He also served as vice commander of the United States Air Forces in Europe.

Throughout his 30-year career in the Air Force, General Simler received numerous awards and decorations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and the Vietnam Air Gallantry Cross. You can find the text for many of his award citations here.

He was killed in a jet crash at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas on September 9, 1972, shortly before he was to have  been  promoted to  full general and assigned to head the Military Airlift Command.

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Simler played in 14 games as a freshman under head coach H. Burton Shipley, scoring 29 points. While perhaps you wouldn’t characterize as a star on the hardwood, he did make an impact as a freshman baller and is certainly a Terp of whom we can be very proud.

 

 

 

 

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#Terps100: Surprise Find: Munro Leaf

As we assembled the all-time roster of University of Maryland men’s basketball players over the summer, we came up with some unlikely finds, some gentlemen who were better known for their achievements later in life than they were for the exploits on the hardwood.

We’ve already told you the story of Charlie “King Kong” Keller, the only Terp to ever play in baseball’s All Star Game and World Series, who just happened to  be a star shooter for Maryland for four seasons, 1933-1937.

Ferdinand the Bull cover

We were surprised to find another famous name on an early roster—Munro Leaf! Leaf, better known as the author of the delightful children’s book, The Story of Ferdinand, took to the hardwood for the freshmen basketballers in the 1924 season.

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You can learn more about Leaf’s famous work here.

His court career did not last long, however, and didn’t even rate a mention in the list of his activities included with his senior photo in the 1927 Reveille yearbook.

munro leaf senior photo

 

The roster we compiled was recently used by artist Daniel Duffy to create one of his pieces of “word art,” which was distributed to fans at the November 28 ACC/Big Ten Challenge game vs. the University of Virginia Cavaliers.

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See if you can find Munro Leaf or Charlie Keller among the 863 names of former players, coaches, and basketball venues that Duffy incorporated into his work!

We found another surprise or two on the roster, so check back on Terrapin Tales to see who we discovered!

A “War of Pens” With One of UMD’s Most Notorious Alumnae

Before writing the S.C.U.M Manifesto and attempting to assassinate Andy Warhol, Valerie Solanas was a student-journalist for the Diamondback from 1956 through 1957.

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Valerie Solanas, 1958 Yearbook

In contrast to her later reputation as a radical feminist, Solanas wrote some fairly generic articles for the paper. In her first article from February 2, 1956, Solanas reported on a female student who donated her eighth pint of blood. The next time she popped up was as a feature reporter on a May 16, 1956, article defending the university’s decision to charge seniors a $10 diploma fee.

The fall semester of 1957 saw the end to her rather bland assignments. On November 19, 1957, the Diamondback editorial staff praised a speech given by Max Shulman at the Associated Collegiate Press Convention. Described as a humorist and national college newspaper columnist, whose column “On Campus with Max Shulman” appeared regularly in the Diamondback, Shulman’s speech declared that in order to “reinvigorate the youth,” the matriarchy must be destroyed. He claimed that when America was run by “restless men,” the country was the light of the world. Shulman suggested that one way to begin the process of reversing the matriarchy was to take the girl with whom you have been going steady since you were 13 and “punch her in the nose” because it will “leave no confusion as to who’s boss.”

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Title card for Max Shulman’s column, which appeared regularly in the Diamondback.

Solanas responded with a letter to the editor on November 22, 1957, stating that Shulman was the “nadir of trivia” and that his statements were “pure bigoted drivel.” She went on to defend stay-at-home mothers by outlining all of the work they did while their husbands were at work and noting that two-thirds of married women juggle work and family duties. She then turned her attention to the Diamondback editors by questioning whether or not it was appropriate for this sort of content to be in the editorial section of the paper. Her fiery response was co-signed by ten other female students on campus.

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On November 26th, Harry Walsh, writing on behalf of himself and the residents of North Baltimore Hall, responded to Solanas by claiming that “these females” purposefully misinterpreted Shulman’s speech and he doubted that Shulman was serious about revolting against the matriarchy since Walsh doubts it even exists. While he does not believe that men have lost masculinity and that he should he punch his girlfriend in the nose, he and his dormmates believe that Solanas’ response only created more humor around the whole situation.

Over the next two months, anonymous and named men from the UMD campus and College Park community chimed in to defend Shulman’s comments, with the main war waging between Walsh and Solanas. One anonymous writer from December 11th wrote that women are meant to stay home and that “women think they’re too good to do housework and try to think.” Another man, W.E. Parr, wrote on December 12th that Solanas is “Maryland’s own little suffragette.” He stated that when UMD men come across a “certain type of distraught female,” the best thing to do is humor them.

Solanas wrote two significant responses on December 17th and December 18th. In the first, entitled “Verbal Warpath,” she tells men to “maintain your manly composure” and that their replies are “unbecoming to men of your intellectual stature.”  After taking a few more shots at the multiple men writing in and insulting her, she signed off with “‘The pen is mightier than the sword’ and my pen is dipped in blood!” The next day, she responded directly to Parr, arguing that men are actually the ones who are wasting away without the women because they are desperately seeking companionship as they lurk around dances and the female dorms.

One female student did come to the defense of Solanas on December 10th when Mary Louis Sparks wrote that Solanas was not trying to wage war, but clarify certain concepts that are held by a large number of men and that those concepts are being held in error. None of the women who signed off on Solanas’ first letter wrote in to defend her, and it is unclear if women wrote in and were not included or if Sparks was actually the only student to defend her.

By January 9, 1958, the editor of the Diamondback had stepped in to put an end to what had become known as the “War of Pens,” as it was unlikely that Shulman or his followers would be converted. He also noted that both sides stated their cases rather poorly due to the sheer number of insults and sarcastic responses to one another. The editor then declared that January 17th would be the last issue that would address the debate.

Solanas was the only person to directly respond to the call for final thoughts. She opted to write a poem rather than a traditional letter:

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January 17, 1958, poem on the War of Pens

There were at least 15 exchanges over the course of three months with articles separate from the “Backtalk” column that addressed the debate. Nearly every “Letter to the Editor” section had someone chiming in on the debate. After the war of pens had ended, Solanas did not appear in the Diamondback as a writer again, while Max Shulman’s column “On Campus,” that was sent out to multiple college newspapers, continued to be published. On what could be considered a particularly conservative campus in the 1950s, the Diamondback editorial staff said that War of Pens had permeated every part of campus life. Though it cannot be said that it caused any major changes, this look into gender relations on campus is certainly enlightening, especially since it was led by Valerie Solanas.

Flip through the gallery below to see the entire “War of Pens”!

To see more archived issues of the Diamondback, visit https://www.lib.umd.edu/univarchives/student-newspapers

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The World Series Slugger: Charlie “King Kong” Keller

Once a year, baseball fans flock to the ballparks and TV screens to watch the battle of the American League and National League champions as they go head to head for THE WORLD SERIES TITLE! In honor of this year’s World Series showdown between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers, University Archives thought we would share the story of an early University of Maryland baseball dynamo, Charlie “King Kong” Keller.

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Charlie Keller Day at Yankee Stadium, Sept. 25, 1948

A native of Middletown, Maryland, Charlie Keller (1916-1990) was a standout in high school, both as a guard on the Middletown High School basketball team and bouncing between pitcher and catcher on the baseball team. As a two-sport athlete at the University of Maryland, he was instantly recognized as quite the slugger, finishing his first two varsity seasons with batting averages of .500 and .495. By 1936, Keller came back to campus for his senior year with an accepted offer from well-known scout, Gene McCann, to play for the New York Yankees.

As a left fielder for the Yankees, he was praised for his ability to hit massive, wall- reaching fly balls and home runs, earning him the nickname “King Kong.” He played with right fielder, Tommy Henrich, and center fielder, Joe DiMaggio, forming one of the best-hitting outfields in baseball history. This feared slugger hit .334 with 11 home runs and 83 RBI’s in 111 games! “King Kong” Keller was a 4-time World Series Champion (1939, 1941, 1943, 1958) and 5-time All Star (1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1947). In his 13- season career with the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers, Keller played in 1,170 games, hit .286  with 189 home runs and 760 RBI. Upon his retirement, he was elected to the Frederick County and Maryland Sports Halls of Fame, The Kingston Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, the International League Hall of Fame, and the University of Maryland Hall of Fame in 1982. 

We are also celebrating Charlie Keller as part of the commemoration of the 100th season, of Maryland men’s basketball this year, #Terps100. He is best known for his baseball exploits, but he did hit the hardwood as a guard for the Terps for 4 seasons, 1933-1937.  The yearbook from his senior year contains a great description of his accomplishments:

Keller was one of the most accurate potshot artists from long range Marylanders have ever known. Keller was the lone consistent marksman on the team and frequently sent long arches through the hoop to start an Old Line rally.

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1934-1935 Maryland men’s basketball team, Charlie Keller at right in second row

Charlie Keller definitely knew what it took to win a series like the one that starts tonight! This Dodgers vs. Red Sox face-off is the first in the World Series since 1916, the year “King Kong” Keller was born! May the best team win!

 

Loss of a Good Friend

john mcnamaraThe University of Maryland Archives mourns the loss of a good friend, John McNamara, in yesterday’s tragic shooting at the offices of the Capital Gazette.  John was a UMD graduate, Class of 1983, and former writer for The Diamondback before he began his career as a professional journalist.

We worked closely with John on the two books he wrote about UMD athletics, University of Maryland Football Vault: The History of the Terrapins (2009) and Cole Classics! (2001). It was an honor and a privilege to collaborate with John on this projects. He spent hours in the Maryland Room gathering the data he needed to make his work completely accurate, and he was deeply appreciative of our support in helping him find information and images and doing a thorough fact-checking of his manuscripts.

Even after John had completed his books, he was always available if we had a question for him or needed his help in making a contact in the world of college athletics.

He was truly a Terp for Life, and we will miss him greatly.

Social Justice Day: The Reverend Jesse Jackson’s History on Campus

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Today, the University of Maryland hosts its second annual Social Justice Day, a campus-wide event for faculty, staff, students, and the community. After a day-long series of events and discussions on important social justice issues, featuring a morning keynote speech from Innocence Project Co-Founder Peter Neufeld, the Reverend Jesse Jackson will deliver a closing keynote speech in the Memorial Chapel. University Archives welcomes Reverend Jackson back to campus by revisiting his previous appearances through Diamondback articles accessed from our Student Newspapers database.

Reverend Jackson has appeared on campus multiple times, the first  on April 24, 1985, at Cole Field House, as part of his state primary presidential campaign. Ahead of Jackson’s visit to campus, Chancellor John Slaughter said Jackson “clearly demonstrated to the country that he’s a person of great sensitivity and compassion. He’s a very articulate and thoughtful spokesman on a number of issues, not only on civil rights and human rights, but economics and foreign policy.”

Jackson supporters began rallying several weeks earlier in the Nyumburu Cultural Center on April 4. “The fundamental reason we have to support Reverend Jackson is economic democracy. Our economy is being undermined by corporations. We’ve got to hold them accountable,” said Alvin Thornton, Jackson’s state issues coordinator. Ahead of Jackson’s first appearance, student reactions were mixed. “This rally is not a University of Maryland, College Park deal: it’s statewide,” said Michael White, sophomore computer science major and coordinator for Jackson supporters on campus. “There are a lot of things I don’t like about it, but that’s the way it has been run by the state campaign.” Members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) also anticipated Jackson’s appearance. Campus treasurer Sally Davies considered Jackson’s rally “very historic,” saying it was the first time they requested leave for the entire University of Maryland system. “Jesse Jackson speaks for all the poor and working people,” said campus AFSCME Vice President William Swain. Chancellor Slaughter supported the gesture, expecting department heads to grant leave to employees requesting to attend the rally. “It is through such appearances that citizens of the state are able to make informed political decisions, and such democratic processes should be encouraged whenever possible,” said Slaughter.

Although Jackson’s campaign expected a crowd of 15,000 at Cole Field House, Jackson spoke to a crowd of between 2,000 to 5,000 people. “We need more than a new president, we need a new direction. It’s time for a change,” said Jackson during his speech. For Jackson, this ‘new’, ‘right’ direction included both higher corporate taxes and national health care. During his speech, Reverend Jackson said things such as “in a nuclear age, we cannot fight it out, we must think it out,” and, promoting his progressive tax plan, “those who make the most should pay the most.” The audience, repeatedly interrupting Jackson with applause, responded with a standing ovation, chanting “Win, Jesse! Win!” Regarding the underwhelming turnout, state campaign coordinator Sherman Roberson challenged Ronald Reagan and other opposing candidates to “pick a Tuesday, come here and do what we did.” During Jackson’s rally, Chancellor Slaughter also provided a red-and-white Terrapin jacket, which Jackson immediately donned.

Jackson returned to campus later that year on September 25, sponsored by Alpha Phi Alpha and the campus chapter of the NAACP.  Standing on a chair, Jackson told a crowd at the Hornbake Library plaza, “from womb to tomb, you are in the political process. You have no capacity to escape your political responsibilities,” adding “if you want to go to graduate school and not to war, you must give peace a chance and give Reagan a ranch.” Reverend Jackson also emphasized the importance of education, stating “schools and teachers at their worst are better than jail and jail wardens at their best.” In Jackson’s second appearance, he seemed “more animated and in lighter spirits” than his previous visit, when he was “guarded by a phalanx of Secret Service officers.”

Reverend Jackson returned to campus briefly on June 23, 1986, for the public memorial service for Maryland basketball star Len Bias. Jackson’s remarks began with a request for a round of applause for Bias, in which the audience responded with a two and a half-minute standing ovation. “You cannot judge Lenny, or any other player, on the basis of his last shot,” Jackson told the crowd of 11,000 at Cole Field House.

Returning to campus at Ritchie Coliseum on Saturday March 5, 1988, while campaigning for president, days before Super Tuesday, Reverend Jackson spoke to a crowd of roughly 600 who had waited for him for over four hours, promoting corporate taxation and addressing issues such as the War on Drugs.

Jackson spoke on campus twice in 1992, the first time on February 3, at the Hardee’s in Stamp Student Union, to promote voter registration as part of a Rainbow Coalition nationwide effort to empower students through voter registration drives. “Every vote counts. Whenever young Americans have come alive, America has always been made better,” said Jackson. “You are empowered if you have the will to use that strength. If you want jobs when you graduate, vote about it. If you want better housing, vote about it.” After Jackson’s speech, a voter drive registered 242 students. Eight months later, he returned to Stamp in the Colony Ballroom, where he told a crowd of roughly 400 students to support Bill Clinton and Al Gore in the upcoming presidential election. Before his speech and discussion, Jackson watched the Vice Presidential debate with the audience. “Students must identify their interests,” Jackson told the audience. “If their interests are in more scholarships and more aid and less tuition; if their interest is in the American economy and putting people back to work in a cleaner, healthier environment; interest in choice for women, then there must be a one-term limit put on the Bush-Quayle administration.”

Has it really been 26 years since Reverend Jesse Jackson has spoke on campus? Seems hard to believe. We welcome him back to the University of Maryland and look forward to his message as part of Social Justice Day.

The Return of Bobby Seale

Tonight, as part of the College of Arts and Humanities’ “2017-18 Dean’s Lecture Series: Courageous Conversations, ARHU Resists Hate And Bias,” the University of Maryland welcomes the return of Bobby Seale! A career political activist, Seale co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense with Huey P. Newton in October 1966. Seale will present “Resistance: From the Sixties to Trump,” which will be followed by a book signing and reception.

Bobby Seale Promo Poster 2018

This will be Bobby Seale’s third time speaking on campus. Seale first spoke on campus at Ritchie Coliseum on February 3rd, 1972. “If you want to wage a revolutionary struggle in this country it is necessary to move forward to feed and clothe the people,” said Seale, to a crowd of 700 people. Seale’s first lecture centered around the Black Panther Party, and he addressed rumors of defection within the party, their primary objectives, and widely debated use of guns for self-defense. For Seale, a primary goal of the Black Panther Party was “to teach and educate the masses of the people,” and that guns were “not the power, but are tools to be used in particular times for particular reasons.”

Seale returned to the University of Maryland on February 11, 1974, at the Grand Ballroom in Stamp Student Union. Echoing his first lecture, Seale’s again focused on defending the Black Panther Party and dispel media distortion of the party’s objectives. “They told you we were picking up guns to shoot white people,” Seale said of the media. “The power structure does not want minority peoples or white people to have unity and control over their lives, especially on a community level,” Seale told the audience at Stamp.

 

The 2017-2018 Arts and Humanities Dean’s Lecture Series will conclude with a lecture from award-winning journalist and NPR correspondent, Mara Liasson on Wednesday April 11, 2018 at the Gildenhorn Recital Hall in the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. For more information and to RSVP for tonight’s Bobby Seale lecture, click here. For more information on the 2017-2018 Arts and Humanities Dean’s Lecture Series, click here.

 

60th Anniversary of the Royal Visit to College Park!

Sixty years ago today, Queen Elizabeth II visited the University of Maryland to attend her first and only college football game on October 19, 1957, between the Maryland Terrapins and the North Carolina Tar Heels! While touring Canada and the United States, the Queen wanted to see a typical American sport, and with College Park’s close proximity to Washington, DC, University President Elkins notified Governor McKeldin, who wrote Sir Harold Caccia, Ambassador of Great Britain, inviting Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip to attend a football game at the University of Maryland!

How did the university prepare for the Queen? How did students view the Queen’s visit to campus? How did students view the university at the time of the Royal Visit?

In preparation of the Queen’s game, university carpenters constructed a special box for the Queen and her party to view the game, while the University of Maryland’s “Black & Gold” band also took over the ROTC drill field to begin preparing for a “typical” half-time show. “They are making room for almost 140 extra press photographers, and newspapers all over the country will carry pictures of her here at Maryland,” said SGA President Howard Miller ahead of the game, suggesting that the Queen’s visit would bring additional publicity and prestige to the university. Additionally, Miller recalled that the SGA met with the State Department ahead of the game to discuss where the Queen should sit. The SGA suggested that she sit on the North Carolina side so she could watch the Card section at half-time and because alcohol consumption at Maryland football games was considered “a major sport in the 1950s.”

The issue of the Diamondback before the royal visit was predominantly dedicated to the Queen’s visit. On behalf of the student body, faculty, and administration, the Diamondback extended a “most enthusiastic welcome,” to the Queen and royal party, seeing the Queen’s visit as an opportunity to “strengthen the good will existing between the United States and Great Britain,” trusting that the Queen will find as much entertainment and excitement during her stay as the university will. Speaking for “just about everybody” on campus, the Queen’s visit was highly anticipated, something the university was collectively very proud of. Anticipating the game, SGA President Howard Miller felt the Queen’s visit was “the greatest thrill of my life,” President Elkins thought the Queen’s visit “created more interest in any college or university than anything I have ever seen in my lifetime,” adding that the University is “delighted” to host the Queen. When addressing the possibility of any “unfortunate events” occurring during the Queen’s visit, President Elkins warned students: “If there is any question, one ought not to do it!”

How were students supposed to behave? If encountering the Queen and Prince Philip, were there specific codes of conduct to follow? The State Department suggested how to behave if students should be presented before the Queen. For students, “how do you do?” was considered a suitable greeting, suggesting that students address the Queen and Prince Philip as “madam,” or “sir,” instead of “Queen,” or “Prince.”

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Front page of the Diamondback the day before the Queen’s Game, October 18, 1957.

And then, on Game Day, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip arrived at Byrd Stadium around 1:15pm. All fans were asked to be in their seats by 1pm to await the royal arrival. Maryland halfback and co-captain Jack Healy recalled posing for photographs before meeting the Queen. “Naturally, we were nervous and this increased the pressure somewhat,” said Healy, but their nerves were eased by a welcoming Prince Philip, who, with a “Hello sparkle,” in his eyes, extended his hand and introduced himself to the team. Then, according to Healy, the team met Queen Elizabeth, who “looked like any typical American woman,” only distinguished by her “precious English accent.” Each team’s captains then presented the Queen and Prince Philip with an autographed football and a replica of the coin used in the game’s coin toss. Prince Philip, “humbly accepting” the autographed football, said “I feel like kicking it myself!”

During the game, the Queen “leaned forward eagerly” as the Governors and President Elkins explained American football to their royal guests. According to President Elkins, the Queen was “most interested in the difference between the English Rugby and the American game.” According to a commonwealth correspondent from the game, “if the Queen understands this game, she’s smarter than I think she is.”

And then, at halftime, after the teams rushed off the field, the North Carolina band presented “A Parade of North Carolina Industries,” highlighted by band members forming a giant banjo, while trumpeting “Dixie.” According to President Elkins’ daughter Carole, there was a ceremony with gift presentations, the Queen and Prince Philip were driven around the stadium’s track, and marching bands from both teams performed. The bands from both schools joined to form the Queen’s crest, spell out “USA-BRIT”, and perform each school’s alma mater, “God Save the Queen,” and the “Star Spangled Banner.” The card section displayed both the American and British flags. Queen Elizabeth II, commenting on “the drive of the band,” was also “quite pleased with the card section,” according to President Elkins.

According to Howard Miller’s account of the Queen’s Game, with only minutes left in the 4th quarter, the announcer at Byrd Stadium asked the crowd to remain in their seats so the Queen and Prince Philip could leave first to attend dinner with President Eisenhower. The Queen’s motorcade entered the stadium, and the Queen left before “a full house broke for the exits.” Miller recalled “never had so many Marylanders showed so much courtesy.” Nick Kovalakides, class of ’61, who was unable to attend the game due to illness, was listening to the game on the radio while recovering in his Montgomery Hall dorm, when he heard that the Queen was leaving early “to avoid the crunch of fans after the game.” Hearing this, Kovalakides went outside in case the Queen’s motorcade traveled on Regents Drive past Montgomery Hall. As Kovalakides sat on the steps, feeling “like everyone else in the world was at the game except me,” the Queen’s motorcade appeared over the hill. Seeing the Queen in the back seat of the limo, Kovalakides stood and waved. The Queen waved back. Remembering the event, Kovalakides said “in seconds, she was gone. But not in my mind.”

As the game ended, the triumphant Terps hoisted Coach Tommy Mont on their shoulders and ran across the field to where the Queen was seated. When presented to the Queen, she replied by saying “wonderful, wonderful.” For Coach Mont, immediately after the win he said “I’m going to revel in this for the rest of my life.” In the issue following the game, the Diamondback selected the entire Maryland football team as Players-of-the-Week.

Photographs and artifacts from the Queen’s Game are on display in McKeldin Library through January 2018. Be sure to check out our exhibit cases on the first floor, near Footnotes Cafe! We’ve decorated the second floor Portico Room (across the walkway from the Terrapin Tech Desk) with images from the game as well. 

Historical Item Analysis: Admission of Hiram Whittle

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Hiram Whittle with his fellow residents of Temporary Dorm One.

In early 1951, the Board of Regents of the University of Maryland met in a special session to determine what to do about the application of African American Hiram Whittle to the College of Engineering at the still-segregated College Park campus. Whittle would not be the first black student at Maryland – Parren J. Mitchell received a court-ordered admission to the graduate school the year before – but he would be the first undergraduate. In Mitchell’s case, University President Harry Clifton Byrd had issued an urgent telegram to the regents compelling them to admit him to the university with the understanding that Mitchell could take classes in Baltimore, “where equal facilities and quality of work can and will be provided.”

While this statement hardly sounds like a paragon of Progressivism today, four years before Brown v. Board of Education Byrd needed to balance the principle of separate and equal accommodations, an increasingly litigious NAACP that was winning court victories across the country, and a loud segment of white Maryland citizens and parents that did not have the appetite for black students at their children’s schools. Byrd had hoped his proactive measure would ward off a court order, but he was mistaken, and Mitchell arrived on campus in the fall.

In early 1951, with the color wall having already been breached, the Board of Regents again attempted to take action before being told to do so. They ordered the admission of Hiram Whittle to the College of Engineering and issued a parting shot at the Maryland Legislature in the form of a written statement, essentially blaming that body for forcing the regents’ hands:

The question naturally arises as to whether the State is willing, or the people wish to appropriate sufficient funds to establish additional substantially equal facilities for Negroes to the facilities that are now available for white people. This will be necessary in order to continue the bi-racial system of education. If the State does not wish to do this, then the Board regards it as impossible to continue the bi-racial system now presumably in effect. The facts show that the Board has made repeated requests over many years of State authorities for adequate funds to meet this need. If these funds had been granted, this action of the Board today would not have been necessary.

In their decision, the Board made specific reference to the absence of adequate engineering facilities at the all-black Princess Anne campus – now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore – a fact to which President Byrd personally attested, having been a frequent advocate for increased funding there to maintain the separate facilities.

The Board of Regents concluded their statement on Mr. Whittle’s admission by imploring the state to make a final decision on integration, noting, “What has been done heretofore neither gives the Negro what he is entitled to nor prevents him entering the University of Maryland. It is inconsistent to say that the bi-racial system should be continued and then not make adequate provision for its continuance.”

Much has been made in recent years, of the failure of past administrations of the university, and Harry Clifton Byrd in particular, to adequately and equitably provide for the needs of black students and faculty. Yet in their zeal to scrub Byrd’s name from the public edifices of the university, his detractors risk painting Byrd with the same broad racist brush as a George Wallace – who famously stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama in 1963 to physically block the admission of black students until removed by the National Guard. Byrd and his colleagues were products of their time and place, which is to neither excuse nor condone their beliefs, but merely to contextualize their comfort with and normalization of segregation in public services as it existed in Maryland.

From the evidence in the available records, one could conjecture that President Byrd and the Board of Regents understood the hypocrisy of the doctrine of “separate but equal” in practice. Byrd frequently pushed the legislature for increased funding at Princess Anne, and was keenly aware of the inadequacies of the facilities of that institution compared with his beloved alma mater in College Park. Could Byrd have worked even harder to obtain money earmarked for black students on the Eastern Shore or moved to integrate higher learning in Maryland before being sued to do so? Almost certainly. However, it should be recognized that the university did not fight integration to the bitter end, like in many other southern states. The university was placed in an untenable position by the state legislature, which both mandated segregated schools and refused to provide the adequate funds to provide equal accommodations for black students. When forced to make a decision on the matter, the Board of Regents correctly chose to integrate the University of Maryland.

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts prepared by students in the current HIST 429F: History of the University of Maryland class taught by University Archivist Anne Turkos and Assistant University Archivist Jason Speck. Each of the students was assigned an historical item to analyze by responding to a series of six questions. They were also required to submit a brief blog post as the concluding portion of their assignment. We will be featuring some of these blog posts and the items the students reviewed for the remainder of the semester, so check later this week for the final post in the series, and look for previous historical item analysis posts elsewhere on Terrapin Tales.

Historical Item Analysis: 19th-Century Student Register

The Maryland Agricultural College, the predecessor to the University of Maryland, was founded in 1856 and first opened its doors in October 1859. From these first days in 1859 through to the end of the 1906-1907 school year, the College made use of a single book to record the names of and information about its students, the first student register. The first class was composed of students mostly from Maryland and Virginia, though several came from the District of Columbia, Missouri, North and South Carolina, Delaware, Georgia, New York, and Pennsylvania. These students filled their names into the register throughout the 1859-1860 school session as they arrived, all the way into late spring near the end of the session.

first page of 1859 student register
First page of the MAC student register, 1859.

One of the most interesting aspects of this register is that several names and places had spellings different than they do today, mostly due to the lack of standardization in spelling and grammar. For example, one of the students of the 1859 session wrote that he was from ‘Qween Anne’s County.’ Similarly, inconsistencies in spelling have the state of Maryland written either as one word or as ‘Mary land.’ One student had himself hailing from Washington City in ‘Washington County,’ D.C.

Of particular note are the international students attending the College. The first, Pastor A. Cooke from Panama, arrived in 1871. A student from Cuba, A. P. Menocal, attended in 1875. Two Korean students (spelled then as ‘Corea’) attended the College during its 1888-1889 session, Min Chow Ho and Pyon Su, who at the time wrote his name as ‘Penn Su.’ Only Pyon Su continued at the college, all the way through to his graduation on June 24, 1891, and stayed in the area until he was tragically killed in a train accident on October 22, 1891. A student from Sonora, Mexico also attended in 1898.

The first student register is one of the earliest and most important documents maintained in the University of Maryland Archives. It has been digitized for ease of access and preservation, and the full register may be reviewed here.

This is the seventh in a series of blog posts prepared by students in the current HIST 429F: History of the University of Maryland class taught by University Archivist Anne Turkos and Assistant University Archivist Jason Speck. Each of the students was assigned an historical item to analyze by responding to a series of six questions . They were also required to submit a brief blog post as the concluding portion of their assignment. We will be featuring some of these blog posts and the items the students reviewed for the remainder of the semester, so check back frequently for more of the HIST 429F student projects.