Thursday, October 23, 2008

Celebrity Letters from the H. O. Murfee Collection

Here is a sampling of some letters from notable personalities found in the Hopson Owen Murfee Collection in the MMI Archives. These letters were chosen less for their content and more for their signatures (autographs) and/or letterheads. Several of the letters are revealing, however.

John J. Pershing

Douglas MacArthur

Richard E. Byrd

Paul von Hindenburg

Booker T. Washington

George Washington Carver

Albert Einstein

Eleanor Roosevelt

Grover Cleveland

William Howard Taft

Woodrow Wilson

Herbert Hoover

Monday, October 20, 2008

MMI Images, 1900-1956

The first “Fall In,” circa 1900.

The Awkward Squad, October 1st, from the 1900 MMI yearbook, The Reveille.

The 1900 Football Team with Hopson O. Murfee as team manager.

The 1914 Football Team. Note the wooden goal post!

The 1915 Baseball Team.

The 1915 Basketball Team.

A World War II-era image of the Corps of Cadets marching onto the football field at MMI.

Parking on the blacktop in front of the tree-lined Chapel from the 1949 Orange and Black, MMI’s yearbook.

A Dress Parade in the 1950s.

The Christmas Cotillion of 1952.

“C” Company during Annual Inspection, 1955-1956.

“A” Company as the Honor Squad of Field Day, 1955-1956.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Dr. Thomas Perkins Abernethy Collection of Americana

(Dr. Thomas Perkins Abernethy, 1890-1975)

The Abernethy Collection, the select private library of Dr. Thomas Perkins Abernethy, was donated by Abernethy to Marion Military Institute, circa 1970. The collection consists of some 950 volumes including many first editions and rare books, the oldest being published in 1779. Seven books written by Dr. Abernethy are also part of the collection.

Here are three of Dr. Abernethy’s historical books centering on Tennessee, Virginia, and Alabama:




MMI President Paul B. Robinson with Dr. Abernethy in the Archives Room of the Baer Memorial Library.

Dr. Abernethy conversing with Mrs. Woody S. Moore, MMI Librarian, about the donation of his personal library to MMI.

Born in Collirene, Alabama, on August 25, 1890, Thomas Perkins Abernethy was a member of the Marion Military Institute Class of 1908 (he was a cadet sergeant and played on the football team), and a 1912 graduate of the College of Charleston in South Carolina. He also taught at MMI for a number of years (1912-1914, 1919-1921) while completing his graduate work (M.A., 1915; Ph.D., 1922) in history at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

Captain Abernethy held the Chair of History at MMI.

Dr. Abernethy married Ida Robertson, the secretary to the president of Marion Military Institute, on December 6, 1917.

Upon completion of his graduate studies at Harvard, Dr. Abernethy embarked upon a distinguished career as a Southern historian and professor. He taught at Vanderbilt University, the University of Chattanooga, and the University of Alabama, before joining the faculty at the University of Virginia as the Richmond Alumni Professor of History in 1930. Dr. Abernethy’s career culminated in his serving as chair of the Corcoran Department of History at UVA, one of the premier departments of history in the country. He retired from UVA in 1961, but also taught briefly at the University of Texas and the University of Arizona.

Dr. Abernethy received an Honorary Doctor of Literature (Litt. D.) from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He was also honored by a festschrift entitled The Old Dominion: Essays for Thomas Perkins Abernethy, edited by Darrett B. Rutman (1964).

Among his many contributions to the field of history, Dr. Abernethy co-founded and served as third president of the Southern Historical Association. He also served on the executive board of the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond for over a quarter century.

Dr. Thomas Perkins Abernethy – a true son of MMI - died in Charlottesville, Virginia, on November 12, 1975.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Don't Quit Your Day Job!

Recently, several folks here at MMI have asked about my musical background as a drummer (no contradiction in terms!). I simply tell them that that was my “other life,” my misspent youth, if you will, and let it go at that.

When I served on the staff at Bridgewater College in Virginia (1993-2005), some student friends of mine spread the rumor that I had played drums in the Grateful Dead! For years, a giddy freshman would come up to me and ask about the Dead and what Jerry Garcia was really like!? I’d set them straight, and they would wander off disappointed.

So, here is the real skinny on my drumming career! There’s nothing to really brag about, but the Alabama Music Hall of Fame did list me as one of “Alabama’s Music Achievers” in 1999. Thanks, y’all!

I played drums in working bands, off and on, from 1964 to 2005 (ages 14 to 55). My last bands were BC Rockers, a classic rock band, and the Wes Allen Trio, a jazz group, both in Virginia.

BC Rockers, the infamous classic rock band from Virginia. We immortalized COL Benson in song! I’m the old guy on the right!

I am not currently playing in a group and that’s good. I have a day job and I’m paying the bills and that’s fine for now. I go to bed early and get up early and I kinda like the lifestyle. No more crazy travelling, late night gigs, and dining at The Krystal at three in the morning!

Here are some representative images from more than 40 years of gigging (please forgive):

The Shandells (1964-1968). Friends from Butler High School in Huntsville (my brother is second from right), we released two singles on Woodrich Records, signed with London Records, recorded in Nashville and Muscle Shoals, and signed with Dino Productions in Nashville.

A Playbill from 1966.

Hanging backstage with rocker Conway Twitty (before he went Country), 1967.

The Sensational Prophets (1968-1970). The “Blue-eyed Soul Band of the South,” the classic frat party horn band. We worked out of Southeastern Attractions in Birmingham and Anthony Attractions in Tuscaloosa, playing the Greek circuit at colleges and universities throughout the Deep South. I’m the cute one standing on the right!

A publicity shot from 1969, the year of Woodstock.

The “Marching Southerners” Drumline (1968-1971) at Jacksonville State University. A formally trained percussionist, I played in the school bands at Westlawn Middle School and Butler High School in Huntsville, and then at JSU. I’m second from the right, front row.

Flash, a 1980s rock band from Huntsville, was a family affair, as well. My brother is next to me, his wife is next to him, her brother is next to her, and our “cousin” completes the lineup. Three of us were former members of The Shandells who also played together in the Barkley-Almon Band in the 1970s.

Finally, I do perform with the Grey Drummers, the alumni (1950s – 1980s) of the JSU “Marching Southerners” Drumline. Yes, we’re old and in the way, but we actually play rather well!

The old joke is: Who usually hangs out with musicians? Answer: The drummer! So, just to prove that a drummer can have a (bald) head on his shoulders, here is my graduation from Harvard in 1990! So there.

I decided to go out with a bang! The End.