Well, the big news lately is that Memphis University is now a Big East member, so this should make Tiger fans happy — for a while.
Yet over the years, the institution seems to have always wanted to be part of bigger stuff, and one of the strangest events in its 100-year history took place back in 1951, when Memphis State College — as it was known at the time — almost became Tennessee Institution. “MSC” should have changed to “UTAM”—which sounds odd to some.
The whole story is told in the 1951 DeSoto yearbook of the school, and for some reason the editors decided to explain this section with the odd picture seen here — students moving through the entrance gates through a broken-down jalopy. Supposedly it’s some sort of symbolism that’s escaping some, right now. Anyway, here’s how they portrayed the whole debacle:
“Legislators Prevent University” was the headline, and the yearbook story went like this: “Efforts of educators and civic leaders to elevate MSC to university status met sudden death on the Senate floor of the Tennessee legislature.
“The proposal began in Shelby County by the work of civic leaders and the college administrators. The plan was to incorporate MCS in the University of Tennessee … and called for three colleges: Business Administration, Education, and Liberal Arts. On November 6th, a special UT faculty committee visited the state campus and ‘approved in principle the idea of inaugurating Memphis State into the UT system’.”
“The proposal was supported by Mayor Rowlett Payne and Senator T. Robert Acklin, as well as the Memphis branch of the UT alumni association. The Board of Trustees of the university at Knoxville, as well as Dr. C.E. Brehm, president, gave their full approval. ‘Making Memphis State College a part of the University of Tennessee involves no changes in the organizational set-up in the colleges at Knoxville or the medical units at Memphis or other parts of the university,’ said Brehm.
Not everyone agreed in his statement.
“The major opposition came from East Tennessee political factions. The civic organizations of Knoxville were able to sway the vote against the Shelby County delegation. As the MSC student body listened to the proceedings, they heard almost three years’ work die in 15 minutes of political argument on the Senate floor.”
What happened, then? Several Scapegoats were named in the yearbook. Between them: former UT president Dr. Hoskins (not even giving his first name), who begged lawmakers, “Please don’t split my school,” and UT Trustee Sam McAlister, who argued that the plan would “weaken the parent university at Knoxville.” He didn’t explain how, exactly, it would do that.
Those seem to be pretty lame excuses, but the lawmakers voted down, and Memphis State remained Memphis State, even without UT’s support it eventually gained university status. Looking back at it may have been for the better. It was never clear whether Memphis State was put on an equal basis with UT-Knoxville, or whether the school here was more like UT-Martin or UT-Chattanooga — a “little brother” to the big guy in Knoxville.
Memphis, Tennessee takes pride in these educational institutions which you shouldn’t miss:
- Baptist College of Health Sciences
- Belhaven University
- Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law
- Christian Brothers University
- Harding School of Theology
- LeMoyne–Owen College
- Memphis College of Art
- Memphis Theological Seminary
- University of Memphis
These amazing universities are located just down the street from our location at South Third Street across from The Southgate Shopping Center. Stop by for a visit anytime!