Samford Debate History
Samford's interest in debate actually predates the official founding of the University. In 1836, when Alabama's Baptists first began to investigate the idea of creating a college that would become the Manual Labor Institute of Greensboro, Alabama, the central focus of the curriculum was the art of declamation. Each Friday, all of the students were required to participate in informal debates on topics that were supplied by teachers. These required meetings took the name of the Franklin Polemic Society. The directors of the college believed that such exercises led to quicker and more insightful minds.
Although the Manual Labor Institute closed shortly after its founding, the Franklin Polemic Society and its traditions were transferred to Howard College when it was founded in 1841. The Franklin society tradition of weekly declamations and debate continued well into this century when they finally gave way to a more modern curriculum. Starting in the 1900s, Howard College students participated actively and successfully in intercollegiate debates, chosen several times to represent the whole Southeast in national competition.
By the 1930s, Howard College started to look beyond the region and began to participate in tournament debates. In the 1950s they joined the newly formed National Debate Tournament and began the tradition that lasts up until today. In 1993, Samford University celebrated its 40th anniversary of NDT debate. Under the leadership of coach Brad Bishop, who won two DSR-TKA National Championships in the 1970s and Skip Coulter who made the NDT semifinals twice in the 1980s, Samford has established itself as one of the nation's strongest debate programs. In the 1990s, Samford continued its long tradition of debate excellence under director Michael Janas, Ph.D. Samford was routinely represented at all national debate tournaments and is considered one of the most stable and successful programs in the Southeast region.
In the 21st Century, the Samford Debate Team has continued to flourish under the leadership of Dr. Ryan Galloway. This year, our debate team represented Samford at Georgia State University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Alabama, Harvard College, Wayne State University, Wake Forest University, University of North Texas, University of Texas-Dallas, State University of West Georgia, University of Florida, Augustana College, the University of Texas, the University of Kansas, the District VI/SEC CEDA Regional Championships, the ADA National Debate Tournament, the CEDA National Debate Tournament, and the National Debate Tournament (N.D.T.).
In addition to our nationally competitive teams, Samford also hosts the Samford University Summer Forensics Institute, the Samford University Public Debate Series, the Bishop Guild Debate Tournament, and the Birmingham Area Debate League.