July 2005

The Presidential Tradition: Henry Talbird

"...he taught theology at the college for only six months before succeeding Howard president Samuel Sterling Sherman in 1852..."

Former Samford President Henry TalbirdSouth Carolina native Henry Talbird served as a Baptist pastor in Tuscaloosa and Montgomery before joining the faculty of Howard College. He taught theology at the college for only six months before succeeding Howard president Samuel Sterling Sherman in 1852. Talbird then presided over almost a decade of relative prosperity, although disaster struck in the form of a devastating fire that destroyed most of the physical resources of the college 1854.

Supporters rebuilt Howard, but the college's growth was again interrupted by tragedy when many of its students and faculty left to serve the Confederacy. Talbird was among them, and effectively ended his service as Howard's president in 1862 when he accepted the rank of Colonel in the 41st Alabama Infantry.

Howard College was just barely keeping its doors open in 1863 when the trustees agreed to allow the Confederate government to convert the campus into a military hospital. Howard didn't forget its educational mission, however, and in the final months of the war offered basic instruction to soldiers recovering at the hospital. At the war's end, federal troops occupied Howard College, used a dormitory to house freed slaves and could have confiscated the property outright. The trustees ultimately maintained control of the college, and Howard reopened--without a president--in1865. Talbird declined an offer to return to the presidency, choosing instead to return to ministry.

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