Seasons: The Magazine of Samford University

Ruhama and Its People 'Were There in All Seasons' for Samford

Three years after being auctioned on the Perry County courthouse steps in 1884, Samford University-then Howard College-moved to Birmingham, lured by rosy promises of support from its new community.

Financial problems had plagued the school since the Civil War. The low point came when the Perry County sheriff ordered Howard sold at auction to satisfy debts. Two Howard trustees, J. B. Lovelace and W. W. Wilkerson, put up their own funds to buy the school property, then deeded it back to Alabama Baptists, saving the school.

Samford's Class of 1951 prepares for graduation at Ruhama Baptist Church.

But when the opportunity to relocate near a thriving new city came in 1887, Howard jumped at the chance. Alas, the promises of support fell short of expectations, due in part to an economic downturn. The school continued to struggle at its new site in East Lake.

"It's fair to say that, were it not for the support of Ruhama Baptist Church, Samford University may not have survived during those early years," said Samford President Thomas E. Corts.

The oldest church in Jefferson County, Ruhama was founded in 1819 adjacent to a site that would become the Howard College campus.

Samford President Thomas E. Corts presents a resolution of appreciation to Ruhama Chairman of Deacons Joe Thomas. Right: University historian Lee Allen portrays Ruhama founder Hosea Holcombe during the program saluting the church.

"From the date Howard College arrived in East Lake, Ruhama Baptist Church was the single most stabilizing institution in its world," said Corts. "The economy had gone sour, promises could not be kept. In no meaningful way was the Alabama Baptist State Convention able to assist.

"But this one church and its dear people were there in all seasons. Until the move in 1957, the church provided a meeting place, spiritual inspiration, care and concern, and the College provided the church with high-caliber leadership."

After almost 200 years of service, Ruhama sold its historic property and merged this fall with First Baptist Church of Irondale. On Sunday, Oct. 28, hundreds of well-wishers filled Ruhama's sanctuary to celebrate more than a century of connection between the church and Samford.

Among the speakers were retired faculty members Arthur Walker '49, Grace Marquez '42, Ruric Wheeler and John Carter, all former Ruhama members. (Walker also served as Ruhama interim pastor four times over the years.) University historian Lee Allen and his wife, Catherine '64--who were married at Ruhama--were masters of ceremony, portraying church founders Hosea and Cassie Holcombe.

Samford trustee James Stivender '49, whose father pastored the church from 1914 until 1944, also spoke, as did Corts, who presented Ruhama chairman of deacons Joe Thomas a resolution of appreciation from the Samford Board of Trustees.

"One of the dear families of Ruhama was that of Margaret Putnam, an alumna and wonderful friend to the University and to my wife and me, who died a few years ago," Corts recalled. "She told me that their family, like many others in the church, kept students in their homes--and some of them even paid! In other words, a lot of Christian charity was extended by Ruhama families, sort of person-to-person financial aid."

Winter 2001
Vol. 18, No. 4

Carnegie Names Chew

'Quantum Leap' in Science

Alumni of the Year

Remembering Ruhama

Gray Takes Charge

About Samford People

Campus News

Estate Planning


Class Notes


In Memoriam



©2002 Samford University
Maintained by University Relations. Last updated: April 4, 2002