Samford's seventh annual Old Howard 100 Bike Ride set a new participation record April 16 as 345 cyclists rode through three counties in Alabama’s historic Black Belt. The ride, sponsored by Samford's Howard College of Arts and Sciences, began in Marion, Ala., where the university was founded as Howard College in 1841.
"We had 250 riders and 95 walk-up registrants, both records for the event," said Samford Core Curriculum professor and Old Howard 100 coordinator Ken Kirby. Kirby said many individuals and groups helped with the ride, including fellow organizer and Director of Samford's Academic Success Center Bridget Rose, law professor Howard Walthall, Billye Currie, Coordinator of Core Curriculum and Bill Mathews, former Samford Vice President of Business Affairs and longtime champion of Marion and Perry County.
Routes of 30, 45 and 75 miles were available to riders, but the 100-mile route showcased more of the region's history. Beginning and ending at Judson College in Marion, it wound through Perry County, Hale County and Dallas County, taking in the cities of Greensboro and Selma as well as the Perry Lakes wetlands region.
The ride featured support stops at five historic and otherwise notable sites, including Auburn University’s Rural Studio project in Newbern, Magnolia Grove in Greensboro, Holmstead Plantation in Folsom, the volunteer fire station in Suttle, and First Baptist Church in Selma.
Since the Old Howard 100 began in 2005, the ride has raised more than $15,000 to support the Sowing Seeds of Hope ministry in Perry County, one of the state's most impoverished counties.
Sowing Seeds of Hope seeks to improve the quality of life and work in the county through better education opportunities, health care, tourism, transportation and economic development. Samford also serves it's home county through year-round health programs led by students and faculty in the university's nursing, pharmacy, and exercise and sports medicine programs.
The cotton economy of the Black Belt faded after the Civil War, transforming one of the wealthiest regions of the U.S. into one of the poorest. Howard College relocated to the young industrial city of Birmingham in 1887. The school relocated to its present campus in 1957 and became Samford University in 1965. Howard College of Arts and Sciences remains at the heart of the university.