In 1979, Samford professor Marlene Rikard led a class of students in an oral history project centered around the coal mining town of Docena, Alabama. In 2018, the Samford Oral History program worked with Samford Special Collection to restore these interviews, converting audio reels to mp3 files and typewritten transcripts to digital documents to share these remarkable stories with the public.
Only a few miles northwest of downtown Birmingham, Docena was a company town run by the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company from the 1910s to the 1950s. The mines closed permanently in the early 1960s, leaving Docena in a decline. In these interviews, seven members of the Docena community recall their experiences in the town during its coal mining boom and offer insight into the changes, good and bad, that they have witnessed in their community.
More interviews from Dr. Rikard’s 1979 project are available in Samford Special Collection.
Our faculty members come from all over the world, specialize in a variety of subjects, and pursue diverse hobbies in their free time. These personal experiences enhance our students’ learning environment and add to the Birmingham community at large.
"I'm a scholar, I'm a teacher, I'm a preacher, but one day I got a call out of the blue from the president of Samford University . . . Dr. Corts said, 'We are thinking about starting a new seminary, a new divinity school, here at Samford University.'"
"I remember...breaking off one inch square sections of Alabama hard clay...at that point I decided not only that I had to go [to college] because I wanted to be a minister, but because I was not going to spend the rest of my life terracing yards."
Bill and Audrey Cowley
We had no electricity there. We had no runway lights or anything... So anyway, one of them said that the plane will come here but we have to provide lights on the runway. So everybody come and bring your cars and line the runway and turn on your lights.
"I was battling heat exhaustion in Hope, Arizona. The air temperature outside had gotten into the 110s."
"So you have to...build a Cherokee-style basket from scratch - identify river cane, cut your river cane, split your river cane, make your strips of river cane, dye your river cane, pick out your pattern, learn to weave the basket."
"I was singing in the choir and God moved upon me, not audibly, but He impressed me with his presence to the point that I knew clearly that He was calling me to preach. I knew it. And I worshiped that night and I wept and I committed. I told Him that I would."