Exploring the 150 Year History of Freed-Hardeman University
Surprisingly, World War II brought Freed-Hardeman College and Henderson closer together. In February 1945, the two came together for an impressive patriotic program to honor the 24 Chester County men who had given their lives in the war.
“Win-the-War,” as the program was called, featured several members of the FHC faculty and staff. Mary Nelle Powers, daughter of N.B. Hardeman, read the names of the fallen soldiers while her daughter Joanne played “Abide with Me” on the piano. Bible professor Jim Cope gave the invocation and C.P. Roland led the memorial prayer. In addition, a quartet comprised of FHC students sang “My Buddy.” The highlight of the program was the posthumous presentation of the Silver Star to Roy Smith, a Henderson teenager killed the previous June in Italy.
In April 1945, the town and FHC student body again came together for a parade and celebration. This time they were honoring Sgt. Cecil Kent, who had come home following 33 months in a prisoner of war camp in the Philippines.
As the war was winding down, Freed-Hardeman was making plans for the future. President N.B. Hardeman announced new construction projects including additions to the administration building and Paul Gray Hall. He also wanted to construct “cottages” for married students. Additional space for female students was found by closing the grammar school, which had been housed in the basement of Oakland Hall, the girls’ dorm.
The college would need the additional space. Freed-Hardeman, like many other schools, experienced a post-war increase in students. The GI Bill of Rights passed by Congress in June 1944 made it possible for many veterans to attend college. In Fall 1946, students occupied all of the college’s housing as well as all of the town’s available boarding houses.
The lack of housing almost forced the cancellation of the annual January special courses. In fact, G.K. Wallace announced in “The Gospel Advocate” that the courses were “literally crowded out.” However, when churches of Christ in Jackson offered to house up to 100 individuals, the FHC administration decided the remainder could be housed in Henderson and the special courses were back on—with a notable change. The courses would last only one week instead of two, a format that endured.
Information and quotations are taken from Dr. Greg Massey’s recently published “By the Grace of God: The Story of Freed-Hardeman University.” It is available for purchase for $30 plus tax in the FHU Office of Academics, which is located in Loyd 107.