This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.
This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be
For all other permissions and requests, contact the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEWEE: Dr. Delton Scudder
INTERVIEWER: Stephen Prescott
September 19, 1990
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Delton Scudder, Ph.D.
Interviewer: Stephen Prescott
September 19, 1990
Dr. Delton Scudder is the founding chair of the Department of Religion at the
University of Florida. He is the author of Tennant's Philosophical Theology, Volume 13
of the Yale Studies in Religious Education, which is based on his Ph.D. dissertation. He
is listed in Who's Who and is an honorary member of Florida Blue Key. Lester Hale
called Scudder "the closest thing to a university pastor that the University of Florida
Dr. Scudder was born November 11, 1906, in East Hartford, Connecticut. He
was the manager of his high school yearbook. At Wesleyan College he majored in
philosophy and minored in economics. He was also the manager of the glee club. He
received his B.A. in 1927 and was appointed by the Presbyterian Mission Board to
teach English at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon. Of particular interest was
his trip to the archaeological site at Petra, which he recounts.
Scudder returned to the United States in 1931 and enrolled in the Yale Divinity
School. When his course work was completed he went back to Wesleyan University to
teach English Bible and ethics. He was also associate pastor of College Church and
director of the YMCA. He received his Ph.D. from Yale in 1939. During the war
Scudder directed USOs and Army-Nacy YMCAs in North Carolina and Maryland.
In 1946 Scudder came to the University of Florida. He briefly describes
Gainesville, the University, students returning from the war, and coeducation. There
was no Department of Religion at that time, and Scudder discusses several of the
faculty he recruited, including Henry Philpott, T. Z. Koo, and Austin Creel.
Dr. Kokomoor wanted an ecumenical religious organization modeled after the
YMCA for students on campus, and Scudder developed Religion in Life Week. He
secured a key speaker, and each religious group organized their own meetings as well.
Some key speakers have been physicist Arthur Compton, sociologist Boris Sorokin,
secretary of state Dean Acheson, and ambassador to India Chester Bowles. Scudder
was especially proud of Religion in Life Week for bringing students and the community
Scudder was also instrumental in establishing University United Methodist
Church and the Wesley Foundation. Jess Lyon expressed to Scudder the need for a
congregation to support student work, and the district supervisor sent Rev. Worley
Thaxton Springfield, who pastored the congregation and directed the foundation.
Scudder also discusses at length the establishment of the old Florida Union, of which he
played a key role. Finally, Scudder comments on the Reading Room at the Department
of Religion, which makes his personal collection of over two thousand books available to
P: This is Stephen Prescott. [Today is September 19, 1990.] I am interviewing Dr.
Delton Scudder for the University of Florida Oral History Archives. Dr. Scudder
was the founding chairman of the University of Florida Department of Religion.
We will be talking about his life. Would you tell me your full name?
S: Delton Lewis Scudder.
P: When were you born, Dr. Scudder?
S: [I was born November 11] 1906, in East Hartford, Connecticut.
P: What were your parents' names?
S: Leon William Scudder and Daisy May Scudder.
P: Do you know how your parents met?
S: Yes. My father graduated from Brown University magnum cum laude, Phi Beta
Kappa, with a major in classics. The professor of classics wanted to take him to
Rome for a year after he graduated, but my father had a nervous breakdown and
could not go. He went to Maine a year later and taught in an elementary school.
He came back to a private school in Connecticut and eventually became
principal of the so- called Burnside School in East Hartford. He boarded with my
grandmother and met my mother, and in a short while they were married.
P: What is your family ancestry? What part of Europe are they from?
P: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
S: I have one sister.
P: Is she still living?
S: Yes. She is thirteen years younger than I am.
P: What is your earliest memory as a child? I know that is a hard question. What is
the first thing you can remember?
S: I remember sitting on a wagon and being drawn down a hill at my
great-grandmother Scudder's place in Osterville, Cape Cod.
P: About how old were you?
S: Two or three.
P: Most people cannot remember that far back.
S: I do not know how much a picture has to do with that. They took a picture, and I
have seen that photograph of this wagon and me in it. I do not know whether
that is the memory or something earlier.
P: The picture probably jogged your memory. Tell me about your childhood and
early schooling. I guess East Hartford would have been a fairly urban area.
S: Well, I went to elementary school in Burnside, which is a little section of East
Hartford. Then I went to high school at the main school in East Hartford proper.
P: Were there any activities you were involved in as a child? Sports, hobbies?
S: At East Hartford High, I was not in sports, but they had a yearbook. We called it
the Sen Classes, and I managed it. I raised money by selling ads to put in it, and
we got it paid for and published. I remember that quite well. I always wanted to
be some kind of a sportsman. I did play baseball in the eighth grade. I was a
catcher, but I could not see very well, and I got hit all the time, so that ended that.
P: It obviously did not affect your mind, so do not worry about it.
S: I guess that now kids have a way of wearing glasses under a mask. Well, we did
not have anything like that. I guess I could not see well enough. Anyway, that
ended that. My father pitched for East Providence High in Rhode Island; he was
the pitcher for the high school. He was quite a guy. But I never made it.
P: You would describe your childhood as being fairly normal and quite happy?
S: Very happy.
P: When did you first begin to think about having a career in education? Was it
something you knew early, or did it come to you later?
S: I came to my senior year in college, and in college I had managed the glee club.
I had planned trips all over the country and financed them. I majored in
philosophy--I took six courses in it--and I was torn between teaching philosophy
and going into business.
I think what happened was we had a YMCA secretary at Wesleyan who had a
connection with the Presbyterian Mission Board, and he was interested in getting
some of us to go to universities in Beirut or Cairo, which had been founded by
Presbyterian missionaries. He suggested that I apply, and I applied to go to the
American University of Beirut. I was accepted. I graduated from college in June,
and I went to Beirut in late August , as quick as that. Well, that made the
decision for me that I wanted to teach instead of going into business.
I used to have a friend, an older professor at Wesleyan, who often told me that
these other professors around here think if they only went into business they
could have made a million because they were so smart. But he said, "They could
not have." [laughter]
P: I would like to talk about when you were in Beirut, but first let us go back and talk
about when you were in college. You went to Wesleyan University?
P: Where is that located?
S: Middletown, Connecticut.
P: I assume it is a Methodist church-affiliated university.
S: Well, originally it was, but it gradually became independent. Wesleyan, Williams,
and Amherst [College] were called the "Little Three," as against Harvard, Yale,
and Princeton, the "Big Three." I went to Wesleyan and majored in philosophy
and minored in economics. We had quite a glee club, and they took trips.
Wesleyan is in Middletown, Connecticut, and we would go to Syracuse, New
York; Buffalo, New York; New York, New York; and it would all have to be paid
for. I seemed to get into the money handling aspect. See, my interests were in
economics and philosophy--two extremes.
P: About how big a school was Wesleyan University then?
S: When I was there, there were 650 students.
P: That is very small.
S: Twenty years later they went coed, and now there are, I think, 1,200 to 1,500
P: But it was an all-men's school when you were there?
S: Oh, yes, all men.
P: Are there any professors or courses that stand out in your memory?
S: Oh, yes. Majoring in philosophy, I had two notable professors. William Campbell
Armstrong from Princeton was one. His people owned a publishing company,
and he was the head of the department. Then there was a man named
Cornelius Kruse, who got his Ph.D. from Yale. He was the associate professor of
philosophy. Those two men I cared very much for, and they did a great deal for
In religion, what they called the Department of Ethics, there was a man named
William George Chanter. When I came back from Beirut, they advised me to go
to Yale for divinity and graduate work, so I went. After I had been there for three
years, they made Professor Chanter dean of Wesleyan. He taught ethics, and
every student had to choose between a course in English history or the English
Bible. Chanter taught the English Bible course. When he became dean, he
came down to Yale and hired me, and I went to Wesleyan and began to teach
the Bible before I had my Ph.D.; I was still working on it. I taught there for ten
years [1932-1942. Scudder was also associate pastor of College Church. Ed.].
All those old professors I knew quite well. In a college of 600, you get to know
P: Did you live on campus?
S: Oh, yes, in the dormitory.
P: So you had a very traditional college experience.
S: I remember the English department, also. I think I had six courses in English.
There was Professors Farley and the man who taught Shakespeare (I cannot
recall his name).
There is one thing I remember very well. My daughter went through P. K. Yonge
High School [in Gainesville, FL], and when she came out, she could not write or
read. She went to Vassar and had a hard time writing themes. Well, when I
went to college, we took a course in freshman English, and we wrote one theme
a week for the first solid year. The instructor corrected them meticulously and
handed them back, and we had to make the corrections and turn them again. I
started out with a C and ended with a B+ in my themes. That did more for me to
learn to write than anything I know.
P: I think there is a lot to be said for the old classical general education that most
schools have moved away from in the last twenty years or so.
S: After Ann graduated, she spent two years at Vassar and two years here. After
she graduated, she went to Katheryn Gibbs secretarial school [in New York].
They had an old maid that taught spelling. They had a half hour of spelling every
day. If you missed one word, you flunked.
P: That is pretty strict.
S: She was put through that for one year, and, boy, can she spell! I was put
through that with themes. Every week. God, it was awful.
P: So you graduated from Wesleyan [with a B.A.] in the spring of 1927, and you
went to Beirut that fall. What was your position when you got to Beirut?
S: I was instructor in English.
P: At American University?
S: At the American University.
P: You actually had only a B.A. degree, but you were teaching college.
S: Well, no. It is a special situation. Most of those students spoke Arabic, or at
least spoke Hebrew, if they came from Palestine. Now, there was nothing in
Arabic in science, and if those kids were to go into medicine, the textbooks came
from France or England or America. So they had to learn either French or
English in order to get a modern language so that they could read the textbooks
to go into medicine or business administration or architecture or any field
whatsoever. The first job was to get those students to master English, so I went
out [to Beirut].
The first day I went to a classroom with twenty-five students in it, all Arabs who
did not speak a word of English.
P: Did you speak a word of Arabic?
S: I did not speak a word of Arabic. So what do you do? Well, you start in by
saying something like "chair," and you write it on the board. Then you make
them say it. Somebody will get the idea in French, because France had a
mandate over Syria at that time, and some of those kids spoke French. They
would get the word "chair" in French and would spread it around to the Arabs so
they would all get the idea that this is a chair. Then I would ask the first kid to
stand up, and it would not register, so I stood him up and sat him down until
somebody got it in French and told the others. I introduced those twenty-five kids
[to speaking and reading the English language], and there we were.
Well, we worried through the first year, and by golly, eventually they could talk a
little and read a little out of a special reader we had. That class of twenty-five
took English every hour of the day, eight periods, from different teachers. Some
of them taught the vocabulary of mathematics, some the literature of this, and
they had to stay with that until they were ready to go to get an education in what
they wanted to major in.
I had many funny things happen. English is a crazy language. One student
came to me one day, and he was mad. He said, "That fellow stole this from me.
If he does not make that right, I am going to bring a suitcase against him."
[laughter] Perfectly right, you see: "suit"--law suit--and "case." But when you put
them together, you get something different.
P: Well, you would have been very young, just twenty-one or twenty-two at this
P: How old were your students?
S: Some were the same age, and some were older. There was one student from
Russia. In the revolution, quite a number of Russians took refuge in Beirut. I
had one student that was much older than I. His name was [Vladimir]
Vaschinsky, and he must have been thirty. I remember I wanted to get him over
here to America, but I was not able to do anything. I took French lessons from a
Russian noblewoman who was exiled there. They had a Russian orchestra in
Beirut. The other students were from eighteen up.
P: So they were traditional college age or maybe a little older.
S: Right. But they could not go on. There was no way to get a modern scientific
education in Arabic at that time. I do not know what has happened since.
P: It probably has changed. Of course, Beirut now is a bombed-out city. How was
it when you were there?
S: Marvelous. By the way, I have been reading a book [From Beirut to Jerusalem
(1989)], and it is marvelous. I have not finished it yet. The author is a New York
Times reporter [Thomas L. Friedman]. He went to Beirut and then to Jerusalem
recently. We are talking about 1986, or somewhere in there.
P: When you were there in the 1920s, it was a beautiful garden city. Of course, it is
nothing like that now.
S: As Friedman said, "It was a city in which the most diverse groups got along
beautifully." At the University of Beirut, instead of having a YMCA, they had what
they called the Brotherhood. Their motto was "The things we have in common
are greater than those in which we differ." I worked in this Brotherhood with
them. They got along beautifully. There were Christians and Jews, and forty
varieties or each, and we had no trouble at all. It was that way in the city.
At that time, they were under French mandate, and the French occupation army
was there, the black Senegalese troops. They kept order. But the people were
good to each other.
Then all of a sudden this crazy thing broke out, and it was not only Jews against
Arabs, but it was different varieties of Arabs against each other. They started
shooting too many guns. I do not know where they got them. When I went to
Petra, down in that desert [in Jordan], we had an Arab guide, and even he had a
gun. While we were going all around visiting the sites of Petra, he was shooting
birds. He scared me to death. But that was just play. This is the real thing.
P: You and I talked earlier about Petra, but for the record, would you tell us what
Petra is and what you saw there? It is a fascinating archaeological site.
S: Petra is called "The Rose-Red City Half as Old as Time" because there are
twenty-one shades of red in the rock. In the sunshine it is simply magnificent.
Petra was sort of the Chicago of that area. Caravans coming from the Red Sea
crossed to Palestine, and they passed through there and stopped over. They got
supplies and refreshments. This was the place that was impregnable; it could
not be conquered. The Romans could not conquer it because there was a mile
and one-quarter passageway cut into the rock to get into the city. The people of
Petra, the Nabateans, could get up on top and throw rocks down [on would-be
invaders], and the invaders could not conquer them. It was sort of the Chicago of
the area, a transshipment point for camel caravans. Consequently, they became
quite wealthy and had quite a civilization.
P: It was a city basically inside a mountain, almost. You have to go through a very
narrow [passage a] mile and a quarter back into the mountain.
S: There is nothing there now but empty caves that were tombs. But they had
Greek sculptors carve pillars in the face of the rock. Instead of going through a
doorway to the interior, you went through the doorway of a cave.
I was interested in Petra for many reasons. One of them was the John the
Baptist connection and Herod's divorce.
P: King Herod had divorced his first wife, the daughter of the king of Petra, ...
S: And married Herodias. The whole thing was illegal according to Jewish law, and
John the Baptist must have thundered against it. So when Herodias had a
chance, she advised her daughter to get the head of John the Baptist [as reward
for her dancing]. [Flavius] Josephus [Hebrew historian] says he was killed for
political reasons, but that would be it, if John the Baptist was holding meetings
there in the Jordan valley.
P: Well, the New Testament says that Herod did not want to execute John the
Baptist because he was popular with the people, but Herod was afraid to break
his public vow [to Herodias's daughter], so the two stories really do not conflict.
They really fit together.
P: So you left American University after two years?
P: That would be 1928. Where did you go when you left Beirut?
S: I came back to Yale. The Wesleyan people advised me to go to Yale. Yale had
a program where you could take two years in Divinity School and one year in the
graduate school. In the divinity work, if you were going on to the Ph.D. program
you did not have to take the courses that preachers have to take, like homiletics,
church school curriculum, pastoral care--those subjects that a fellow going into
ministry has to take.
P: The practical courses.
S: Yes. They were not required of those who were going into the graduate school
for the Ph.D. program, so I never took any of that stuff. I took church history,
theology, ethics, the psychology of religion, and basic courses like that. Then I
went into the graduate school.
P: Did you get a seminary degree, a bachelor of divinity degree, from the Divinity
S: Well, I got their Ph.D. I guess you could say it was the Divinity School. The
Divinity School had a graduate department, but the graduate department was
connected with the graduate philosophy department. For example, have you
heard of Professor [Filmer] Northrup?
S: Well, he was in the Yale philosophy department, and he taught the philosophy of
science. That is why I went to him. He later taught philosophy of law in the law
school. He had nothing to do with the Divinity School, you see. Then Professor
[Charles] Bakewell was the senior man, the head of the philosophy department.
He had nothing to do with the Divinity School, either.
P: So you really got your Ph.D. from the philosophy department, but you were doing
a lot of work in both places.
S: You could work it either way.
P: What years were you at Yale?
S: 1928 to 1931, I think.
P: What memories do you have of Yale University and New Haven as a community
in the early 1920s and early 1930s? Did you live on campus at Yale?
S: Yes, I lived in a dormitory right on the border of New Haven Green, the main
green downtown. New Haven was always complaining that Yale had the best
property in the city and that it was untaxable.
P: They are still complaining about that today, so nothing has changed. [laughter]
So to get the chronology straight, you were at Yale for three years, from 1928 to
1931, and by that time you had done your course work for your Ph.D. but had not
yet written a dissertation.
S: That is right. Then I got a job at Wesleyan. The pressure of teaching and
advising the YMCA was so great that the only time I could get free to work on my
thesis was in the summers, so that dragged it out quite a while.
P: You were at Wesleyan for ten years, from 1932 to 1942. What classes did you
teach at Wesleyan?
S: As I told you, every freshman had to take either English history or the English
Bible. The English history had a few more than the English Bible, but they both
had two sections, two classes. Chanter got me there when he became dean to
teach English Bible.
This is a funny thing. At Yale I had not majored in the Bible. I had majored in the
philosophy of religion, the philosophy of science and ethics, and all this stuff. I
had taken had just one course in the Bible. That is to say, I had a semester of
Old Testament and a semester of New Testament, one year of courses on the
Bible. Well, Chanter came down and said, "I want you to come up and teach
Ethics I, the English Bible." I said, "My gosh. I do not know much about the
Bible. I had only a little bit." Of course, I had been to Palestine and had traveled
the ground and all of that, but I said I did not have an advanced degree in Bible.
He said, "That is all right. You know more than the students, and you will work at
it." So I went up there, and boy, I got the books, and I burned the midnight oil. I
did everything I could to keep one step ahead of the students. Do you know
what? They loved it! They knew that I was working on it fresh as they were, so
we got along great.
We had a professor at Yale who wrote a textbook on the Bible for adult Sunday
school classes, and it was in eight volumes.
P: Like a commentary?
S: Yes. It was beautiful. I was able to get that and to get every student to have a
set. I worked my head off and managed to make it. Then I taught a course in
ethics proper, and I was more at home in that because I had had that work at
Yale. I had Bible at Yale, but not much.
P: So you kind of came to teach Bible through the back door, and you have spent
fifty years doing it.
S: That is right. I have often thought that they want you to have Ph.D. work in the
subject you teach. Well, in some cases that can be deadly, because in a
graduate school you are dealing with a certain group of students, socializing with
them, and you get to talk a lingo. Then you get out, and the only thing you can
talk is this lingo, and college students cannot understand it. You are way out of
touch, you see. But if you to start approximately where the students are starting,
with a little bit of experience and vision sometimes you can bring more vitality to
the thing than otherwise. You could not get away with that [today]; you could not
tell anybody that. These administrators would go crazy if they knew you were
doing anything like that.
P: It gets increasingly more specialized. I know in my department, history, at one
time all the professors would have taught Western civilization and U.S. history,
whereas now they would teach only their little specialty. Most of them could not
even teach the full U.S. history from beginning to end, much less [something as
broad as Western civ.].
S: That is terrible.
P: It is. It is hard for the students, because the professors are so specialized they
focus only on that one area.
So to recap, you were at Wesleyan University for ten years, from 1932 to 1942,
and at that time you were both an assistant professor of ethics and the associate
pastor of the College Church.
S: Yes. We had chapel on Sundays and two weekdays--Tuesday and Thursday, I
think--for half an hour. The students were always in an uproar against
compulsory chapel, and they finally won. I left Wesleyan when World War II
came on, in 1942, and after that they did not have compulsory chapel any longer.
But I was gone by then.
P: So you would have preached in chapel and directed the YMCA, as well as
P: You also finished your dissertation and received your Ph.D. during this period.
S: Yes. I dragged that on quite a few summers working that out. I was married in
1934, and my wife [Inez] and I went to Cambridge, England, and I studied the
long vacation term with Dr. [Frederick Robert] Tennant. I met a number of
professors at Cambridge and had sessions with them. When I finished my
thesis, Yale wanted to turn it right into a book.
P: Dr. Scudder has just shown me a copy of his dissertation and a copy of the book,
and also the extensive reviews that were written on it. So your dissertation was
"The Nature and Validity of Religious Faith in the Writings of F. R. Tennant."
S: That was the thesis, but that is not the title of the book. The book is Tennant's
Philosophical Theology. That is a volume [Vol. 13] in the Yale Studies in
Religions Education series.
P: So your thesis for your Ph.D. was a study of Dr. Tennant's ethics and philosophy
at Cambridge. You received your Ph.D. in 1939?
P: Then Yale University published the book in 1940, almost immediately. I think you
said that you received extensive reviews throughout England and Scotland on
the book. There is a huge stack of reviews here.
S: I had them copied out. The book sold as many copies in England and Scotland
as were sold in the United States.
P: To backtrack a minute, you mentioned that you had gotten married during that
period. That is an important event in any young man's life. Tell me about your
S: While I was at Yale as a student, I had a friend who came to me and said, "I have
a little church in the country, and I am leaving. Will you take it?" It was a little
Methodist church in Durham, about ten miles south of Middletown, where
Wesleyan was located, and twenty-two miles from New Haven, where Yale is
located. I said that I would think about it. We had a professor at Yale named Hal
Luccork who was a Methodist and taught homiletics. I went to him and said, "Les
White wants me to take his place in the Methodist church in Durham,
Connecticut. I do not know what I believe, and I do not know whether I have a
right to go." He asked, "Do you believe in the Golden Rule?" and I said, "Yes, I
guess so." He said, "You have a right to go."
I went up there, and they were wonderful farmers, country people. I was with
them almost four years. I was going to Yale during the week, but I went up there
every Friday night for Saturday and Sunday. This was twenty-miles from New
Haven. I had been up there a year, and, by golly, everybody died, and I had all
kinds of funerals.
Then they wanted communion served. In those days, unless you were ordained,
you could not serve communion. I was what they called a "local preacher." So I
decided to get ordained if possible so I could serve communion to these people.
That took a year or so, but I finally did. I used to go up there every Saturday and
Sunday during the year and live there summers, all summer. I made hay with the
farmers and shared in the Durham Fair and all those things.
Inez Hamilton was the eighth grade teacher in the Durham school. She would
not like me to say this, but the principal told me that she was the best teacher in
the school. I met her the night of the high school commencement. They had
asked me to preach the baccalaureate sermon. They had it on Sunday night. I
met her in the hallway of the church afterwards. She was very beautiful. Let me
show you a picture of her.
P: She was beautiful.
S: I do not believe she weighs fifty pounds now.
P: She was a slender woman [even before she became ill].
S: So I met her at the end of the year 1930. I left Durham and went home, and she
went home for the summer. But when we came back in the fall, I asked her to go
to dinner at Savin Rock, a place on Long Island Sound. It was an amusement
park, but there was a good restaurant. So we went to Savin Rock. Len
Markham was the banker in Middletown, but he lived in Durham, seven or ten
miles away. He was very free with his truck. I did not have a car or any
transportation, and I asked him if I could borrow his truck. I took Inez to Savin
Rock to dinner in Len Markham's truck. From then on it was total love. I was
gone, and she was gone. As soon as we could, we got married.
But the Depression came on, and it was terrible. There was no money. After a
couple of years, we married. What happened was Professor Chanter came to
Durham and said, "I want you to come to Wesleyan to teach." I was in graduate
school while I was at the Durham church. He came down to the graduate school
and asked me to teach. They paid me $1,800. The next year the $1,800 from
Wesleyan and the $900 I got from the church in Durham gave me $2,700, so we
could get married.
P: You were making about $55 a week and thought you were doing well.
S: I came here [in 1946] for $4,000 a year. That gets onto another subject, but in a
way it is [related]. Dr. [Franklin W.] Kokomoor [professor of mathematics] was
made chairman of the committee to select a successor to Mr. [John Evander]
Johnson [professor of Bible]. I do not know whether he died or not; I think he
died. Kokomoor wrote to Yale saying he wanted a man [to head the religion
department], and they wrote back recommending me. I was in the USO during
the war. [Scudder was a director with the USO and of Army-Navy YMCA in
Southport, NC (1942), and Aberdeen, MD (1943-1946). Ed.] Kokomoorwrote
me a letter that I received in Aberdeen--I was at Aberdeen proving ground--
saying, "The University will give me money to pay for my trip to see you. They
will not provide any money to pay for you to come see us. I advise you to come
see us at your own expense." [laughter]
P: This would have been Dr. Kokomoor, the mathematics professor. His son
[Marvin L. Kokomoor] is now an eminent pediatrician in Gainesville.
S: Yes. So I came down. The train ran down Main Street.
P: This was in 1946?
S: Yes. The train came right up Main Street and stopped at the old National Bank
building, right in the middle of Main Street in front of Second [Avenue]. What is
the bank down there?
P: The old First National that is First Union now?
S: First Union it is, across the street from the old National. That is where the train
came and stopped. I got out and met Kokomoor, and he brought me up to the
old [Florida] Union. They had guest rooms (I think six guest rooms) on the top
floor of the old Union, right under the roof. Boy, was it hot! There was no air
conditioning anywhere in Gainesville but in Florida Theater. When I finally got
here in the summer of 1946, the only air conditioned restaurant was in Starke.
Do you know the Garden restaurant?
P: I have heard of it, but I have never eaten there.
S: Well, it is on the main street in Starke. It was air conditioned because they had
people from Camp Blanding, and they were able to get one or two window air
conditioners, so they had the dining room air conditioned. I used to go over there
to get some relief from the heat.
Anyway, Kokomoor met me down there and brought me up to the Union. I met
the committee and all the people, and I liked everything. Then he said that they
could pay me $4,000 a year, and if I taught summer school I would get some
extra for that. Heads of the departments in 1946 all made $4,000 a year. That
was all right with me, because I was making less than that with the USO.
As time went on, the faculty began to agitate for the state to raise the salaries. At
first we were told that they could not raise the salaries for professors until they
raised the salaries of [Florida] Supreme Court justices in Tallahassee. Once they
got them up they could turn to the professors. They got them [supreme court
justices' salaries] up eventually, and they gave the professors a little raise. I did
not get much of one; they gave me only $200 more. They had to give more to
the physics and engineering people and to some of the law people.
S: I would like to go over the USO period briefly. Then we will come back to the
University of Florida. You left Wesleyan in 1942 for the USO. Was that part of
the army, or was it a civilian organization?
S: It was a civilian organization.
P: And you were there for about four year as a chaplain?
S: No, as a director.
P: You worked in North Carolina and Maryland with soldiers.
P: We just talked about how in 1946 Dr. Kokomoor contacted Yale University and
that they recommended you to be the chairman of the religion department.
There had not been a religion department up to that point?
S: No. Somebody in the English department taught the Bible as literature, and
somebody in the philosophy department taught ethics. It was possible to put
together four or five courses from different fields. I guess history was included,
too. English literature, ancient history, ethics--courses like that from four or five
departments were combined to give a student something in religion. But they
never had a department. There was YMCA under Mr. Johnson, and he raised
the money to build part of the old [Florida] Union. That was the time of the
Depression, and they got WPA money.
P: The old Union is the building that was later named Arts and Sciences and has
now been named [Manning J.] Dauer Hall, after Dr. Manning Dauer.
P: You came here in 1946. The University was still an all-men's school the first year
you were here. About how big was it then?
S: Ten thousand.
P: Was it that big?
S: The war ended in 1945, and I was here in 1946. The boys really did not come
back from the war until 1946. It had been a school of 3,000 or 3,200, and during
the war they had the military here. After the war, in 1946, they had 10,000
students. The GIs came back. There were no dormitories for them, so they took
the barracks from the air base [on Jacksonville Road] and turned them into
dormitories. There were 5,000 men out there in the air base barracks. There
was a basketball court, soda fountain, and everything. The University housed
them out there and ran buses back and forth to campus. Dean [Robert C.] Beaty
[dean of students] asked me to go out there and hold chapel in the air base
chapel on Sundays, and I did. I had four original couples that were the backbone
of the church.
I will never forget this. I came here July 1, 1946, alone, to teach the second term
of summer school. I tried to locate a house to buy. There were only three
houses that I could buy. There were some houses being built that could be sold
to returning GIs, but I was not one. So there were only three houses I could buy.
There were no rentals. I picked out one and bought it, and Inez came with [our
daughter] Ann in September. We went into the house we bought on Florida
In the meantime, the boys were all out at the air base, and Beaty asked me to go
out to hold a Sunday service for them in the chapel. I did. That September there
was a hurricane, and the University insisted that all the students that were at the
air base come in and get into the gymnasium. They laid down mattresses or
something and slept on mattresses.
There were four couples that were the backbone of the church, and they came in
and wanted to stay at our house. I think we kept them. They slept on the floor.
The hurricane did not do any damage in Gainesville, so that was all right.
P: When you say the "church," is this what would eventually become University
United Methodist Church?
S: Oh, no.
P: This was strictly a student church?
S: It was strictly for students in the old air base chapel. When they tore the air base
down, they tore the chapel down. It is all gone now.
P: So when you arrived, the University of Florida was just exploding in enrollment,
which was chaotic. Were you the whole religion department your first year?
S: Yes, in 1946. I went back to Yale and got Dr. Philpott, and he came in 1947.
P: The first year you taught Bible classes?
P: Then in 1947 you got Dr. Harry Philpott, who later became [vice-president of the
University of Florida and then] president of Auburn University. What was his
S: He taught the Bible course.
P: Did the University still have a required chapel at that time?
S: Oh, no.
P: I guess that would have been the year the University of Florida became
coeducational, also, 1947.
S: Yes, 1947. The year Philpott came we became coeducational. Dr. Marna Brady
[was the first dean of women]. In 1947 I think we had 600 girls, and there were
no dormitories. So Marna organized a committee that went around Gainesville
and inspected houses that would board students to see if they were all right.
There may have been only 300 girls. Anyway, there was no place for them. It
was not until later that we got some dormitories. Here, let me give you this.
P: I am looking at a copy of A Larger View: Delton Scudder's Prayers and
Addresses, edited by Austin B. Creel . Did you do Dr. Brady's memorial
S: No. We had no dormitories. We dedicated the first girls' dormitories November
P: This is the dedication you gave on the Johnson [Hall] lounge at the old Florida
Union in 1954, and the dedication of Jennings, Rawlings, Graham, Hume,
Simpson, and Trusler halls that you spoke at.
P: The religion department at that time would have been mainly courses in the
English Bible, or was there world religions and other subjects?
S: Well, when I got here in 1946, there was a committee in religion. There was also
a curriculum committee in Arts and Sciences. I remember very distinctly the
committee on curriculum wanted comparative religion taught. They were very
anxious to have not only the Bible--Christianity and Judaism--but they wanted the
whole sweep of comparative religion, including India, China, and whatnot. Well,
there again, just like when I went to Wesleyan, I knew very little about the Bible, I
knew less than a little about comparative religion, about the religions of India and
China. But they wanted it taught, so I set out to teach a course in comparative
religion with Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and all that. Again, I worked like mad
to get that together and to fool the students. But we got it going. As time went
on, we got other people who were specialists who could really do it.
P: Do you remember who was the first specialist in nonwestern religion?
S: Yes. At Wesleyan I had made friends with a Chinese named Dr. T. Z. Koo. T. Z.
Koo was a secretary of the Chinese YMCA who had also been third secretary of
the Chinese railroad under Chiang Kai-Shek. I do not know how I met him, but
he went to Wesleyan. I liked him, and he liked me. I found out in 1946 that he
was in this country in New England. I went to see him and asked him to come
down to be a visiting professor. I do not know how I thought I was going to get
money for this, but he said he would, and he came. [This was in 1950.] He was
Dick [Richard S.] Johnson was the registrar, and he was a tough old codger. He
did not know what the heck I was doing bringing a Chinese down here for the
Department of Religion. [He did not think] the students would ever go to the
class of a Chinese professor, and he growled and growled. Well, Koo came, and
125 signed up for his course [Comparative Religion]. He charmed the daylights
out of them, and Johnson was overwhelmed. He did not know how a thing like
that could happen.
When Koo came, I immediately assigned him the course on Chinese [religions]
so we could get Confucianism, Taoism, and others. In fact, he had it typed up.
So I got a good entree into Chinese religions.
It kind of tied in with my past. When I was a little boy, my mother was the
president of the Foreign Missionary Society of the church. They had a
missionary who had returned from China, and my mother had a missionary
meeting in our home. This woman from China came into the house and talked. I
was about twelve years old, and for the first time, I got interested in China. Later
I got in with Koo and experienced more China. It is relatively easy to get
interested in China.
I remember so well the summer of 1947 I rented my house to a professor who
was teaching history. He was reading [Arnold Joseph] Toynbee. I got the single
volume that Summerville put out on Toynbee, and I read it. I read all about
China, and I liked that. Eventually I bought the whole twelve volumes of Toynbee
[A Study of History]. That is where I got my great start in ancient history, was
reading Toynbee from cover to cover. And for the first time I began to see what
was happening here, what was happening there, and what was happening
somewhere else, and I could tie them together.
[While I was] in the Divinity School of Yale, an Englishman named C. F. Andrews
who was very close to Gandhi came to Yale. I was with a group of students that
had lunch with, and this man interested me in Gandhi. So I got books on Gandhi
and read them. That led me into India and Hinduism. With Toynbee and with
these other things--Koo and this experience at Yale with C. F. Andrews who was
close to Gandhi--I had a start for getting into Comparative Religion. So I burned
the midnight oil.
P: This brings up another subject I wanted to discuss. You brought in this Chinese
professor, whom I believe was a Christian.
S: Yes, he was.
P: I have done some research on a situation in [Gainesville in] the 1920s, and there
was a great deal of anti-Catholic prejudice on this campus here at the University
of Florida. Basically, you had to be Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, or
Episcopalian to teach here. Father John F. Conoley was here from 1919 to
1924. I do not know if you are familiar with that or not.
S: No. He was a priest, wasn't he?
P: He was a priest at the only Catholic church here in town at the time, St. Patrick's,
plus Crane Hall; he started Crane Hall. He was forced off campus and was
eventually kidnapped and beaten quite badly. You in your administration as
chairman of the department brought in a Catholic and then Jewish professors,
which would have been a very [radical thing to do].
S: Not at first. When I was brought here, I was given a double assignment. I was to
start a Department of Religion academically, and I was also responsible for
religious activities. There had been a YMCA here under Mr. Johnson. Dr.
Kokomoor was on the board [of the YMCA], and he wanted a campus
organization exactly like the YMCA but not called by that name to include
Catholics, Jews, and Protestants.
Well, Dr. [John J.] Tigert was president [of the University of Florida] when I came,
and he had had a bad experience with the YMCA in World War I in France. Dr.
Tigert loved the Salvation Army because they gave doughnuts and cigarettes to
the troops free. He disliked the YMCA because they charged for them. The truth
is that the YMCA was the PX [personnel exchange] of those days, and they had
to charge for it. They charged for coffee, chocolate bars, cigarettes, and
whatnot, and they were hated by the troops. The Salvation Army was loved
because they gave everything away. Dr. Tigert got that mind-set, and he was
against the YMCA and was for the Salvation Army. Well, Mr. Johnson was
campus YMCA director, and I do not believe he and Dr. Tigert got along very
well, although they raised WPA money to build the [Union] building.
When I came, Dr. Kokomoor told me that he wanted a religious organization of
students exactly like the YMCA but not called by that name so that we could get
together all students from wherever they came from. They could all be members
automatically. If they were members of the University, they were members of the
religious association. I was to provide for them all. That was my job with
religious activities. My other job was to build an academic curriculum. That is
why I told you I could have been a scholar, but it got all messed up in this.
The strongest group was the Baptists. The Baptist pastor at that time was Dr.
[Thomas V.] McCaul, and I do not think he wanted me or what I represented. I
do not think he even knew me. He wanted a Baptist [church] to be campus
religious director in place of the YMCA. Well, Kokomoor was not going to have
that. So I was to set up an overall religious activities program.
I could not do much my first year but feel my way around. Then Philpott came.
He was a Southern Baptist. He was very gregarious. He was the darling of
everybody. The Baptists had a revival every year. Well, instead of a revival, I
thought we ought to have a Religion in Life Week. My idea was that if we have a
Religion in Life Week we should get everybody to participate. My idea was to
have some layman, preferably a well-known layman, to head it and then to get
each student group to get somebody and have everything going at once. So we
got the Baptists to get someone and the Episcopalians and the Christian
Scientists and the Catholics and the Jews and so forth, and we had a week in
which all these people had meetings. We also had a key figure.
With Dr. [J. Hillis] Miller's [president, University of Florida, 1947-1953] help,
Philpott ran the first Religion in Life Week. This is why I needed the programs.
We had the leading Baptist minister from Cleveland, Ohio. He was among the
first to go on television in the ministry.
P: B. R. Lakin, perhaps?
S: I cannot remember. Anyway, he came, and we got a rabbi. I cannot remember
these names; that is why I have to have the folders. We had meetings in the old
Union auditorium. The week's activities were well attended, and I remember Dr.
Miller's saying to me, "This will grow. This is going to catch on."
Anyway, the year that [University of Florida] President [J. Wayne] Reitz was
inaugurated , he wanted to connect his inauguration with Religion in Life
Week. We were able to get Judge [Harold R.] Medina from New York City to be
the principal speaker at Religion in Life Week. He had something to do with
communists in New York, and his coming was very widely publicized. Judge
Medina came and spoke in the [University Memorial] Auditorium at Religion in
Life Week early in the week. At the end of the week, President Reitz was
inaugurated, and Arthur A. Adams spoke at his inauguration.
Judge Medina was a first-class man. I think he was an Episcopalian, and he
presented to the community a man who practiced his religion in his profession.
We then had a rabbi. I tried to have a Catholic priest, but at first the priest
[Father Sager] would not cooperate with me. Later, in two or three years, there
was a priest over there [at the Catholic Student Center] by the name of Father
[Charles W.] Spellman. He came from Orlando--he was a Florida boy--and he
was very cooperative with me.
The idea was that we had a main speaker, the Jews had their rabbi, and the
Catholics had their priest. We got a speaker for the Baptists and Methodists and
the rest of them. Everybody had somebody all around, and we organized all the
meetings. We had 120 meetings that I set up in different places for this Religion
in Life Week. My idea was that all of us would do something together, and yet it
would be denominational. I always had a Christian Scientist, I always had a
rabbi, I tried always to get a priest, and there were Baptists, Episcopalians, and
So we had Judge Medina speak. George Wall was a Harvard biologist, and he
made a key speech. Then there was a notable physicist, Arthur Compton. Then
we had [Boris] Sorokin, the great sociologist from Harvard. We had Dean
Acheson; he was a big one. He was secretary of state [1949-1953] under
[President Harry S.] Truman. He came here. His father was an Episcopal
bishop, and I knew them from Middletown, Connecticut. That was the seat of the
Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut. In fact, he had lunch right in this room. We
had twelve people. Acheson had fallen on the ice and broken his arm, and his
secretary called me and said that he had to sleep sitting up. "Could you get a
hospital bed for him?" I did; I got a hospital bed, and we put it in the president's
guest room over at the Hub. Above the Hub in back was the president's guest
room, and I got a hospital bed and put it in that guest room so that Acheson
could sleep sitting up. We filled the room with food, flowers, and liquor. We did
everything we could to make him happy.
P: The liquor brings up an interesting question. Of course, Gainesville was officially
dry. Alachua County was until 1963, although there were a lot of students that
managed to get it anyhow. I have been told different stories, but my
understanding is that when Senator John F. Kennedy was invited for the Florida
Blue Key banquet in 1958, there was some opposition to him on the grounds that
he was a drinker. Do you know anything about that?
S: He was here for a Florida Blue Key banquet at homecoming. I remember he was
invited to the game. He came, and I will tell you why [I remember that so well].
Do you know what I remember? He stayed in the [University] president's house
and was not very tidy. In the guest room one sock was here, one sock was
there, his pants were there, his underwear was there, all spread out. He went off
to the banquet, I guess, and left it that way. I do not know what she was doing
looking around, but she was disgusted.
P: I have heard several stories that she was disgusted. Some said it was because
Kennedy was drinking. But he was just sloppy?
S: She would not have liked his drinking, but that is not what she told me about it.
P: So you got it straight from her.
S: Yes, I got it straight from Frances Reitz. She thought that was a little bit messy.
She would kill me if she knew I told anybody.
P: I will not tell her. She is still here in town, so we will not tell her or Dr. Reitz.
S: Anyway, Judge Medina; George Wall; Arthur Compton, the physicist; Boris
Sorokin, the head of the sociology department at Harvard; and Dean Acheson,
the secretary of state, were all speakers. Chester Bowles was the next one. He
was the ambassador to India and a big shot in Washington. He is from
Connecticut. Bishop [James] Pike, an Episcopal bishop of New York who was
very famous for being a maverick, packed the gymnasium. We had about six
thousand people there. Then we had Dean [Liston] Pope of the Yale divinity
school. That is when Wayne [Reitz] and Harry Philpott thought I needed to be
restrained. They did not say that, but they thought Religion in Life Week was
getting too political, and they wanted to pull it back to religion. So we got Dean
Pope of the Yale divinity school. He had written books on the textile mills in
North Carolina. In fact, I think his book is in the same series as mine is, the Yale
Study Series, but that would have been later. Mine goes back to 1939.
Then when Stephen O'Connell was president [of the University of Florida, 1968-
1973], I had the Catholic bishop, Bishop [John J.] Doughty, from Seton Hall, New
Jersey. The students did not come to that. We had it at night in the gymnasium,
and it was not well filled. I was very sorry, but I could not do anything about it. I
thought that the crowd would come, but they did not.
P: Do you think they did not come because he was Catholic or because he was not
well known and did not have the appeal?
S: I think it was because he was not well known. There should have been enough
Catholic students at that time to have crowded the place, but they did not come.
I was very sorry.
P: When Dr. [Austin B.] Creel [professor of religion] returns, I am sure I can get the
files from him on who spoke.
S: I do not know whether he has kept them or not. I am sure he has. The only
other place you can get them is from the [Independent Florida] Alligator.
P: It may even by possible to find it in the annual, and we have that. We also have
the Alligator on microfilm, so we can find that information. So to recap Religion in
Life Week, you and Dr. Philpott started it, and it was both denomination meetings
for each body here on campus as well as one large noteworthy (we hope),
nationally known layman who had integrated religious faith into his life.
S: That is right. Dr. T. Z. Koo had something to do with it when he was visiting
professor. He did not give the main speech, but he was all around. The students
Religion in Life Week used to do a number of things, it seemed to me. In the first
place, it gave people in this city, people on the faculty, and people on the campus
a time of common activity. It always seemed to me that the only time the
University got together was at football games. That was the only time when
everybody comes. You get that somewhat at a commencement, and yet you do
not; you do not get the city and everybody involved. But by having these multiple
meetings all around and having it at one time with one program, you bring people
together. You have no idea how many people have spoken to me later about
them, how they remember this or that thing.
P: When I talk to alumni, they often mention either your New Testament class or
Religion in Life Week. Those are the two things that stand out in their minds.
S: As long as my classes were small, I prepared them for examinations by [inviting
them to my home and] giving them a course review a couple of nights before the
exam. I invited the class here, and they filled the place. There would be at least
thirty-five, and they would fill this room. They would be sitting on the floor all over
and out here. My wife made the most wonderful pie crust and the most
wonderful pies. The test of a pie crust is that it does not stick to your teeth, and
she could make it. She made lemon meringue pie, and we gave the students
coffee or cocoa and pie, and I reviewed them for their exam. Well, somebody
was telling me that somewhere way out in the Pacific a [University of] Florida
student met another student, and what was the subject of conversation? Mrs.
Scudder's pies! [laughter]
P: At least they remembered her, even if they forgot that you had taught the class.
You left your mark, at any rate.
P: That always tickled me.
P: We have mentioned briefly faculty. When you came here, you were a Methodist,
maybe not a traditional Methodist, but you had pastored a Methodist church.
Then Dr. Philpott came, and he was Southern Baptist. I know that both Drs.
Miller and Reitz were very devout. Dr. Miller was Baptist, and he went to First
Baptist Church. Dr. Reitz was Presbyterian and went to Preacher [Ulysses S.]
Gordon's church [First Presbyterian Church].
S: Let me tell you this. Dr. Kokomoor said to me before it got started, "I am not
bringing you here to be assistant pastor to the Methodist church or the Wesley
Foundation. I am bringing you here to the University, and that is your job." I will
never forget that.
When I came here [in 1946], there was a man named Jess Lyons who was
pastor to Methodist students [and director of the Wesley Foundation], and they
had the building [on University Avenue] and approximately fifty students. I
remember his agonizing with me. He said, "There has to be a congregation here
to support the student work. I cannot do anything with students alone. There
has to be a congregation." So at the end of the year, I think 1947, the district
superintendent sent [Reverend Worley] Thaxton [Springfield] here and told him
to organize a congregation. We were in it, my wife and I. I think [our daughter]
Ann was in it. She was twelve or fifteen. We organized a congregation, and Mrs.
Scudder was president of the women's society. Their function was to entertain
students and to provide suppers and refreshments and so forth for students.
To get back, Kokomoor said, "I am not bringing you here to be assistant pastor of
the Wesley Foundation or the Methodist Church. I am bringing you here for the
University." Boy, that was great. I did not have it on my conscience that I was
responsible for the Wesley Foundation. I would help them in every way I could,
and my wife would help them in every way she could, but that was not the
University. I taught Sunday school over there, but only for six weeks. I have
done it different years for six weeks. I have given a series of lectures for four
Sunday nights. But I was never on the staff; it was not my business. That was a
good thing, because [W.] Thaxton [Springfield] was a powerful guy, and he ran
the show. [Mr. Springfield was pastor of United Methodist Church and director of
the Wesley Foundation. Ed.] I did not interfere with him in any way, and he did
not interfere with me. That sounds like prima donna stuff, but it is very important.
When I retired I never went back [to Department of Religion meetings]. I never
went to their staff meetings. There was a period of ten years after I retired that I
was an adjunct professor, and I had some departmental relationships, but Dr.
[Samuel S.] Hill came [as professor and chair of religion]. He was in and I was
out when Austin Creel took Hill's place. I never went to [departmental] meetings.
I never interfered. I never advised them. That was their business. And that is
the way it was with Thaxton [Springfield]. He had the Wesley Foundation and the
[University United] Methodist Church. I would help him in any way I could, but
always as an outsider.
S: As you were recruiting faculty, especially in the early days, did you feel that you
needed to bring in Protestants to avoid pressure from the University community
and the community at large, or did you feel like you could bring in anybody?
P: Well, at the very first, I felt the need to have a Baptist, because Preacher
[Thomas V.] McCaul [pastor, First Baptist Church] was very strong. I felt I had to
have a Baptist, and I was able to get Philpott from Yale. Just by chance, he
happened to be a Southern Baptist, so the Baptists took him in heart and soul.
That was good. Then they thought I had to have a Baptist from then on for a
while. I tried, but I could not get them; I could not find a Baptist with a Ph.D. I
got Creel from Yale, and I got [Richard H.] Hiers from Yale. They used to say,
"To matter to Scudder you have to be three things. You have to be a Sigma Chi,
you have to be from Yale, and you have to be Methodist." [laughter] If you were
not one of those or all of those, you did not matter.
P: I think Dr. Creel would agree with you on the Yale part. I think you still have to
be from Yale to matter to the religion department.
S: Did he say that?
P: I think you have left your mark. [laughter] So you brought in Dr. Austin B. Creel.
P: Well, Philpott and I were here, and he took over the activity side, although he
taught one course. But we needed help. Dean [Stanley E.] Wimberly [assistant
dean, College of Arts and Sciences] called me over one day, and he said, "I have
$4,000. Can you get somebody [to help out in the religion department]?" I said I
would try. I went immediately to New Haven, to Yale, and went to the personnel
relations department. It was the noon hour, and Creel was there behind the
desk. I talked with him and told him that I was after a man for the University of
Florida and that there was not much money in it. He took me home for lunch to
meet his wife. I asked him on the spot if he would come.
It was the same way with Barry Mesch. The dean said I could have money for a
Jewish professor. So I got in touch with different people, and I got a
recommendation from somewhere in Boston. I talked with the man over the
telephone, and he had two names to recommend to me: Barry Mesch, and
another fellow. He said, "This other man is a scholar, a real scholar, but he is
kind of an introvert. Barry Mesch is not so scholarly, but he is very active and
very popular." I said, "He is the man I want."
P: Back in those days you did not have the search committees that we have now.
S: No, there was none of that. You just hired them. I did pretty well.
P: You did pretty well. You recruited Dr. Austin B. Creel from Yale University where
he was studying with H. Richard Niebuhr [professor of Christian ethics and
theology, Yale Divinity School].
S: Right. Then I recruited Hiers.
P: Dr. Richard Hiers.
S: That was funny, too. Hiers came down here--I was able to get money to pay his
way--and the one and only question he asked me was, "What is the University
policy on retirement?" [laughter] I never ceased to kid him on that. That is the
only thing he wanted to know, nothing else. He did not ask me anything except
P: So you recruited Dr. Creel who was an ethics specialist and an Indian religion
specialist, or he later moved into Indian religion.
S: I got Barry Mesch.
P: Dr. Hiers was a biblical scholar.
S: That is right. Then I set my heart on a Catholic. I cannot remember how I met
P: Are you talking about Dr. [Michael V.] Gannon?
S: Mike Gannon. It was something like this. Gannon was here in the history
department, and it had something to do with speeches on St. Thomas. Then I
got to know him in a couple of other ways, and finally I decided that he was the
man I wanted. So I went over to St. Augustine [Florida] and saw him. He was
under the jurisdiction of the bishop of St. Augustine, and he had to get
permission to come to teach in religion here. Anyway, he got it, and I brought
I piled all the notes and books I had in some course in the back of the car, and I
went over to see him at the church at St. Augustine. I tried to give him the notes
and books on what I wanted him to teach as a helpful measure, but, of course,
he just swept that aside. So from then on, I knew there was no use fooling
around with him.
P: Did he pastor the St. Augustine church first, or did the bishop transfer him there
after he agreed to teach here?
S: No, I think he was already assigned to the church.
P: That is what I thought. We are talking about Dr. Mike Gannon, who is now
professor of history. At that time he was a Roman Catholic priest and was pastor
of St. Augustine Catholic Church and Student Center. He earned his doctorate
here from the University of Florida in the history department, but he was first on
faculty in the religion department. Is that right?
S: That is right. That was his first job.
P: Did he primarily teach Bible courses?
S: No. To tell you the truth, I do not know what he taught.
P: I know he taught at least one course in the Gospels, because I had some friends
a little bit older than I who had him for a course in the Gospels. I do not know if
that was a regular offering or not.
S: I think at first he compared Judaism with Christianity. I do not know what he
P: Do you remember about what year he joined the faculty? I believe he told me he
came here in 1959 as a pastor, so I am assuming it would have been in the early
to mid 1960s. [Dr. Gannon's first year of teaching at UF was 1967. Ed.]
S: I cannot tell you when it was.
P: By that time was there any difficulty or reluctance in hiring a Roman Catholic, or
did you feel like those days were over with?
S: No, [there were no problems]. You see, [Dr. Charles F.] Byers [assistant dean,
College of Arts and Sciences, professor and chair of biology] was on the
curriculum committee of Arts and Sciences. He was also chairman of C-4, or
whatever biology was. [Biology was C-6. Ed.]
P: That would have been one of the comprehensive courses in the old University
S: Yes. He said to me, "We want you to teach comparative religion," and he did not
just mean Judaism and Christianity. He wanted the whole scope. He said, "That
is what we want you to do." Kokomoor said, "I am not bringing you here as
assistant pastor of the Wesley Foundation." I received very clear instructions as
to what they wanted, which was fine with me, because that is what I wanted.
P: Did the rest of the community always go along with that, or did you sometimes
feel pressured to be more of a chaplain for students and people in the
S: No, I never had that.
P: You never had that.
S: A speech professor, Lester Hale [later dean of men and then vice-president for
Student Affairs], told somebody once that I was the closest thing to a university
pastor that the University of Florida had. Those are almost his exact words.
That was the Religion in Life Week stuff, mainly. Hale did go into the ministry.
P: He is now a Presbyterian minister.
S: Well, he sat in on my course on the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, for a
solid year. He came to every class; he never missed a one. He used to say that
I was his divinity school. [laughter]
P: He retired [from the University] as vice-president for Student Affairs. His first wife
had died, and he married Preacher Gordon's niece [Minnielee Gordon], I believe.
P: Religious organizations in Gainesville would have been very strong, and both Dr.
McCaul at First Baptist and Dr. Gordon at First Presbyterian would have been
influential figures in town at that time.
S: Yes. You see, the Methodists were not as strong because the Methodist system
was to replace the pastor every three years. That was true of the downtown
church [First United Methodist]. Thaxton [Springfield] bewitched the district
superintendent to keep him there. Dr. [Walter] Rutland, the district
superintendent, went along with Thaxton and left him there, time after time.
Since Thaxton died, they have been changing pastors every three years.
Thaxton was able to stay there for nearly fifteen years because he and the
district superintendent had a tacit understanding that he would not be changed.
That was very wise, because Thaxton had an entree all over.
P: You may not have known him, but later Dr. [O.] Dean Martin of Trinity [United]
Methodist had a similar situation. He stayed there until he died. I guess he was
actually classified as the University's chaplain.
S: I wrote a memorial [for the Rotary Club in memory of Martin]. They made him an
honorary member of the [Gainesville] Rotary the week he died, or just before he
died, and I wrote a letter [for Gainesville Rotary President F. Wesley Eubank] to
the widow [dated Feb. 23, 1988].
P: As I understand it, in addition to being active as an academic, you also played a
large role in student affairs. You were involved in starting the new Union building
proper and advised some of the fraternities. You were very involved in student
life on campus. What are your memories of that?
S: I raised the money, or a large part of it, and succeeded in getting a loan from
Barnett Bank to build the Sigma Chi house. They dedicated the house to me. I
had a lot to do with that. Wayne Reitz was also very helpful.
I had a lot to do with the [Florida] Union. I think this will check out. I think I was
chairman of the Board of Union, the board that managed the Florida Union for
about ten years. Philpott was chairman, and when he left, I took his place, and I
kept it for years. It is not that way now. Now they have the different chairman
from this year to that year. Phil Loran has the records. I was very interested in
the Union, because that was where the YMCA was located.
S: You get egocentric in your old age.
P: I think that is part of the human condition. In infancy most people are egocentric.
S: Anyway, I had some important influence in getting the Union.
P: This is the building that is now Dauer Hall?
S: No, the new one.
P: The J. Wayne Reitz Student Union.
S: I was chairman of the Board of Managers, and I was chairman of the building
committee. I do not know whether Bill [William E.] Rion [director, Florida Union,
1945-48, director, J. Wayne Reitz Union, 1968-86] knows this or not, but way
back the old Union, now Dauer Hall, became inadequate. As we got more and
more students and more and more activities, the pressure was great [to expand].
We decided we needed a new Union. Bill was marvelous. He traveled all over
the country seeing unions, meeting with chairmen of the Board of Managers and
Les Hale, dean of students. He wanted us to see the union at Purdue
[University]. So he got the money and sent Les Hale and me to Purdue to spend
two or three days staying in the union and looking it over. We went, and we
looked and saw, and we took it all in.
The interesting thing for me, and the memorable thing to me, was that Les and I
came back on an airplane from Chicago to Atlanta. Just before we got into
Atlanta, about thirty minutes, a great thunderstorm came up, and it began to rain.
The clouds burst, and the lightning flashed and the thunder roared. The plane
lurched, and I was scared to death. In fact, I vomited. But Hale had taken out
flight insurance in Chicago for $100,000 and mailed a letter to his wife. I had not
taken out any, and here we were up there like this. I was deathly sick and
worried, and Hale was smirking with satisfaction. He had provided for his family,
so if we went down that was all right. I had not, and I was morose. Somehow we
got out of that and got home. But I will never forget that trip to Purdue to see
We came to the point where it was obvious that we needed a new Union. Then
the question was about money. We had no money. Now, I had a student in
comparative religion by the name of Ed Beardsley from Jacksonville. Ed
Beardsley was president of the student body, and in those days, and I guess still,
the president of the student body served on the Board of Managers [of the
Florida Union] at the University. Beardsley and I had served on the Board of
Managers, and he also had taken my class in which I used Summerville's one-
volume condensation of Toynbee for a text.
The question of how to finance a new Union came up, and we decided (I do not
know how much I had to do with this. It was probably Rion more than me) that
there had to be a student fee put on their [tuition] bills and that over a period of
years it would pile up. Well, Beardsley and I talked, and I encouraged him to go
before the Student Senate and get them to vote a fee. He did, and he got it.
That started their putting in so much activity fee and reserving it in a fund for the
Several years later, when they were approaching the building of it, somebody in
the state found that the fund amounted to a million dollars or more. Somebody in
Tallahassee said, "It is not right. It is a shame to spend this on the Union. It
ought to be spent on classrooms." At that point, Wayne Reitz went up there and
raised cane. He told them, "This money was put aside for a student union. You
cannot take it." By golly, he prevailed. So they had the money to plunk down on
Reitz Union. That is really perhaps one of the main reasons why the building is
named for Reitz. He saved a vast amount of money that came out of student
fees over a period of years. Ed Beardsley got the vote out of the [Student]
Senate. He and I conspired on that.
P: They still use the system that you set up, and they are very happy with it,
because it is bringing in about $4 million a year now, based on enrollment. The
students like it because student government gets a big say-so in how it is spent,
and the University likes it because it is extra money that can be used for student
activities that they would not have otherwise. I was a small boy, but I remember
when the Union was dedicated. My grandmother played in a bowling tournament
in the new bowling alley in the basement, and I remember going over to it as just
a very young boy. It was considered a state-of-the-art building at the time it was
S: I gave a speech at the groundbreaking. Let me have that book. When you give
a speech, somebody tries to tell jokes.
P: Not very well, usually.
S: Anyway, I got up, and I told them that I was going to make two speeches. "Mr.
Chairman (this is on the ground where the building was to be built), out of respect
for my advanced age, if you will permit me, I am going to make two addresses,
let us say Address A and Address B, B preceding A, which, perchance, is
appropriate." I will not read it all. I told them that at the University of Virginia they
needed a facility in which the faculty might feed the students and encourage
mutual acquaintance. There had been no center for extracurricular, informal
association on the campus of the University of Virginia. Student social life
revolved about the town taverns in Charlottesville. One night some inebriated
students returned to the dormitories, one of them bringing a shotgun, conduct
strictly forbidden by the university authorities. In the obstreperous melee that
followed, a professor was shot. There is no record of a court trial, but my
informant is sure that the student was dismissed. To such an extremity, a
university is reduced by the lack of a union. [laughter]
P: Looking at some of the honors you have won during your career, you are listed in
Who's Who from 1946 on.
S: That was entirely due to Dr. Miller. When Dr. Miller came, he was very anxious
to upgrade everything, and one of the things was that heads of departments
should be listed in Who's Who, so he arranged for all heads of departments to be
entered in Who's Who. That is the way I got in.
P: That is quite an honor. I see you were made a member of Florida Blue Key in
S: Yes, and I got the Blue Key Distinguished Professor Award.
P: Right. In 1976 you were selected as the distinguished professor by Florida Blue
Key. You also won the presidential medallion in 1972.
S: I got that from Stephen C. O'Connell.
P: You were made an honorary member of the John Marshall Bar Association
. How did that come about? Were you involved with the law school?
S: I offered prayers at different occasions, and Dean [Frank T.] Maloney [dean,
College of Law, 1958-1970] was impressed, so he started inviting me to give the
prayer at every law school commencement. I went to that commencement for
years--I do not know how many--and gave the invocation. After about ten years,
he came up and presented me with a certificate of membership in the John
Marshall Bar Association for that service. I have that certificate in there framed.
I must tell you that in the old days the law school commencements were not very
well organized. I guess they were organized, but there was not much attention to
details. One night I had been invited by Maloney to give the prayer, and he told
me to go to the law school. It was in the old building. Do you remember the first
building, that old building?
P: Yes, Bryan Hall.
S: There was an auditorium or courtroom in it where they had the moot court, and
that was where commencement was held. Well, I was told that commencement
would be at 8:00, but Maloney told me that he was taking the speaker to the
country club for dinner and they might be a little late. I did not pay much
attention to it, and I went down at quarter to eight. I found complete blackness. I
thought this is funny. I went up to the door, and then I turned around to go away
when in the darkness I heard, "Just a minute. Just a minute. I am coming."
Maloney was running across here, and he opened the door, went in, and turned
on the lights. Two or three minutes later the crowd began to come. The
ceremony was a little late in getting started, five or ten minutes, but it all filled up,
and we started. I will never forget it was so casual. It was wonderful, really.
P: The University certainly has changed since you came here in 1946.
S: Nothing is so spic-and-span.
P: What were other significant activities you involved in while you were on faculty?
S: I attended the East West Conference of Philosophy at the University of Hawaii in
1955. There I met two people whom I later invited to be visiting professors t the
University of Florida: Hyjame Nakamura, Professor of Buddhist Studies at the
University of Toyko in Japan and Professor Herta Pauli, Professor of Philosophy
at Upssla College in East Orange, New Jersey. Professor Pauli was an specialist
In order to enhance the teaching of comparative religion I invited four visiting
professors to the department. T. Z. Koo, the world secretary of the Young Men's
Christian Association was here in 1950. Shao Chang Lee, Professor of Chinese
Culture at Michigan State University was a visiting professor in 1960. Professor
Herta Pauli visited in 1961 and Professor Hyjame Nakamura taught here in 1962.
P: Were there any other persons you were able to bring here?
S: I was able to add W. Thaxton Springfield to the staff in 1969 as Assistant
Professor of Religion in charge of religion activities. Sadly, Thaxton died in 1970.
P: Were there other activities you were involved in?
S: I gave three series of lectures to the Young Presidents Organization, a group of
Harvard Business School graduates who had become presidents of corporations
by age thirty. The three YPO conferences I lectured at were in March 1954 for
four days at the Fountainbleu Hotel in Miami, in November 1955 for four days at
the Emeral Hotel in Nassau, and in March 1956 for two days at the Ponte Vedra
Country Club in Ponte Vedra, Florida.
P: The religion department has thirteen professors now, I think. The University has
34,000 students. Did you have any idea it would come to that? Gainesville was
a town of probably 10,000 or 12,000 when you came, and now it is 100,000 or
Another thing I wanted to ask you about is the reading room in the Department of
Religion, which is named after you. I guess you donated the first books, and they
have been supplemented, and the room was dedicated to you. A lot of years
were spent getting that ready.
S: I gave about 2,000 books.
P: So that is permanently named after you now.
S: I do not know whether they used my reading room or not. It does not make any
P: It is used quite a bit. It is used primarily by undergraduate majors and graduate
students [in religion]. It is really nice because there really is no other place for
students to work on campus.
S: I had all these books. I bought books because at Wesleyan I got sick of filling my
library with library books and then having to cart them back in June. So I wanted
my own books. I did not have any money, but I bought them. Over the years I
accumulated about 2,000 books. I have a daughter who is not interested in the
books, and I thought I would like to have somebody use them if they wanted to,
so I arranged with Austin [Creel] to give them to the Department of Religion, or to
the University. It was his idea to have a room to put them in. I never went as far
P: He is very protective. He tells the faculty members, "This is a reading room.
This is not a conference room." When they try to turn it into a meeting place, he
throws them out. He tells them, "This is for the students to come and use these
S: They can use them for whatever they want.
P: He is very protective. He just left after thirteen years as chairman, so he did not
equal your record. But he stayed longer than most [department heads].
S: Basically, around here I am a myth, and I am a myth because of Austin Creel.
See, he went around telling all of this stuff and doing things. He got the idea of
raising money for a Scudder lectureship, and he did. They got more in it than I
ever thought. There is $10,000 or $15,000 in it now, or something like that. He
tried to get the building named after me, and Wayne Reitz turned him down.
Instead of Dauer Hall, it might have been Scudder Hall. That is what Austin
wanted. Of course, Dauer Hall would have been somewhere else.
P: That might still happen. There still may be a Scudder Hall. Dr. Dauer had
recently died, and the University wanted to name the next building for him.
I guess we have covered most of your career at the University of Florida. You
were an adjunct professor when I was in your New Testament class several
years ago, and you were legendary then for your page upon page upon page of
handwritten notes. It was almost a library that you were throwing in. About four
years ago I went to Boston, and flying back on the plane I met a woman who had
been here twenty or thirty years ago, and she asked me if you were still here.
She remembered your New Testament class. That is what stuck out in her mind.
Dr. Scudder, I certainly appreciate your time this morning. Is there anything you
can think of that you can add that will help us in our knowledge of the history of
the Department of Religion or the University in general? Are there any
outstanding events or outstanding figures?
S: I cannot think of anything right now.
P: Once again, thank you. You have been a valuable help to us.