Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Less Than Entirely Evil

Sometimes the past can be recaptured—or at least briefly revisited—thanks to Facebook.

Back in the early 1970s, I was a freshman in college, living away from home for the first time. I wanted to see another part of the country and understand how people outside the New York City area thought, so I chose the University of South Carolina.

Goal: accomplished.

The Coliseum:The School of Journalism was in the basement.
People in the South had their own distinctive culture. I had never seen a firearm before in my life. Everyone I met owned rifles, and a pistol or two for good measure.

Religion was very central to the Southern psyche. People were constantly trying to save my heathen soul, from Campus Crusaders to Moonies to Hari Krishnas to a group that was aspiring to be taken up into space by an alien race. A middle-aged man with a placard that read: “Repent!!! You’re going to HELL!” walked back and forth in front of the student union building every day with a megaphone.

Streaking (running sans clothes) had taken the university scene by storm and naked herds of laughing students flashed by now and then wherever one walked. Panty raids on women's dorms were also common. Because the drinking age was 18, beer keg parties erupted regularly and were always Open House.

Our mascot was, and still is, an (illegal) Gamecock named Cocky.
So there was a strange mixture of guns, religion, sex and alcohol permeating the campus.

My parents had overprotected me for 18 years, then sent me 700 miles away to one of Playboy’s Top Four Party Schools in the country (that year) for an education. They had never gone to college, so I guess they had naively lofty ideas of what the experience was all about. Amid all this enticing chaos, I was attending classes and trying to learn something.

My first class in my first semester in college was a required speech class. My teacher, J. Russell Weatherford, was a theater arts graduate student who had recently left the Air Force American Forces Radio and Television Service to return to college. A tall, lanky man with wavy, black hair, he told us stories about the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska where he had been stationed.

Professor Lumpkin shared his similar halberd collection with us.
I also had a wonderful teacher, Professor Hope Henry Lumpkin, a retired military officer who taught the History of Warfare, which I took as an elective. An ardent pacifist, I felt I needed to understand the other way of thinking. It was an ROTC class and I was the first and only girl who had ever taken it. I remember his well-over-six-foot, perfectly erect frame striding back and forth across the auditorium stage, menacing halberd in hands, intoning in his booming voice, “Cran and élan, men! Cran and élan! Guts and spirit!” He earned me the permanent resentment of my classmates when he informed them that as the father of three daughters, with a woman in the class, he would not be sharing his salty stories with us that semester. I, also, was disappointed. I understand that he taught up until his death in the 1980s.


The USC horseshoe, site of many an infamous keg party.
Most of my college professors have probably passed on to eternity at this point. All, that is, except that young graduate student who had taught my speech class. So recently, I decided to look him up on Facebook and see what he was doing. I was surprised to find that he was living in New York City—a short bus ride away. So I wrote to him and asked if we could meet. Of course, students remember teachers, but teachers are less likely to recall students. He had no idea who I was, but he kindly agreed to meet me, anyway.

What struck me most about our meeting was that we had first crossed paths when we were young and everything in our lives lay ahead of us. Now we were meeting almost 40 years later, after we had lived out much of our lives, and had done—or not—whatever we had intended to do. I'd spent that time as a professional writer in a variety of fields. He'd pursued the entertainment field, working as an actor, writer, producer and much more on projects that took him from New York City to Texas to California and back. We both had stable home lives and were fairly content with how our careers had evolved.

And, we were complete strangers. Yet—there was still that tenuous link from the past. So we agreed to keep in touch.

For all the negative press that Facebook receives—and much of it well deserved—it still offers exquisite opportunities that simply wouldn’t exist otherwise. I like to think of them as the Un-Evil Moments of Facebook. So, Mr. Zuckerberg, for this magical portal to reconnecting with old friends and teachers, as well as keeping in touch with my on-the-fly adult daughters, I thank you. It would seem that you are not entirely evil, after all!


Postscript: Since publishing this, I have learned that Professor Henry Lumpkin was a military historian with the United States European Command and Naval Academy. He was Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina. He was also author and narrator of two television programs, And Then There Were Thirteen and Saints and Legions, broadcast by SCETV Network.

17 comments:

  1. FYI, my daughter tells me that there is now an OLD guy walking outside the Russell House with a repent sign. Hmmm! Could your guy still be here after all these years???

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  2. Or perhaps his son? One never knows!

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  3. Henry Lumpkin was my beloved father. He wasn't over six feet tall (only 5'10") but he was larger than life. He brought up his three daughters to the sound of his rich baritone intoning "Men of Harlick," "The Ministrel Boy," and those glorious hymns of the church militant.

    I'm glad you enjoyed his class! And I still remember his salty stories, which he would tell us only after we became married women. All the best, Rosa Stoney Lumpkin Kasper

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    1. Mrs. Kasper,
      As an NROTC student I had to take your father's course. After my brief experiance in engineering changed my major to history mostly because of you father. You could say I majored in "Lumpkin". The Navy kept me away of South Carolinia for most of the 70's and 80's. One of my life's regrets is I never had an opportunity just to tell him how much his teaching meant to me.

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    2. Your father was a great professor--so erudite and knowledgeable. He used to say, "I'm related to half of South Carolina, and my wife is related to the other half." My godfather had a copy of "From Savannah to Yorktown," and asked if I would take it to him to have autographed. I went to his office, and upon presenting the book with my request, his countenance lit up with gladness and appreciation.

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  4. Thank you so much for commenting. Your father could have been in theater; his voice carried so well throughout the auditorium without a microphone! And his course was very enlightening.

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    1. As another of the three daughters registering comments about Professor Hope Henry Lumpkin, I just chanced on your comments about my father, thanks to my son, one of his six grandchildren. Having my father in people's minds some 24 years after his death is a revelation most glorious. I learned all my history from my father at the breakfast and supper tables, in the form of stories. He was indeed a master storyteller! Thank you for your comments! Harriet Porcher Lumpkin Whitehouse

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  5. I thin that University of South Carolina was a good option actually I studied there, so I have a lot memories o9f that University because I learned a lot and also I met beautiful girls.

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  6. I have never been in the state of South Carolina, not to mention never visiting USoC. However, I saw those television shows of Prof. Lumpkin. Saints and Legions especially impressed me. The man was a master in the old school--know your material inside and out, let facts speak without ideology. A far cry from many of today's university faculty. That university was lucky to have a man like him. I wish I could have taken courses from him.


    As a side note, he had an uncanny similarity to Douglas MacArthur!

    Thanks for mentioning your experience with Prof. Lumpkin!

    Robert Schneider

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  7. You're most welcome, Robert. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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  8. Thank you for stirring old and fond memories of Dr. Lumpkin. I took every class he offered at the University of South Carolina, History 101, Hist 321 and 322, 596 and 597, and did both online classes. My degree was in History, but I majored in Lumpkin.

    I grew up watching him on SCETV and I remember signing up for History 101 with him because as my boyfriend at the time (now my husband) said "Why sign up for one of these other guys, you know Dr. Lumpkin is good." He was so right.

    Often I was the only girl in class, too, not that many women seemed to be interested in the first half of mankind's foray into warfare. I always sat near the front and was an eager student. Every morning, he came in and he would give me a little bow.

    It was such a privilege to have him as a teacher. I became a teacher and completed a PhD in History and much of the credit goes to him.

    My very favorite story was when he and his crew took the German sub. All good historians are good story tellers, and he was a great story teller. To this day, I can remember almost every twist of that particular story. I especially liked when he did the Brooklyn accent and the oarsman whacked the Gerry on the head. He often spoke of his daughters and he was a very proud father. I remember well his story of taking one of his daughters to Mary Baldwin, and another of being the last NATO car out of France. I have kept all my old notebooks from his classes and every time I go through and try to get rid of old stuff, I never ever consider parting with them. His influence truly made Carolina my Alma Mater.

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    1. Thank you. Wish I had taken enough courses to have heard all those stories!

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  9. When I was working on my graduate degree at USC in the early 80's I persuaded Dr. Lumpkin to allow me to preserve his last year of teaching in its entirety using magnetic audio recording tape. From the resulting nearly 400 hours of raw tape Dr. Lumpkin selected the "Evolution of Warfare" History 596 to be our first effort at editing the results.

    After post-production it sounded great and as I had use of good offices with the South Carolina Educational Radio Network the 30 hour series was offered for graduate and undergraduate credit through USC. The series was a resounding success, but when Dr. Lumpkin passed the USC History Department had no member of its faculty who at the time was moved to "pick up the flag" and just grade the papers. As a result sadly the series stopped airing.

    However, what is truly important is that "what we don't record we lose". The reason we know anything of the history that preceded our own time is because scholars of antiquity wrote things down for the potential benefit of future generations.

    In my view Henry Lumpkin was a State Treasure for South Carolina. The audience I had in mind from the onset of requesting permission to record Henry has yet to be born.

    The original tapes are neatly arranged and resting on the shelves of the USC Library and kept at a constant temperature of 60 degrees and very low humidity. It's a collection and project I'd now love to resurrect and share with future generations, much as Texas A&M currently has on iTunes U:

    http://itunes.tamu.edu/

    Standing in the way of that process are two things. The first is that the original audio recording tape, like virtually all other magnetic recording tape from the 80's, developed "Sticky-shed syndrome":

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sticky-shed_syndrome

    While this is a major obstacle "it's not fatal". I was able to locate a gentleman, who until being involved in a life altering automobile wreck, was an Audio Preservation Specialist with The Library of Congress at their National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, VA. Although the accident left him permanently disabled he continues to work on audio restoration projects from his home in rural Prince George's County, Maryland.

    Hopefully in 2014 funding will be found to be able go forward with the restoration a State treasure, which are the lectures of my friend and great mentor, Dr. Henry Lumpkin. When we do I'm also hoping that for generations yet to come those with an interest will be able to share what it was like to actually sit in his classes and come to know and love him as so many of us were privileged to do while we were alive and at Carolina.

    Martin McKenzie
    Columbia, SC

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  10. Below are the individual episodes from the Public Radio series, "The Evolution of Warfare with Dr. Henry Lumpkin":


    __1. Introductory Lecture - The Form and Function of Weapons

    __2. Mobility in Warfare: Horse, Chariot, Elephant, and True Warship

    __3. Tactical Evolution of Protective Devices: Armor, Fortification, and Siege Machinery

    __4. Sparta the Spartan Military System (Aristocratic Military Communism)

    __5. The Achaemenid Persian Empire; Its Military, Political, & Religious Development

    __6. The All - conquering Persian Military System
    (6th / 5th Centuries B.C.)

    __7. Persia Against the Greek City States; the Athenian Trireme Warship
    (490-479 B.C.)

    __8. The Peloponnesian Wars: Athens Against Sparta; New Fleet Tactics
    (433-404 B.C.)

    __9. The Era of Military Anarchy - Theban Supremacy - A New Soldier - the
    Medium-Armed Peltast and the Rise of Macedonia
    (404-338 B.C.)

    __10 Alexander the Great of Macedonia the Phalanx
    (336-323 B.C.)

    __11 Alexander the Battles of the Granicus River Issus
    (334-333 B.C.)

    __12. Alexander the Sieges of Tyre Gaza
    (333-332 B.C.)

    __13 Alexander the Battle of Guagamela (Arbela); His March To & From India
    (331-327 B.C.)

    __14. The Roman Army Its Organization in the Early Middle Republic
    (390-100 B.C.)

    __15. The Perfected Roman Army of the Late Republic Early Empire
    (100 B.C.-378 A.D.)

    __16. The Roman Wars with Carthage, Macedonia, Parthia and the Roman
    Conquest of the Middle East

    __17. The East Roman (Byzantine) Military Organization and Its Background

    __18. Byzantine Army Organization

    __19. Byzantine Army Navy Combined Tactics Strategy

    __20. Byzantine Navy Organization Tactics

    __21. The Siege of Western Europe by Vikings, Saracen, Magyars

    __22. Viking Tactics, Ships, Weapons, Equipment

    __23. The Medieval Man at Arms, Chivalry, and Feudalism

    __24. Perfected Medieval Tactics, Castles, Medieval Siege Machinery

    __25. The Crusades - Great Military, Religious, Economic Ventures by
    Western Europe Against Islam (11th - 13th. Centuries A.D.)

    __26. The Terrible Mongols Their Perfected Military System (13th - 14th Centuries A.D.)

    __27. The Mongols (continued) - The Longbow & Crossbow of the West

    __28. The Longbow English Tactics, Gunpowder Introduced. Infantry regains ascendancy on the Battlefield

    __29. Gunpowder, the Hussites of Bohemia, the First Modern Wars

    __30. Background Information on the career of Dr. Lumpkin. The Swiss
    German Pikeman Broadside Gun (Modern) Naval Warfare

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  11. What an absolute delight to read this article and all the comments about Professor Henry Lumpkin, especially from his daughters! I came to Carolina in the 1970s from New Jersey, majored in History, and took every course Professor Lumpkin offered. Years later, I received a Ph.D. in History and, like some of the others here, have always regretted that I was unable to tell him just how great an influence he had on me. I have so many wonderful memories, not only of those stirring classroom lectures, but also of his kindness and generous spirit. While I knew him as a marvelous historian, he also had the soul of a poet. I vividly recall his great enthusiasm for the tragic verse of Wilfred Owen written in the trenches of World War I. Professor Lumpkin was a great mentor to me and a very special and decent man. I’m extremely grateful that through the “magic” of the internet, with all it’s flaws, I can communicate these sentiments to others who remember him as fondly I do. Thanks. Robert Baer

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  12. I just discovered all these wonderful memories of my dear, beloved father. They make me so happy, and bring him close again, after all these years. Yes, he did have the soul of a poet, and he viewed the world, as well as history, with a poet's vision. He was also an artist. When we were little, he drew glorious pictures as he told us stories. As we grew older, we learned history at the dinner table, as he recounted his wild imaginings (always historically accurate ones!) of ancient times. But his stories were about more than history -- through them, he taught us about courage and truthfulness.
    Yes, it's true that we never heard any of his salty stories until after we became married women, and even then, he somewhat expurgated them!
    Thank you all for this beautiful gift of memories. Mary Henderson Lumpkin Eagan

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