A Century of Success: the A & M Years (1906-1933)
1906. General Assembly of Georgia passes the Perry Act, creating an agricultural and mechanical school in each of the eleven (increased to twelve in 1919) congressional districts in the state. These A&M schools were secondary schools designed to prepare rural youth for farm life.
1907. The 275-acre farm of Bluford A. Sharp, located west of Carrollton, was selected as the site of the Fourth Congressional District A&M School and purchased by the Trustees for $9,625.00
1907, July 9. Cornerstone on the academic building was laid. The event attracted to campus the largest group ever assembled in the county [estimated to be 12,000 in number], including then Governor Joseph M. Terrell.
1907, December 6. The family of John H. Melson, the first principal of the A&M school, arrived on the campus. Snow and ice covered the ground. The water was frozen. There were no electric lights, no walks or driveways.
1908, January. The Fourth District A&M School opened its doors under the leadership of Principal Melson. “We Learn to Do by Doing” was adopted as the motto for the school. When the school opened there were only two automobiles in Carrollton.
1908, January 27. Mrs. Penelope Stevens Melson, wife of the principal, became the defacto librarian when she conducted a “book shower.” This provided the nucleus of a library when 325 volumes of nondescript books and bound volumes of magazines were contributed by local citizens. The books were placed on a single shelf in the linen closet on the East side of the dormitory lobby.
1908, February 19. A newly-organized baseball team defeated Carrollton High School 16-4. The following day this team chose its official colors – dark blue and red. These became the school’s colors.
1909, October. A ten-year-long tradition of holding a “Fourth District A&M Fair” was begun, held each October on the back campus. Activities included exhibits of farm products, crafts, culinary arts, along with entertainment such as a greased pig chase, and 3-legged races. Evening entertainment was of a carnival nature. One of the most popular attractions at these fairs was Miss Mahalay Lancaster’s fortune telling booth. These fairs were eventually relocated from campus, much to the relief of faculty, but continued as a county event.
1912. Today’s Honors College office building was built as the home of the A&M Principal, J.M. Melson, and until 1962 was located where Cobb Hall is now. It continued to serve as the home for principals/presidents of the institution until 1967. It was moved to its present location in 1962.
1916, Summer. The stone horse-mounting block belonging to Creek Indian Chief General William McIntosh was moved to the grounds of the A&M School from McIntosh’s plantation on the Chattahoochee River. McIntosh, who signed the treaty for removal of his tribe from the area had been murdered by members of his own tribe.
1919. Principal Melson asked the governors of thirteen states for the gift of an oak tree variety native to their particular state to be planted on the front campus, which until that time had been a cotton field.
1919. Martha Munro joined the faculty as an English teacher after her father, George P. Munro, left the Board of Trustees.
1920, April 20. Irvine Sullivan Ingram, age 27, was hired as principal of the A&M School by the Trustees. In 1921 he married Martha Munro.
1929, May. Then Governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was commencement speaker at the Fourth District A&M School.
1932, January 1. A legislature-enacted law became effective that organized Georgia’s public institutions of higher learning into a unified system under a chancellor and a Board of Regents. The Board of Regents took the position that high school education was not an appropriate function of the state to perform, but should be left to local authorities such as municipalities and school districts.
1933, March. The Board of Regents announced plans to cease the operation of Bowdon College (which had begun in 1856) and all remaining A&M schools and to establish a new junior college on one of three campuses in West Georgia: Carrollton, Bowdon, or Powder Springs. Presentations of views and claims in support of given locations were invited at the Regents’ meeting scheduled for April 15, 1933. A mass meeting at the Carrollton City Hall planned the community’s procedure for a campaign to win approval of t he Carrollton site. In the forefront of this activity was Irvine Ingram, though he had been told by one of the Regents that he could not expect to be named as its first President.
1933, April 15. The Board of Regents chose Carrollton’s A&M School as the campus and Irvine S. Ingram as the new President of the college which they gave the name West Georgia College.
1933, April 24. Final commencement exercises were held for the A&M School.