KM_C308-20180221101935Thomas C. Sherwood (’45) was born July 25, 1922, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where his parents were Baptist missionaries. He joined the staff at Southern in 1953 and his tenure is among the longest of any faculty or staff member. In the following article Sherwood shares his memories about the college and the influences it had on his life.

… If you had been at North Greenville in 1942, one of the things you would remember would be the smallness of the classes and of the school compared to its present size. I think we had only five, maybe six classrooms. I remember the clean mountain air, the spiritual life, the work, and the educational environment. We (about 120) were like one big and basically happy family. We were so far away from the city that we had to be very much self-sufficient.

I’ve heard that my arrival in 1942 at North Greenville along with my brother, William, created a few questions in the minds of some of the students. What would two boys from Brazil look like (dark?) and would they be able to speak English? We were raised in Brazil, South America, where our parents were Southern Baptist missionaries.

Some way or other we had heard about North Greenville along with Mars Hill and Buie’s Creek. North Greenville had the academy at that time, I chose North Greenville. Why? I’m not sure, but I believe it was mostly because it would provide for me an opportunity to work and pay my expenses. Having milked cows at home and knowing that North Greenville had a dairy, I figured there was at least one job, I could do. Some work was required of all students back in those days.

When my brother and I arrived on campus one of the first things we had to do was determine what courses we should take. I had no previous formal high school record. Most of my studies in Brazil, were via correspondence, home study, Calver School, and private tutors in various subjects. After a conference with the dean and/or the registrar I was told that if I’d take certain subjects, including 10th and 11th grade English and American History, and do well in them I could expect to get my high school diploma at the end of the school year. I graduated from the academy the next spring. There were five of us in that class. In the fall of 1943, I started my freshman year of college at North Greenville and two years later graduated with the A.A. degree. There were 36 in my graduating class.

I believe in the providence of God that it was possible for me to attend North Greenville. World War II, going on at the same time, interrupted the college education plans of many people. When I had landed in Miami, Fla., I was given one week to register for the draft. Before that fall semester was over I had been called up, examined and, because of a small limp, turned down with a 4F classification. This did not upset me greatly for it provided me the opportunity to continue my education. I had earlier received a similar classification from the Brazilian army, even though I was told to volunteer.

When I got to North Greenville, I indicated my desire to work and pay my own expenses as much as possible. I think before the week was out I was in the fields helping to bale hay. I was give the “glorious” task of wiring the bales. What a job! I’d stick the wires in one dies of the baler, run around to the other side and tie them. This was not too bad since I had worked on fences before at home, but not with others pitching hay above me! I still remember the straw and dirt going down my back. We all got dirty, especially me. The others had given me the dirtiest job, but so what. I soon graduated from the hayfield and baling the hay to feeding it to the cows.

In those days we had a registered Guernsey dairy herd. We milked the cows by hand and we could actually do the job, when rushing, averaging about five minutes per cow, once we had everything ready to start milking. One of the problems was getting up at about 5:00 every morning so that we could get through, eat breakfast, get cleaned up, and still get to an 8:00 class. There were times I had to go to class in my barn overalls or else be late to class. I had to study hard, sometimes late at night. The other dairy workers and I sometimes had trouble staying awake in class. I remember a classmate, Heyward Comer, asking Dr. Gillespie in Greek class why he didn’t make me stay awake, to which good Dr. Gillespie answered that he didn’t care if I slept, as along as I’d answer his questions when asked.

I remember “Fess” Blackwell in math class and his left-handed pitching of a piece of chalk out the window or into the back of the room. He was a good teacher in physics as well as in math.

Miss Harlee Cooper was another good teacher. I remember grading papers for one of her history classes and I’ll never forget the time I had to record an “F” for one of the student. Who? I’ll not tell!

Miss Elsie Tuttle was my teacher in social studies. Miss Marion Burts was our librarian. I remember that my English teacher one year was younger than several of us in the class. Mrs. Glennie Cook Dill was in charge of the kitchen and Mrs. Maude White was the Dean of Women. There was Mr. Harold Dill and Mr. Leland Rogers. None of us will ever forget “Mother” Wingo. She was always trying to do something for all of us. She let us know that she cared about us. But, the two person with whom I was probably the most closely associated were Mr. Grady Culbreth and the president, Dr. M. C. Donnan.

Church was in the school auditorium in those days. Part of the time I was an usher. I remember being disillusioned by some of the ministerial students since I expected them to be more exemplary in their speech and behavior. I think I had not accept their humanity.

I enjoyed working at North Greenville and was able to pay for most of my expenses. Besides working in the dairy, I fired the school heating plant part of one winter season – part of the time with wood due to the coal shortage. We had built a new heating plant and begun the Neves Dining Hall. The walls around the heating plant were 18 inches thick, I think. We had to build the forms, put in the steel, mix the concrete with a hoe and shovel, and use wheelbarrows for hauling and pouring it into the forms.

I didn’t know how to drive a car when I went to North Greenville even though I was already 20 years old. I learned to drive at North Greenville. One day I was getting ready to mix some feed for the cows and needed some corn or cotton seed meal loaded on an old truck to move to the barn. No one else being around to drive the truck, I took the opportunity and did it myself. I backed it successfully about 100 yards or more as needed. That was my first driving job of many later ones.

During the summer we had excess milk which we sold to Ponder’s Ice Cream plant in Greer. I made that trip many times driving an old station wagon. On those trips we also go supplies for the school – mostly from Turner’s wholesale grocery. Of course during the war everything was rationed, but the college could get some things occasionally. Sometimes we got limited supply of chewing gum or Hershey’s chocolate bars, and were they delicious! One summer I made the trip back from Greer with 500 pounds of sugar for canning purposes. I have always wondered what would have happened if some bootlegger up around Hogback Mountain had known about it!

I think it was Bill Hawkins who had the reputation of looking for and reporting moonshine stills and receiving a reward (fact or fiction I don’t know) for such. I had never seen a still, so one afternoon I went with him up toward Hogback Mountain. We saw several stills, two or three of them in operational condition and Bill said of one that it looked like it was ready for making a run that night. One time Bill and tall Marion Rector went up to look for stills and when spotted by one of the owners, had to flee. Though Bill was short compared to Marion, he outran Marion by a good distance, so the word went.

I remember Roy Finley and his flowers. I had many friends among the married students as well as the single students. I was in the home of the Roy Finleys, the Dovey Satterfields, the John Tollisons, the Guy Stoners, and the Glenn Kellys. Some other friends were Lloyd and Ray Batson, Harold Moore, Harold Collings, Bruce, Henry and Clarnece Barton, Melvin Faile, Albert Johnson, and too many others to be named now. There were girls also that bring back memories of North Greenville days. There was fellowship at the Gillespie home.

Some of those with whom I worked in the dairy were Heyward Comer, Cecil Satterfield, Jesse Allen Smith, Mann Batson, James Brown, Ellis Julian, William Touchberry, Noel Sharp, Calvin Staggs, William (Pete) Page and others whose names. I do not now recall. It wasn’t all work and no play or mischief. Sometimes we’d horse around and sometimes we’d squirt milk on one another almost the length of the barn. We were good shots! In the wintertime when we kept the cows inside the barn the odor was something! There was plenty of dormitory room for the men in those days, so we kept our barn clothes in one of the faraway rooms. I remember having to go to the pasture looking for a newborn calf, putting it over my shoulders, jumping a creek, and walking up hill to the bard with the calf.

One summer Sunday, I caught a ridge to Greenville for an evening church service. After church I started hitchhiking back to North Greenville. I intended to flag down the bus that would go within four miles of the school. Someone gave me a ridge for about four miles, letting me out about one half mile short of Travelers Rest. Very soon it started to rain and I got soaking wet. I walked all the way back to North Greenville and got there in time to milk the cows! The work was good for me, and I did my job responsibly though probably grudgingly at times. I’ll never forget Dr. Donnan’s comment in the barn one afternoon. He took a personal interest in all of us. He stated, “You may think that working with these cows is of no value in preparing you for being ministers later on, but you’ll find it’s going to take as much patience working with people as it does working with these cows.”

A number of times my P.E. credit was earned by going to the barn and taking care of a cow or calf. Because of the barn work and P.E. Class I had to take three showers daily and sometimes the water surely was cold.

I think some of the benefits I have from North Greenville are greater patience, not being afraid of my kind of work, and self-confidence in my ability to do things for myself. I learned to study hard. I learned something about solitude, since I once stayed there over the Christmas holidays so the others could go to their homes for Christmas day. I believe I got more out of my education since I was older than many of the students and had not the prior privilege of a formal classroom education. It was good have teachers who cared about us and inspired us to study.

One night when I came in I noticed something under the covers of my bed. I gingerly pulled back the covers and behold, a snake! I didn’t know it was a king snake until later. I didn’t want to mess up my bed by killing it in the bed. I knew if someone had put it in the bed I could take it out. I grabbed it right behind the head, took it out, and chopped off its head. I don’t know or don’t remember who did it.

In that first year at North Greenville, I gained over 20 pounds and reach my highest – 146 pounds. The weather and food must have been good for me, because I enjoyed good health.

After graduating from North Greenville, I though seriously about going to Carson-Newman College, but I finally made the decision to go to Furman instead. While at Furman University I returned to North Greenville for visits and made it my home during the summers. Dr. M. C. Donnan and Grady Culbreth helped provide work for me and I think understood me. I worked in the dairy, on the farm, construction work on a science building, and some carpentry work with Jones Construction Company, converting old army barracks into apartments.

I graduated from Furman in May 1947. In September 1947, I left North Greenville and rode by bus to Louisville, Kentucky, to attend the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. At the seminary I was given a work grant job. I graduated with the M.Div. and Th.M. degrees in 1950 and 1952.

In 1955, Johnnie Marie Morgan, a young lady I had met at Crescent Hill Baptist Church, and I were married. She is from Lancaster, Kentucky, and a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University. We have two children, Joel, our oldest, is a sophomore at the University of Louisville, but is presently more interested in cars than college, and Melissa who is in the 10th grade, talks of wanting to be a veterinarian.

I’m still at the seminary. Since 1953 I’ve been assistant registrar and then registrar. This has been my ministry – to facilitate and assist others preparing for Christian service here and overseas.

I believe God called me into His service. Years ago I expected this to be overseas. Things have not always been easy, but I believe in the leadership of the Holy Spirit and above all that God would have us minister in His name without looking for fame or fortune. The experiences at North Greenville will always be a part of my life and I believe contributed to my continuing preparation for and in ministry.

One of these days I hope to be able to stop by North Greenville again and see it, though I know it is not the same. Dr. Donnan said one day they had to give up the dairy, one reason being the lack of persons to work it. Dairy or no dairy, I think the combination of work and education and a spirit of God’s leadership is essential in the formation of person for ministry. North Greenville had this and helped me and many others. 

Article published in the July 1978 issue of the North Greenville College Alumni Newsletter.



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