The University of West Alabama began in 1835 as a church supported school for young women called Livingston Female Academy. A mere five years earlier, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek had taken control of the area west of the Tombigbee River from the Choctaw Nation of Indians. As settlers were allowed into the region, an early writer said this about west Alabama, “The ambitious, restless, and lawless spirits of the old states who had fortunes to carve out or who desired to escape from the espionage of the law had poured into Sumter County. There was scarcely a town but could boast of two or three grog shops, faro banks and billiard tables with plentiful sprinklings of gamblers and blood-stained desperados.” To say the frontier spirit was alive and well in Livingston is probably an understatement.
Five years after Sumter County was opened to settlers, those pioneers were ready to put civilization and respectability into their community with the founding of an academy. The “academy” system of education was very much a part of the antebellum South. Academies prepared students for further education, such as college, but also taught students about business and other professions-such as teaching. The Scotch-Irish Presbyterians were the driving force behind many of the private academies founded in the South during this time period. The original Board of Trustees of Livingston Female Academy was selected in 1836, and four of the seven board members were Presbyterians.
On January 15, 1840 the Alabama Legislature incorporated Livingston Female Academy and granted the institution tax-exempt status. The first school building was constructed in the vicinity of what is now Brock Hall. Newspapers of the time record several different names for the new institution. At various times between 1835 and 1847 the institution was called Livingston Academy, Livingston Female Academy, Livingston Female Seminary, and Livingston Collegiate Institute. By 1847, the most consistently used name was Livingston Female Academy. It is interesting to note that in 1847, students paid $20 per term to attend the institution, $25 if they took piano lessons, and an additional $10 for French language and embroidery work.
The 1870’s and 1880’s were a time of change and growth for Livingston Female Academy. Dr. Carlos Smith, a veteran educator from Georgia, came in as the head of the institution and in a four-year period, increased enrollment to 240 students. In 1881, Dr. Smith hired his niece, Julia Strudwick Tutwiler, to become co-principal of the academy. Julia Tutwiler persuaded the state legislature in 1882 to appropriate $2500 to Livingston Female Academy. This was the first state appropriations ever made for the education of women in Alabama. In 1888, Julia Tutwiler became the sole principal of the institution, then known as Alabama Normal College. In 1890, Miss Tutwiler’s title was changed to president.
Julia Tutwiler is the most famous of UWA’s presidents. Tutwiler was a well-known social and educational reformer. She established Alabama’s first kindergarten and wrote the Alabama state song. In 1896, Tutwiler persuaded the University of Alabama to open its admission to include women. The first female students admitted to the University of Alabama were students from the Alabama Normal College in Livingston.
Julia Tutwiler, who began her teaching career as a child teaching slave children to read, led Alabama Normal College into the 20th century. During her twenty-nine year term, “Miss Julia,” as her students affectionately called her, saw changes in education that she could only imagine as a young student at her father’s Greene Springs School in Hale County.
In 1910, following Julia Tutwiler’s retirement, Dr. George William Brock became the president of Alabama Normal College. In 1915, the college became coeducational and began to admit men. Dr. Brock led the school’s expansion from four acres to thirty-five acres. Foust, Bibb Graves and Brock Halls were built during Dr. Brock’s presidency. In 1929, Alabama Normal College became Livingston State Teachers College. The college fielded its first football team in 1931. By the time Dr. Brock retired in 1936, enrollment was more than 500 students.
At the height of the Great Depression in 1936, Dr. Noble Franklin Greenhill assumed the presidency of Livingston State Teachers College. Improvements were made to the teacher education program and the college became accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Campus life changed under Dr. Greenhill’s administration with the introduction of social sororities and the establishment of a campus newspaper. A schedule of intercollegiate games in football, basketball and baseball was organized and the first homecoming celebration was held in 1939. When the United States entered World War II, college enrollment declined as men went off to war and women took jobs in factories to support the war effort. Dr. Greenhill resigned in 1944 as discussions were taking place whether Livingston State Teachers College should close due to falling enrollment.
Dr. William Wilson Hill became the president of Livingston State Teachers College in 1944. In 1945, there were only 92 students enrolled at the college. Dr. Hill made recruiting his major objective and by 1946, enrollment had risen to 431 students. Dr. Hill’s recruiting efforts coincided with the end of World War II. With the support of the G.I. Bill, many veterans chose to attend college. Livingston State Teachers College continued to emphasize teacher education but also added pre-professional programs. With the return of men to the college, a renewed interest in sports took place. Tiger Stadium was built in 1952 on filled in land that was until that time known as “Crawdad Creek.” The first fraternities were also established during Dr. Hill’s presidency.
In 1954, Dr. Delos Poe Culp became president of what was by that time known as State Teachers College at Livingston. Dr. Culp began his term during the relative calm of the fifties and ended his nine-year term just as the turbulence of the sixties was taking hold on campuses across the country. The college added a master’s degree program in 1957, and the name of the institution was changed to Livingston State College. The first master’s degrees were awarded in 1959. Mrs. Kelly Land, for whom the Kelly Land Scholarship is named, was among the first students to be awarded the master’s degree at Livingston State College.
Dr. John E. Deloney became president of Livingston State College in 1963. Under Dr. Deloney’s leadership, great strides were made in recruitment and retention of students and enrollment reached an all time high. As a direct reflection of the growth in enrollment, the faculty doubled in size during Dr. Deloney’s tenure. In 1967, the institution’s name was changed to Livingston University to reflect the expanded curriculum. Dr. Deloney had the foresight to expand the area of the campus to 540 acres. One of UWA’s most memorable moments occurred near the end of Dr. Deloney’s tenure when the Livingston University Tigers battled to become the 1971 NAIA National Football Champions and the Gulf South Conference Co-Champions.
Dr. Asa N. Green came to Livingston in 1973 to assume the post of President. During Green’s tenure, the Ira D. Pruitt School of Nursing was established and the Allied Health Linkage with the University of Alabama in Birmingham was formed. A dual degree program in conjunction with Auburn University was also established. The Wallace Student Union Building, Reed Hall, Homer Field House, Hoover Apartments, and the Hunt Technology Complex were constructed during President Green’s term. In addition, Brock, Webb, and Bibb Graves Halls were renovated and the McConnell Memorial Chimes were installed in Webb Hall.
When Dr. Don C. Hines became UWA’s president in 1994, there were very few computers on campus. Under Dr. Hines’ leadership, the University began the movement toward the use of computers in all aspects of campus life. The Hines administration also established new academic programs in psychology, forestry and agribusiness. In 1995, as a reflection of the UWA’s commitment to its mission as a regional university, Livingston University was renamed the University of West Alabama.
From the students’ point of view, Dr. Hines may best be remembered as the president who brought collegiate rodeo to Livingston. Not only was he the driving force behind the establishment of the UWA Rodeo Team, but Dr. Hines also led the drive for private contributions to build the rodeo complex. The Don C. Hines Rodeo Complex is named in his honor.
When Dr. Hines retired in 1998, Dr. Ed Roach was named president. Integration of technology into every aspect of UWA life was one of the most significant achievements during the Roach administration. UWA, largely due to the efforts of Dr. Roach, has the largest network of wireless Internet connections in the state of Alabama. During Dr. Roach’s term, the Softball Complex was built and the library was expanded. Construction also began on the Bell Conference Center.
Dr. Ken Tucker became the University of West Alabama’s 12th President in 2015. Dr. Tucker had previously served as the Dean of the College of Business and Professor of Management. An award-winning classroom teacher, Dr. Tucker renewed focus on the total student experience and implemented many growth strategies to increase enrollment, retention, and graduation rates, both on-campus and online. Under Dr. Tucker’s leadership, significant growth and expansion occurred in undergraduate and graduate curriculum offerings (e.g., MBA, IMC, Exercise Science), International Programs, facilities (e.g., Speith, Brock, Bibb Graves, Lyon), Workforce Development and Technology initiatives, and Economic Development projects. Additionally, grant awards tripled, the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance was added in 2017, and The University Charter School was approved to begin operation in 2018.