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Keeping the Faith

Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives

Wayne Flynt

Publication Year: 2011

This historical memoir by the widely recognized scholar, Wayne Flynt, chronicles the inner workings of his academic career at Samford and Auburn Universities, as well as his many contributions to the general history of Alabama. Flynt has traveled the state and the South lecturing and teaching both lay and academic groups, calling on his detailed knowledge of both the history and power structures in Alabama to reveal uncomfortable truths wherever he finds them, whether in academic institutions that fall short of their stated missions, in government and industry leaders who seek and hold power by playing to the fears and prejudices of the public, or in religious groups who abandon their original missions and instead seek financial and emotional comfort in lip service only.
In doing so he has not only energized those who think the State of Alabama can and must do better, but  also has earned the enmity of those who prosper, profit, and prevaricate for their own selfish ends. Nevertheless, Flynt utilizes a lifetime of learning and reflection to voice the conscience of his community. Keeping the Faith: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives tells the story of his life and his courageous battles against an indifferent or hostile hierarchy with modesty and honesty. In doing so he tells us how Alabama institutions really are manipulated and, more importantly, why we should care.



Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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1. Ancestors, Real and Imagined

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pp. 1-35

I was born on the fourth of October 1940 at Rayburn’s Clinic in Pontotoc, Mississippi, weighing a robust eight and a half pounds. Some cultures put great stock in numerology, believing that dates and numbers affect or even determine...

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2. An Alabama Childhood

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pp. 36-59

A moving van and a new school were symbols of my childhood. I attended twelve schools between the ages of six and fourteen. Our hegira began when we left northern Mississippi for Birmingham during the winter of 1941. But Birmingham...

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3. Discoveries and Awakenings

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pp. 60-82

Howard College in 1958 was a lot like me. Everything was new and exciting, and it seemed a time of limitless possibilities. After more than a half century in East Lake (where my grandfather had been a student), with inadequate and rapidly declining facilities...

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4. Going Home

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pp. 83-122

Life might have been lots easier teaching somewhere other than Samford University. The school was crippled by money problems, wretched salaries, and horrendous teaching loads. During my first year of full- time teaching, our family income...

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5. Sweet Auburn, Stormiest Village of the Plain

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pp. 123-148

For reasons that will become obvious, beginning a description of my twenty- eight- year career at Auburn with a modified line from Oliver Goldsmith’s poem “The Deserted Village” is ironic. Auburn could morph quickly from the loveliest...

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6. “Sweet Auburn, Loveliest Village of the Plain”

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pp. 149-172

Three years of stress had left my nerves jangled, my body exhausted, my spirit depressed. In December 1983, nine months after it all ended, I wrote former Samford student Carolyn Johnston: “After the epic, Wagnerian battles of the Funderburk...

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7. “Where My Possessions Lie”: Writing about Ordinary People

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pp. 173-197

Nancy Nolan, her husband, and their three sons lived in Dale County early in the twentieth century. Like most Alabama farmers of both races, they tenant- farmed someone else’s land. Nolan’s husband died when their oldest son...

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8. Democratizing Learning: University Outreach

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pp. 198-208

During the spring of 1925 George Petrie added a new chapter to his illustrious Auburn career. Although he had lectured in the community and state frequently after returning from Johns Hopkins, in the mid- 1920s he introduced...

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9. “The Lord Is the Maker of Them All”: Black, White, and Poor in America

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pp. 209-239

In the kingdom of God, either everyone is ordinary in the beginning or everyone is special, depending on how you look at it. After that, what we make of ourselves is pretty much up to us. But some people must cross higher hurdles...

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10. Reforming American Education

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pp. 240-275

I had nearly finished an oral history with Lorol Roden Bowron Rucker, daughter of one of Alabama’s pioneer suffragists and a matriarch of Birmingham’s Highland Book Club, when she volunteered her philosophy of life. It was simple...

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11. Principalities and Powers: Battling for a New Constitution and a New Politics

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pp. 276-289

Alabama politics is a mess, an embarrassment to ethical men and women who run for office, a disgrace to the state’s people, a hog- trough of corruption where it seems that holding public office is an apprenticeship for the state...

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12. In the Eye of the Storm: Auburn University, 1989–2000

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pp. 290-320

Living in Alabama even for a brief time leaves impressions, sometimes good, other times not so good. One of my favorite novelists, Ralph Ellison, spent only a few years at Tuskegee University. But the Tuskegee machine’s accommodations...

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13. “Ever to Conquer, Never to Yield”: Inside the Auburn Tigers, 1977–2005

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pp. 321-350

Two stories capture the contradictions of football in Alabama, both what is conquered and what is yielded. Following the intersectional game between Auburn and Syracuse in October 2002, Bud Poliquin, sportswriter for the...

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14. Valhalla on the Plains

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pp. 351-383

In Norse mythology, Valhalla was the great hall where the god Odin received the souls of fallen heroes who had died bravely in battle. There he treated those with torn and wounded bodies to feasts and respect. By the time Bobby Lowder and his cronies had finished...

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15. Ken’s Barbeque and Other Third Places

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pp. 384-397

Despite years of increasing conflict at Au burn, I never became entirely unhappy at my workplace. The ratio of unhappiness to happiness certainly increased during my final five years, but there were compensations: students, research...

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pp. 399-400

When writing this memoir, I probed my own memory as the primary source, supplemented by many interviews and oral histories with friends, family, and acquaintances, half a century of extensive correspondence, and an exhaustive...

E-ISBN-13: 9780817385965
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317546

Page Count: 400
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Alabama -- Historiography.
  • College teachers -- Alabama -- Auburn -- Biography.
  • Auburn University -- Faculty -- Biography.
  • Education, Higher -- Aims and objectives -- United States.
  • Alabama -- Social conditions.
  • Historians -- Alabama -- Biography.
  • Alabama -- Politics and government.
  • Flynt, Wayne, 1940-.
  • Educational change -- United States.
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