University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries
University of Georgia Libraries

Finding Aid for The Walter B. Hill Papers (1873-1906) RG 1 UGA 97 - 094

Nine Boxes- 9.0 Linear Ft.
Location 1-A

Creator Note
Scope and Content & A Note on Organization
Series Listings
Box & File Listing / Content Inventory

Creator Note

Walter Barnard Hill was born on September 9, 1851, in Talbotton, Georgia, and was the first University of Georgia alumnus to serve as Chancellor/President of the institution, his A.B. (1870), M.A. (1871) and B.L. (1871) degrees all having been earned at the university in Athens. From 1871 until 1899, Hill practiced law in his father’s legal firm in Macon, Georgia. He was one of the founders of the Georgia State Bar Association, and he was very active on the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Hill was a man of strong convictions, and an ardent Prohibitionist. He advocated collective bargaining for workers, and first publicly defended the right of blacks to equal education in an article in Century magazine in 1884.

portrait of Walter B. Hill

In 1899, Hill accepted an invitation to serve as Chancellor of the University of Georgia. This proved to be an astute choice for the University’s future, as Hill’s ties with Emory and Mercer Universities enabled him to co-opt denominational interests in state politics who had formerly worked somewhat contrary to University interests. Since he ably lobbied for increased state fiscal support for all aspects of education at the State University, agrarian interests found a common champion with those who promoted more purely academic programs. The University’s budget in 1899 was $40,000 ($8,000 in state money); between 1900 and 1905, Hill was able to persuade the state legislature to appropriate $151,000 for the comprehensive modernization of the University in Athens. This first campus master plan was Hill’s vision, given life by New York landscape architect Charles Leavitt, one of many associations which Hill made via the good offices of his new friend and University of Georgia benefactor, George Foster Peabody, who first visited the campus in 1902.

This new plan included laying the foundations for a new State College of Agriculture, as well as a College of Education, expanding the Law curriculum from one to two years, the establishment of a School of Pharmacy (1903), and putting the wheels in motion for a School of Forestry (which would emerge in 1906). Hill would also be vocal on a national stage with regard to the need for federal funding for public education at all levels.

Several buildings at the Athens campus were completed during Hill’s tenure, including Denmark Hall (1901), Candler Hall (1902), Meigs (originally, LeConte) Hall (1905), and the “modern, fireproof library” (1905), made more urgent in the wake of the fire which destroyed Science Hall (and much of the documentary record of the pre-20th century University of Georgia) in November in 1904. Science Hall would be a phoenix reborn in the erection of Terrell Hall, a three-story structure raised in the same footprint as the original building, and with the same cornerstone intact (1904). [Additional material related to the Science Hall fire can be found in UGA 85-046: 1, folder 22.5]

Hill’s energy burned brightly, but for too brief a while, as he contracted pneumonia in December of 1905, and died from its effects on the 28th day of that month.

Scope and Content & A Note on Organization:

The Walter B. Hill papers were received by University of Georgia Libraries in the 1950s, and were placed in calendar order by Special Collections Librarian John Bonner and his staff in the late 1950s or early 1960s. The Hill papers were transferred to University of Georgia Archives in 1973-1974, and were assigned the accession number 97-094 in 1997 in anticipation of the HVAC renovation of the University’s Main Library.

As a calendared collection, the Hill papers suggested a large correspondence file, and patron use was complicated by the need to wade through volumes of paper to extract relevant information from the subject area under investigation. The decision was made to re-work the papers into an administrative subject/correspondence file, thus facilitating access for patrons, and reducing the general wear-and-tear on the documents themselves.

The current organization of the papers, which comprise some 9 cubic feet of material, has freed the personal and private papers from those related to Hill’s administrative career at the University of Georgia, and has opened the collection to researchers by means of the division of materials into various subject headings.

Of particular interest in the Hill papers are a series of folders documenting a fact-finding trip to the University of Wisconsin to investigate the program of Agricultural Education in place there (97-094: 1); various files detailing the in loco parentis functions performed by the University (97-094: 2 & 3); a substantial subseries of correspondence with George Foster Peabody (97-094: 5); a limited series of correspondence with Trustees of the University, including Hill’s function as Chairman of the Committee on State Institutions (1903-1905; 97-094: 7); a substantial volume of speeches and articles delineating Hill’s engagement with the serious national debate underway on the future of public education for everyone (97-094: 8 & 9).

Reorganization on the Hill collection began in November of 2007, and concluded in August of 2009.

Series Listings:

There are eight series in the Walter B. Hill papers:

  1. University of Georgia General Administrative Subject/Correspondence File, 1873-1906: This series comprises the administrative heart of Hill’s tenure as Chancellor, and includes files dealing with Hill’s contact with other state and private schools in the state, region, and nation. There is also an undated State of the University address, with notes.
  2. Student-Related Records, 1902-1906: This series embraces the sub-series of admissions, financial aid (mostly Brown Fund records), discipline, and academics, and is also the location of the correspondence series between Hill and parents seeking assistance with their sons’ academic careers.
  3. Hill’s Master Plan and Vision for a Modern University, 1902-1905: This series encompasses the records of the University physical plant (including the Science Hall fire of 1904), correspondence with George Foster Peabody and Andrew Carnegie, and the business records of the University.
  4. Job-Related Inquiries/Summer School, 1899-1905: This small series deals with requests for recommendations from Hill for jobs, and inquiries as to positions available at the University, as well as the inauguration of a full-programmed Summer School in Athens.
  5. Trustees/Alumni, 1900-1905: This series has subseries dealing with Hill’s role/interface with the University of Georgia Trustees, as well as his interactions with the University Alumni Society.
  6. Professional and Academic Organizations, 1900-1905: This brief series documents Hill’s contacts with a variety of professional and academic associations.
  7. Speeches/Articles/Visitation, 1902-1906: This series documents Hill’s extensive travel on behalf of the University of Georgia, and includes copies of his various speeches and articles. These speeches and articles were originally organized into five two-ring binders as follows:
    Volume I: Sidney Lanier and Other Addresses
    Volume II: Essays and Addresses
    Volume III: Education in the South: The Negro Problem
    Volume IV: Education in the South: A Plea for Tolerance & Lincoln in the South
    Volume V: Religious and Ethical Addresses
  8. Hill Private/Personal Papers, 1892-1906: This series contains correspondence to and from Hill not related to his many duties as University of Georgia Chancellor. There are several folders of personal and family correspondence, as well as copies of his non-University related speeches and articles.

See the Box & File Listing for detailed contents of the collection.