Letter from Robert T. Caldwell, Centre Alumni


Letter from Robert T. Caldwell, Centre Alumni


Caldwell, Robert T.

Date Created



A letter from alumnus Robert T. Caldwell in the wake of newspaper articles about the admissions requests from Nigerian students. Caldwell asks Groves about the situation and impresses the importance decisions going through the Board of Trustees for approval.


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October 7, 1948

Dr. Walter A. Groves,
President, Centre College,
Danville, Kentucky.

Dear Dr. Groves:

On yesterday there came to my desk the annual
letter soliciting a contribution to the Alumnii Fund for
the support of certain activities of Centre, and also
the issue of the Courier-Journal in which your Dean of
Men, Mr. Earl C. Davis, is credited with a press release
to the effect that Centre College is proposing to admit
negro students unless restrained by State law as
construed by the Attorney General.

Probably many alumnii who have been contributing,
according to their means, to the annual Fund for current
operation and who are presently being solicited for substantial
contributions for the construction of the much-
needed Physical Education building, would be willing to
continue their interest in Centre College if it is to
maintain its traditions and policies under which it has
been an influential and respected institution, but would
not care to participate in the questionable social
experiment of operating a black-and-tan college in

The article quotes Dean Davis as follows:

”Will Centre admit these students if the Attorney
General rules it can do so legally?” Dean Davis
was asked. ”Why, yes, we've never had any
question of that nature.” he replied. Right
now we have enrolled students from Hawaii, Puerto
Rico, Cuba, Iran, Greece and a displaced person
from the Ukraine, in Soviet Russia.' 'We feel
that we are one of the more cosmopolitan schools
of the country.' the dean added.”

The negroes whose admission Mr. Davis was pro-
posing were stated to be citizens of Nigeria but this, of
course, is wholly irrelevant as we could not justify, either
legally or morally, discriminating in favour of negroes who
were non-residents and other equally qualified negroes who
are citizens of Kentucky. In today's Courier there is re-
ported, also in two-column headlines on page one of the
second section, the Attorney General’s obviously correct
ruling that Centre College cannot lawfully admit negroes -
an opinion that the Dean’s office could have readily
obtained from any of the lawyer members of the Board of
Trustees without the extremely damaging publicity incident
to Dean Davis’ presumably unauthorized presentation of the
matter to the Attorney General.

However, the question of law violation is not the
real issue. What the alumnii are entitled to know is who
are the "We" who, according to Mr. Davis’ press-release,
were proposing to admit negro students to Centre College.
Any such revolutionary change of policy by the college if
released to the press or State officials at all, should
have been announced only by you as President, and pursuant
to authorization of the Board of Trustees. On inquiry, I
am advised by a member of the Board that the matter was
never presented to the Board for consideration and I am,
of course, assuming that you yourself did not authorize
the announcement, or the requesting of the opinion from
the Attorney General made by your Dean of men.

As one interested alumnus, I am communicating
with the Alumnii Association, which appears to be the
proper channel under the circumstances, suggesting that
the officials of the Association bring the matter to the
attention of the Board of Trustees to the end that, by
an equally public announcement, the alumnii and the public
be informed as to whether Centre’s policy with respect to
the admission of negroes was correctly represented by Mr.

Cordially yours,

Robt. T. Caldwell

CC to
Mr. VanWinkle
Mr. Rodes
Mr. Baker


Caldwell, Robert T.


Groves, Walter A.


Caldwell, Robert T., “Letter from Robert T. Caldwell, Centre Alumni,” Paving the Way: The Work of Walter A. Groves at Centre College, accessed July 13, 2024, https://pavingtheway.omeka.net/items/show/42.