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1896 in Clemson History
The Class of 1896
This was the first graduating class at Clemson University.
- James H. Hope, the longest-serving superintendent of education in South Carolina history (1923-1947)
- Isaac Leonard Keller, founder of "Judge" Keller's Store - left school after two years to pursue tailoring.
- Rudolph E. Lee, former faculty member, established the School of Architecture, and served as a Dean. Lee Hall is named for him.
- Lawrence Andrew Sease, Board of Trustees member and professor
Events in 1896
- Early: A board of trustees committee looking into matters of college management recommends that "since instruction in mathematics was 'greatly impeded because of the inefficiency of Prof. Strode,' he be asked to resign. The board adopted the proposal and Strode promptly complied" ("Tradition: A History of the Presidency of Clemson University", Mercer University Press, 1988,page 32). Two things point to declining health of Strode: that the committee stated that it could not "permit our sympathy for any individual to outweigh" its concern for the preparation of students, and that Strode received no wage after July 1, 1895. Henry Aubrey Strode returned to Amherst county, Virginia, with his family, where he died and was buried in 1898.
- April: Fort Hill Presbyterian Church occupies its new building on Six Mile Road (now College Avenue) for the first time.
- April 24: Coach Randolph R. T. V. Bowman becomes the first coach to lead an intercollegiate game played on campus when he directs the Tigers in a baseball match with Furman - the beginning of Clemson athletics! Unfortunately, the Tigers lose, 13-20.
- August 10: Forty-five students are injured when a gangway collapses. Two hundred cadets had crowded onto the gangway while trying to get out of the rain.
- September 30: A gathering of thirty cadets in one of the barracks discusses organizing a football association and how to acquire a coach. The Clemson College Football Association is founded with the following officers: President Frank Thompkins, Secretary and Treasurer Charlie Gentry, Manager T. R. Vogel, and Temporary Captain R. G. Hamilton. A committee of three is appointed to consult with Professor Walter Merritt Riggs as to the management of a football team and to ask his assistance as coach. Twenty of the original thirty will form the first Clemson gridiron squad.
- Fall: W. M. Williams, Clemson's future second head football coach, leading the Tigers for one season, in 1897, a native of West Point, Georgia, plays at Auburn in 1894, 1895 and 1896 under Coach John Heisman, and is considered the best blocking halfback in the south.
- October 5: The Clemson football team practices for the first time, using a 50 yard by 200 yard field believed to have been between Tillman Hall and the Trustee House.
- October 22: W. L. McGee, Professor of Agriculture at Clemson since February 1894, dies this date in a tragic industrial accident when he inadvertently backs into and is caught in a corn shredder, dying within two hours of the grievous injuries he suffers, it being impossible to move him.
- October 31: Clemson plays its first football game. In a match against Furman in Greenville, the Tigers win, 14-6. Charlie Gentry scores Clemson's first touchdown. (TAPS, 1989, page 202.) It is likely that the team rode Southern Railway passenger service to and from the game.
- November 12: First meeting between Clemson and the South Carolina College in a football game, played on Thursday at the State Fair in Columbia. USC wins 12-6. Beginning of "Big Thursday". Rain falls on the match.
- November 21: The Tigers defeat Wofford in an away game, 16-0, to conclude inaugural season with a 2-1 record.
- December 13: Dr. W. E. Boggs, chancellor of the University of Georgia, preaches commencement sermon.
- December 16: First Clemson students graduate, fifteen in agriculture and twenty two in mechanics.