TRIBUTF. TO GENERAL ALFRED DOCKERY Meredith College Founders' Day February 26, 1982

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1 TRIBUTF. TO GENERAL ALFRED DOCKERY Meredith College Founders' Day February 26, 1982 As an immediate past trustee of the college, I appreciate Meredith's sensitivity to the importance of heritage; and as a great grandson of the early founder to whom we pay tribute today, I appreciate the invitation to participate in this occasion and would like to thank Carolyn C. Robinson, College Editor, for marshalling the information to allow me to make this presentation. We are honoring the memory of General Alfred Dockery of Richmond County. Alfred Dockery never he~d a military command, but he wore his honorary title as a religious and political leader of his time. Further references to his activities as a religious leader will follow, but I want to simply outline at this time his political career: Member of the State Legislature in 1_822; Member of the State Constitutional Convention in 1835; State Senator from 1836 to 1844; Member of the United States Congress from 1845 to 1847 and again from 1851 to 1853; and In 1854, a candidate for Governor of North Carolina on the Whig ticket and narrowly defeated by Democrat Thomas Bragg. In citing the role of Alfred Dockery in the beginning of the college, we can hardly observe Meredith's founding without celebrating the founding of Wake Forest and the early days of the Baptist State Convention. The constitution of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina adopted at its organization in 1830, first mentioned the education of young men called of God to preach the gospel; and second, it was to be coordinated with missions. Thus we can see the early convention was concerned with education. In 1833, the Baptist State Convention convened in

2 -2- Richmond County at the Dockery Meeting House. At the meeting in 1833, Samuel Wait was appointed a special agent to collect funds for the opening of Wake Forest Institute. Thomas Meredith the writer of the constituti0n of the Baptist State Convention, was named chairman of a committee to prepare a schedule of. items necessary for its opening. One can see that education was different in 1834 as compared to today; for in George W. Paschal's History of Wake Forest College it is recorded that some of the necessities would be appointment of a farmer, the furnishing of a farm with provisions and tools, necessary buildings for the farm, and an inquiry into the condition of the farm; these in addition to personal appointments more in keeping with the current view of academic life. Manual labor, it seemed, was a component of the discipline required for a well' rounded education. At the same session, Gen~!al Alfred Dockery was elected president of the convention, and he was appointed to both the Charter Committee and to the First Board of Trustees for Wake Forest. A later contribution of blacksmith tools,.. worth $500 "for the boys to work with and pay their tuition" not only would have been a boon to Thomas Meredith's committee on "~ecessary items", but must have attested to the fact that as Paschal wrote, "Wake Forest was the darling of (Dockery's) heart." As the early history of Wake Forest unfolds, so does General Dockery's apparent intense interest in and concern for education and this is perhaps shown by a. reference to him in... John Wheeler's Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina: "Alfred was the eldest of (a large family of) children, and the heavy _burden of providing means of subsistence for his younger brothers and sisters devolved on him. Hence, his education in early life was entirely _neglected, and he often was heard to say _that he never had attended school for three months consecutiv~ly in his life." So interested was General Gockery in Wake Forest, as reported by Dr. Paschal, that Dockery would_ leave his farm any day and drive in his gig all the way from Richmond County to

3 -3- look after matters at the institute. Not only was General Dockery concerned with higher education but early in the session of the Assembly of , General Alfred Dockery repeated his resolution relative to the establishment of public schools in North Carolina, and it as during this session and the passage, on January 7, 1839 of a law submitting the question of schools or no schools to a vote of the people of several counties. A favorable vote meant a tax levy of $1.00 for each $2.00 to be received from the income of the Literary Fund. Thus, General Dockery assisted in putting through the Legislature the act for establishing a public school system which was the beginning of our present system General Alfred Dockery was a member of the committee which secured the original charter of Wake Forest Institute from the Legislature of , and also of the committee that got the Revised Charter in 1838~39 by which the institute became a college. Records of the Board of Trustees of Wake Forest are full of evidence that he put his fine business talents unstintedly to the service of the institute and but for him the farm would have proved a failure from the first. He not only outlined the general plan but looked closely after the d~tails of its operation. He was a member of the committee on the farm and of many other important committees of the Board. He served the institution by gaining its favor with the Baptists of the State. This he was able to do better because his brethren honored him with places of distinction in the organized work. He was President of the Baptist State Convention from 1834 to 1841, inclusive, and again President in Why refer to the organization of Wake Forest at this time, but we must do so for a significant fact and a sig~ificant implication arises from the biographical notes and history of General Alfred Dockery at Wake Forest. The fact is this: Alfred Dockery, ~!ready known to us as an advocate of education, was President of the Baptist State Convention during the important years of Meredith's history. The implication.is that: He and Thomas Meredith

4 -4 had a close relationship--both through their association with the convention and in their mutual concern for Wake Forest. In 1835, the second year of Dockery's presidency of the convention, as Mary Lynch Johnson records in her book, A H!story of Meredith College, "some far-seeing person whose name is not recorded moved the appointment of a committee to consider the establishment of a female seminary of high order.'' _In selecting the committee, ~eneral Dockery pointed his finger at John Armstrong, W. H. Merritt and Thomas Meredith-- all of whom were staunch supporters of the convention. The following day an unfavorable report was made by~ the committee, and the following year the motion was renewed, and so in the 1836 Convention, General Dockery replaced Armstrong, the chairman, with William Hooper, an instru~tor in Latin and Greek at the University of North Carolina who served with Meredith and Merritt who remained on the committee. History reveals that no mention was again mad~ of the female seminary for two years when, at a meeting of the General Board, then known as the Board of Managers, Dockery appointed a third committee of three, this one to report to the next session of the convention the status of the study for the Female Seminary of High Order. Of the three appointees, only Thomas Meredith had been and was on all three committees. We know what Meredith did for the cause of education for women, and for the cause of this college in particular. But likewise we can also be grateful to Alfred Dockery that friend and Baptist leader who was persistent in appointing committees that would return a favorable vote and saw Thomas Meredith as the vehicle for moving Baptist high e<lucation for women toward reality. Of General Alfred Dockery's character, much has already been implied, but I believe a bit more color would help to make this introduction of him complete. John Wheeler's Reminiscences recorded that he "occupied for a time the position of President of the Board of Directors of the State Penitentiary" and that "much of the success of the Board in its management of the

5 -5- affairs of the pententiary is due to his prudence, honesty, firmness and strong common sense." We likewise learn from Wheeler that prior to the Civil War, General Dockery, "boldly proclaimed everywhere his undying attachment to the union, even declaring that, if elected to the Congress, he 'would vote men and money Fo whip South Carolina back into the Union, if she attempted to secede'." That statement was bolder than it appeared because Dockery's congressional district bordered the state he was threatening. He had freed his slaves prior to the war and even as a strong proponent of the Union, when the war drum sounded in 1861 he became a staunch advocate of the Confederacy, and five of his sons -~erved the Confederate States. Another side of General Dockery is sh~wn for while in the State Constitutional Convention of 1835 he used his influence with Judge William Gaston in behalf of religious liberty for Catholics. Perhaps the characterization of General Dockery which we his descendants most appreciate, is that stated by John Wheeler: "His benevolence was proverbial. The poor ~nd needy of all races always found in him a friend. No one really in need of help was ever turned away empty from his door. His contributions during his lifetime to the churches and to the different institutions of learning, aggregate a large sum." Gene~~l Alfred Dockery died Dece~ber 3, Meredith was not in existence during his lifetime. What, then, did he contribute to our college? Th,is perhaps can best be answered by referring to a 1966 conversation of Miss Lizzie Dockery, his granddaughter, with a writer for the Charlotte Obsetver. The brick home built by General Alfred Dockery still stands in Richmond County, and the General worked along side the slaves who made the brick for this structure. Cousin Lizzie recalled, when he was running for Governor, "an opponent criticized him in the Legislature with' You don't need to be Governor, you're rich,' ", the General answered back -- he had

6 e -6- big strong hands and a loud voice--"! want you to know these hands have built brick." It is true that his hands built none of the brick for the building on this campus, but I believe that his vision for Christian education, the persistence with which he pursued the cause, and his concern for others went a long way towards laying the foundation "of a Female Seminary under the auspices of the Baptist denomination in this State." He had a vision - today it is a reality. On behalf of that College for which he dreamed but did not see and on behalf of his descendants, I am pleased to have spoken today in tribute to General Dockery. A religious leader; A statesman; and A proponent of Christian Education, -. Everett L. Henry 14 Trinity Drive Lumberton, North Carolina 28358

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