Philander Claxton and the Summer School of the South
UT alumnus and education department head Philander Priestly Claxton was known as “the crusader for public education in the South.” After beginning his career as an educator in North Carolina, Claxton returned to UT in 1902 as a professor of education. He soon became head of UT’s newly created School of Education as well as a tireless advocate for state appropriations to support the university, increased expenditures for Tennessee’s common schools, and improved training for teachers. He wrote thousands of letters; spoke to over 100,000 people; visited every county in Tennessee; and published articles in newspapers, pamphlets, and leaflets on behalf of public education. The results included the first state appropriation for UT in 1905, additional appropriations in 1907 and 1909, the establishment of four normal schools for the training of teachers, a doubling of the number of public high schools in Tennessee towns and villages, an increase in county high schools from one to 50, and a rise in per capita expenditures for common school education from $2.36 to $7.31. Claxton was also the organizer and superintendent of the Summer School of the South, a teacher training institute at UT that attracted 32,000 students during its 16-year existence. Claxton was so highly regarded that he was appointed US commissioner of education, serving from 1911 to 1921. The Summer School of the South was an independent institute until Claxton’s departure, then it was run by UT until it ended in 1918. When Claxton left Washington, he served as provost at the University of Alabama and as superintendent of schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1930, Claxton accepted his final position serving as president of what was then known as Austin Peay Normal School (now Austin Peay State University) in Clarksville, Tennessee until his retirement in 1946 at age 83. UT’s Claxton Education Building was named in his honor in 1957, less than a year after his death.