1860 – 1862
Joseph Ridley Presidency
Rev. Joseph Ridley, a North Carolinian who was educated at the University of North Carolina, held pastorships in several Tennessee towns before becoming East Tennessee University president (UT’s ninth president) in 1860. He began his presidency buoyed by an increase in the student body to 110 (73 of whom were in the preparatory department), the largest enrollment in the previous 12 years. The increase permitted the trustees to enlarge the faculty and hire a janitor. According to that year’s catalog, Ridley would govern students “by the law of kindness and affection.” Students were also required to attend chapel each morning and evening and Sunday services at local churches “chosen at the pleasure of the parents.” Ridley described the university as “wholly unsectarian,” with Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Methodists represented on the faculty. One of Ridley’s first acts as president had been to ask the board of trustees to allow ministerial students of any denomination to receive free instruction. Ridley’s optimism was dashed by the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861 which began the Civil War. Nevertheless, East Tennessee University opened in the fall of 1861, although with a much-reduced student body and the same faculty, except for a pro-Union professor who had returned to Ohio after receiving threats on his life. The term lasted only one-fifth its normal time, however, and in January 1862, East Tennessee University buildings were taken over by the Confederates as a military hospital. Shortly afterward, Ridley, a pro-Confederate, resigned to return to North Carolina. He subsequently took up a pastorship in Milledgeville, Georgia.