1865 – 1883
Thomas Humes Presidency
Although East Tennessee University trustees named Episcopal rector Rev. Thomas W. Humes president (UT’s 10th president) in 1865, the effects of the Civil War delayed the university’s opening for a year. Even then, campus was in such disrepair that classes for the 20 students were held downtown for six months in the Knoxville Deaf and Dumb Asylum. Humes was a Knoxville native and an 1830 graduate at age 15 from East Tennessee College. He had studied for the ministry at Princeton Theological Seminary but had been unwilling to subscribe to the Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith and was not ordained. He had been the much-respected rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Knoxville for 17 years when asked to be university president, and he continued additionally in this capacity for another four years. The major task facing Humes was the rebuilding of the university. During the Reconstruction era following the war, this task was made easier by the fact that Humes had been a staunch Union supporter. Although it took nine years, the school was able eventually to collect $18,500 from the federal government as compensation for the damages incurred while occupied by Union troops. Also, in 1869, East Tennessee University was designated the recipient of the federal land-grant funds provided by the Morrill Act of 1862. During Humes’s administration, great strides were taken to reorganize and rehabilitate the once war-torn campus, including the erection of several new buildings, the addition of new faculty, increased enrollments reaching a high of 315 in 1874, the addition of medical and dental departments in Nashville, the establishment of an agricultural experiment station, and the redesignation of the institution by the legislature in 1879 as the University of Tennessee. But much of the Humes’s period was taken up by bitter contention between those who wanted to shift the university’s curricular emphasis from the classics to the agricultural and mechanical arts and those who wanted to retain the traditional academic framework. Humes stood with the traditionalists, and this led to his downfall. The trustees asked for his resignation, and on August 24, 1883, Humes complied.