Samford University


Eighteen presidents have dedicated themselves to the good of Samford University.

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Henry Talbird, 1853-1863

South Carolina native Henry Talbird served as a Baptist pastor in Tuscaloosa and Montgomery before joining the faculty of Howard College.
Biography of Henry Talbird, 1853-1863
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Edward Quinn Thornton, 1868-1869

Howard College struggled to secure long-term leadership after the Civil War, running through several presidents in quick succession. Howard College professor Edward Quinn Thornton was among them, serving from July 1868 through the end of the 1868-1869 session.

Biography of Edward Quinn Thornton, 1868-1869
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Samuel R. Freeman, 1869-1871

Like E. Q. Thornton, Samuel R. Freeman served as president of Howard College for only a brief time (1869-1871) as the college struggled to find stable leadership after the Civil War.
Biography of Samuel R. Freeman, 1869-1871
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James T. Murfee, 1871-1887

James T. Murfee's tenure as president of Howard College (1871-1887) was exceptional in many ways, not least because Murfee didn't leave the college--the college left him.
Biography of James T. Murfee, 1871-1887
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A. D. Smith, 1896-1897

As a professor of mathematics and longtime business officer of Howard College, Albert Durant Smith must have been acutely aware of just how dire the college's circumstances were when he became president in the summer of 1896.
Biography of A. D. Smith, 1896-1897
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Frank M. Roof, 1897-1902

President A. D. Smith left Howard College on a more solid financial foundation than it had enjoyed in decades. His successor, Kentucky-born educator Frank M. Roof, magnified that success many times over and served longer than any president since Howard relocated to Birmingham.
Biography of Frank M. Roof, 1897-1902
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Andrew P. Montague, 1902-1912

Well-known Alabama Baptist leader L. O. Dawson declined the offer of Howard's presidency after Frank Roof's departure in 1902, as did Furman University president Andrew Phillip Montague, initially.
Biography of Andrew P. Montague, 1902-1912
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James M. Shelburne, 1912-1918

The presidents who preceded James M. Shelburne made significant contributions to the welfare and status of Howard College, but none of their achievements are as visible as Shelburne's at the modern Samford University.
Biography of James M. Shelburne, 1912-1918
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Harwell Goodwin Davis, 1939-1958

It seems especially fitting that in 1939 Harwell Goodwin "Major" Davis took on leadership of a college named for Christian prison reformer John Howard.
Biography of Harwell Goodwin Davis, 1939-1958
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Leslie Stephen Wright, 1958-1983

The new president, Leslie S. Wright, would help realize Davis' vision, lead the way to university status, and oversee the most significant cultural change since the college became coeducational.
Biography of Leslie Stephen Wright, 1958-1983
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Thomas E. Corts, 1983-2006

Born in Terre Haute, Indiana, and reared in Ashtabula, Ohio, Samford's 18th president was one of seven siblings and the oldest brother to answer a calling other than full-time ministry.
Biography of Thomas E. Corts, 1983-2006