P R E L U D E
They called him "Mr. Emory."
Student, trustee, advocate--Henry L. Bowden Sr.'s myriad roles at his alma mater spanned more than half a century. He served the University during some of its darkest days but also was present at the dawn of its most promising era. Henry Bowden, who was all of these things to Emory and more, died February 17, 1997, at his Atlanta home. He was eighty-six.
A 1932 graduate of Emory College and a 1934 graduate of the School of Law, Mr. Bowden became a member of the Emory Board of Trustees in 1947. Ten years later, he was elected chairman, a position he held until 1979, allowing him to preside over the transfer to the University of the $105 million Emily and Ernest Woodruff Fund, which ignited nearly twenty years of unprecedented growth.
Mr. Bowden's vision and character were tested in the 1950s and '60s, first by the divisive issue of civil rights and later by a nationwide controversy over academic freedom. In his role as general counsel to the University, a position he held from 1952 to 1978, Mr. Bowden won a declaratory judgment from the Supreme Court of Georgia overturning a segregation measure then in the state constitution that eliminated property tax exemptions for private schools that attempted to integrate. As a result of this 1962 victory, Emory was able to admit students regardless of race without losing its tax-exempt status. Mr. Bowden's defense of Emory's position against segregation earned him the Alexander Meiklejohn Award from the American Association of University Professors.
In 1965, Mr. Bowden defended Professor Thomas J. J. Altizer's tenure in the Candler School of Theology following his publication of an article in the New York Times advocating a theological position that postulated the "death of God." Altizer's point of view set off a firestorm of controversy that resulted in a Time magazine cover story titled "Is God Dead?" The University received calls for Altizer's dismissal, but Mr. Bowden steadfastly defended the theologian's point of view and the University's role as a place for "ferment of thought." Altizer remained on the faculty for another five years.
Bowden, who was affiliated with the law firm of Lokey & Bowden for more than fifty years, was Atlanta's city attorney from 1963 to 1976. He served on a number of judicial advisory groups at the behest of governor and later President Jimmy Carter. He also was a trustee of Clark and Wesleyan colleges, a director of the First National Bank of Atlanta, president of the Atlanta and Georgia bar associations, and a fellow of the American Bar Association.
The University has honored Mr. Bowden in numerous ways. In 1959, it awarded him an honorary doctor of laws degree. Twenty years later, Emory founded a scholarship in his name, and in 1988, the History Building, one of the original Quadrangle structures, was renamed in his honor. A gas lamp, representative of the Shining Light Award given in his honor by WSB Radio and the Atlanta Gas Light Company, stands at the southeast corner of the Administration Building.--A.B.
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