The following was part of a series of articles on campus name origins published by the East Tennessean in 1985. A journalism class wrote the stories, which are being reprinted periodically. This segment’s author was Janet Ownby.
Taylor Hall, the first men’s dormitory on the ETSU campus, was named for Alfred A. Taylor, the 1886 Republican gubernatorial candidate who ran against and was defeated by his own brother in Tennessee’s historical “War of the Roses.” Although Taylor lost the 1886 election, he ran for governor again in 1920 and became the oldest man to assume the office. He also served on the Tennessee Board of Education from 1920 to 1922, the year the dormitory was opened for occupancy.
Taylor, who was born in 1848 in Happy Valley, became a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1875. He also served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1889 to 1895, and was a delegate to the Republican national conventions in 1876, 1880, 1888 and 1916. While serving in Washington, Taylor became dissatisfied with congressional life. After deciding not to seek re-election, he traveled with his brother, former Gov. Robert Taylor, giving joint lectures and trying to save money for the future.
Taylor became involved with the campus in 1911, when he made a speech at the dedication ceremony for East Tennessee State Normal School. He spoke about the value the school would have for Washington County. Taylor, who was admitted to the Tennessee bar in 1870, spent much of his life in Carter County, where he practiced law and had a small farm. He was retired at the time of his death in 1931.
Construction on the campus began eight months before the dedication ceremony. In 1911, the school consisted of the administration building, a girls’ dormitory, a powerhouse, a dining hall and the president’s home. Taylor Hall has had several names since it opened in 1922. Joan Dressel, assistant director in the cooperative education department, said it first was called simply the boys’ dorm. Then it went through a series of names, from Ritter Hall, to McCord Hall to, finally, Taylor Hall.
According to Ella Ross, dean of students until 1972, the Ritter Hall name honored John Ritter. “He was a preacher who lived in the dorm and looked after the boys,” she said. The name was changed to McCord Hall to honor Jim Nance McCord, governor of Tennessee from 1945 to 1949 and a member of Congress from 1943 to 1945. Under McCord’s leadership, the state initiated a sales tax that resulted in rapid improvements in the field of education.
The name was transferred to another building, the current McCord Hall, in 1966. “McCord was still alive,” Dressel explained, “and they wanted to give his name to the newest dorm on campus instead of the oldest.” That change having been made, the old McCord Hall became known as Taylor Hall. Funding for construction of Taylor Hall was provided through a bond issue authorized by the Tennessee General Assembly. The original cost was $547,273. In 1961, an addition was made to the dormitory, which currently houses 210 men. (Editor’s Note: In 1996, Taylor Hall was torn down for the construction of the new Sherrod Library.)
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Updated on 09/07/10