Monday, January 26, 2009

A little Reinhardt library history

Do you know this man?

His name is Robert Hill Freeman, and the Hill Freeman Library is named after him. His portrait looks kindly over the second floor 24-hour study area.

That was the sum total of this blogger's knowledge of the man. Until today, when I consulted technical services librarian Joel Langford. Joel oversees the archives of the Hill Freeman Library & Spruill Learning Center, and he can answer just about any esoteric question about Reinhardt College history. He put into my hands the program for the library's dedication on November 5, 1969, and I got to know a little bit about Robert Hill Freeman.

He was born in Newnan, Georgia in September 1892, the son of Callie Hill Freeman and Robert Wesley Freeman. He was graduated with honors from the University of Georgia and was Phi Beta Kappa. He graduated with distinction from Columbia Law School in 1916.
The following year, Robert Hill Freeman entered the Army, serving in the 82nd Division with the rank of First Lieutenant. He was stationed in France for 14 months, taking part in the battles of St. Mihiel and the Argonne, and winning a promotion to the rank of Captain. Following his discharge from the Army, he practiced law in Atlanta. Upon the recommendation of the Dean of Columbia Law School, Robert Hill Freeman undertook reorganization of the law school at the University of Maryland, subsequently serving as Dean.
Other important posts held by Robert Hill Freeman include President of the Newnan Cotton Mills during the Great Depression, director of the Cotton Textile Institute, director of the American Cotton Manufacturers' Association, director of the Cotton Manufacturer's Association of Georgia, director of the First National Bank of Newnan, and director of the Citizens and Southern Bank of Atlanta, Georgia. Having led such a distinguished life, Judge Robert Hill Freeman died in Memorial Hospital in New York. He was only 52 years old.

On Thanksgiving Day in 1951, Reinhardt College's Administration Building opened. At that time the Hill Freeman Library was housed there, a gift of Robert Hill Freeman's family in his memory.
The new library was dedicated in 1969, and in 2003 was rededicated, following substantial renovation, as the Hill Freeman Library and Spruill Learning Center, honoring both Robert Hill Freeman and the Spruill family. Joel supplied me with the program for this ceremony as well, so I can tell you a little about Mrs. Ethel Warren Spruill. From the program:

"Mrs. Ethel Warren Spruill's connection to Reinhardt dates back to the early 1900s when she first visited the campus as a young girl. With the rededication of the Hill Freeman Library and Spruill Learning Center, the Spruill family name will forever be associated with learning and libraries at Reinhardt. Her ongoing support of students through scholarships, her generous contributions to the Library's growing book and journal collections, and her willingness to underwrite a dream of an expanded and renovated library profoundly touches students of today, tomorrow, and those far in the future."

So the next time you pass through the doors of our library, remember the generosity of those who made our building and our collection possible. (And good luck if you want to try playing "Stump the Archivist" with Joel Langford)!

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