May 1992: Bevill State Community College is born

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A unanimous vote of the State Board of Education to create Bevill State Community College from Brewer State Junior College and Walker State College was met with applause from supporters of both schools on May 14, 1992.

"We are thrilled with the action of the board and excited about meeting the challenges which it presents," college President Dr. Harold Wade said. 

Wade had been serving as acting president of Brewer State while working on a recommendation regarding the future of the schools.

A Daily Mountain Eagle article from the day of the vote noted that Walker State was the largest technical college in the state while enrollment at Brewer had been static. 

At the time, Alabama had 34 two-year schools operated by the state with an enrollment of 85,000. (Today the Alabama Community College System consists of 24 community and technical colleges and serves more than 174,000 students, according to its website.)

BSCC would cover student living inside 3,500 square miles in a combined population area of 185,000. 

Campuses would be located in Fayette, Sumiton, Jasper, Carrollton and Vernon.

"The creation of Bevill State Community College combines one of the most outstanding junior colleges in the state system with the largest technical college in the system," the Eagle reported.

A recent study by the University of Alabama had found that Brewer State transfer students performed the best of all junior college transfers.

Walker State, which has started as the smallest technical college in the state, had become the largest in credit hour production. The college had passed longtime leader Bessemer State Technical College in the summer of 1991.

Sumiton Mayor Gwin Wells was an immediate supporter of BSCC.

"It is going to be an asset to our people. The economy we have in Walker County at the present time has hindered a lot of people from going to school. Now the opportunity will be available to them," Wells said. 

In a later article, Wells recalled how he and former Mayor Howard Dodd went to the bank in the 1960s and borrowed $10,000 to secure a site for what was then a fledgling school.  

The name of the new community college was not announced publicly until the vote. All paperwork had referred to it as Brewer-Walker Community College.

The board ultimately decided to name it for Congressman Tom Bevill, whose district included much of the college's service area.

"We could not be happier to possess the name of Congressman Bevill," Wade said. "His contributions to our college and to education as a whole are well-noted and we are honored to have our institution named in his honor."

Bevill reported that he had been taken completely by surprise.

"(Aide) Charlie Watts told me as I got off the plane in Birmingham last night from Washington. I was very surprised, pleasantly surprised. Of course, it's quite an honor. I'm getting so many honors sometimes I just hope I can live up to all these honors I'm getting," Bevill said.

A May 17 Eagle article pointed out that Bevill already had a building named after him on every two-year college campus in his district except Brewer State.

Every building on the west side of Walker's campus had been built with Appalachian Regional Commission funds secured by Bevill. 

He was also responsible for funds for a simulated coal mine at the Sumiton campus and a multi-million dollar Tom Bevill Business and Industry Center that had been dedicated that week. 

The first ceremony was held at Bevill State on Friday, May 15. A flagpole was dedicated to the nation's veterans. 

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.