Dr. Joseph Bettis was the first Chair of UA’s Department of Religious Studies, and the following article was commissioned for and then published in our Spring 2005 issue of the Department newsletter; it is reposted here, in its original form, with his kind permission. (The above photo is from the front page of the Tuscaloosa News on April 6, 1968.)
I came to Tuscaloosa in 1964, one year after George Wallace had “stood in the schoolhouse door” to prevent Autherine Lucy’s registration at the University. At the time, I had no interest in civil rights or politics. I did not come to the University of Alabama in 1964 to join the civil rights movement. I came to teach religious studies and to participate in the creation of a Department of Religious Studies. I was fresh from graduate school, full of academic arrogance, ego, and enthusiasm.
At the time, Religious Studies courses were taught by various campus ministers and listed in the Philosophy Department. The quality of the courses was mixed. Leon Weinberger, who was a rabbi, and a Presbyterian Campus Minister, whose name I have forgotten, taught respectable courses with small enrollments. Other campus ministers taught courses that were notorious for being “an easy A” and they had very large enrollments. Iredell Jenkins was Chair of the Philosophy Department, and he knew that this was not a good situation. Continue reading