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The best understanding of America began or so it seems to us with the realisation that this nation is yours. You know that she's still new and unfinished. That even. America is man's greatest adventure in time and space. The University of North Carolina through a grant and aid from the National Association of educational broadcasters presents American Adventure a study of mine and the new world a series made possible by the fund for adult education an independent agency established by the Ford Foundation. Written by Johnny Lee directed by John Clayton today's recorded program resigns the eccentric. Philosophers have frequently been thorns in the sides of their generations. The
first philosophy professor in the South for example was Horace Williams. And nobody knew what to make of him. He returned to his alma mater the University of North Carolina after graduate work at Harvard Yale and Heidelberg and attitude he was contradictory in politics he was impossible to analyze in religion he was an orthodox in class. He was amazing mystic government can no horse enjoy a sunset and not be in a horse I wouldn't know Professor. Suppose you try this one then Mr. Goldman What is the most important part of an ox cart. Well we'll know that is wrong wrong that's right wrong Miss Kathy do you know the body of the car. No that is not correct either. Professor Williams what purpose can there be to such a foolish question as how do you know which food is Mr. Coleman if you don't know the answer. Well what can be the point of it. We've named what everybody would call the most important parts of an ox cart. And you know the most important part of an ox God is
the idea is the question point is now Mr. Goldman. No sir not not a few mean the idea the product of the mind takes precedence over the product of the hand. Is that what I mean. Yes indeed that would indicate that if you were to bake a patch by Ms Cathy's recipe it would be her but I wouldn't eat. It will be to the freshman who stumbled into Horace Williams class. He was likely to fail. For a start it gave him a good start in the university and the sophomores in one class of 15 old Horace failed 14 and gave the other a D. Even juniors and seniors failed in impressive numbers especially at some of the more brilliant ones. Old Horace thought it did them good too. But Professor Williams I answered every question correctly. Why did you fail me.
Life goes missing so life goes where my answers are perfect. Listen to this question. What is the combining link between the individual and the infinite. Answer. Faith is the combining link. It is the life source of the individual as ultimate reality. Now isn't that correct in my exact age. Then why did you mark it wrong. Well I didn't mark it wrong I only took off 80 percent. But why this guy thinkin you profit by a meal which I have eaten. What good does it do you to parrot me in my words. I want your opinions Miscavige I know mine Professor Williams. I don't know what to think about you. I hate to mention favoritism. Yes you didn't even check one of the papers in class. That would be Mr. White hole's paper would it. Yes when I read the first page part way down a knew the man had thought it through no use going on.
Well what about Bill Taylor. He even made fun of one of your question did in the last question you said. Explain your approach if you were asked a lecture on philosophy at a girls school. Taylor had an excellent answer to that. He just said I wouldn't accept the invitation which is perfect it is probably the wisest course possible. All right sir but I don't understand frankly Professor Williams. I've gone through school up to this point without ever making below a B on any course. Well I can graduate you Miz Cathy that's a brilliant record but doesn't that make you wonder about the American education system. You know no person can be that smart. Again she No I suppose not. But I do hope you will not keep me from making 580 or Caroline what if I do. You learn to think young lady. You'll find that's a far greater value than a diploma hanging on a wall.
Iris Williams house rambled on a large lawn. There were sheds around it. There was a riding horse and calla grazing in the yard and chickens were about. Neighbors said it was the eyes sort of Chapel Hill. But inside there was a large room of almost 30 by 20 feet. Brookline with a wood stove near one end and many chairs for the students and alumni who came back to the big room and the man who worked there. Take enough money to build a shed for that horse and cow of yours. I thought you were one of the richest men in Chapel Hill. Where'd you hear that. Everybody knows it. Surely you have plenty of money to build a new shed for your livestock Professor Williams. Oh yeah but I don't want one my neighbors want and little wonder how many flowers you reckon you breed every year on this place professor. When I have a big lawn on the outskirts of town are you really going to take your neighbor's money if they get as much you fifty dollars I'm going to build some sort of a shed with it it's a favor I'm doing.
I hope you won't be disappointed if they don't look at it that way Professor way you Professor ever. Mike you hook up to the town water supply. I don't care to talk about that. You know George the professor we have to court because he wouldn't obey the town or they never got me on record I contended that a man's land if you don't didn't take you to court I settled out of court at the door wasn't. Well as a matter of fact it was I agreed to hook up to the town water supply. But that's all I greet What do you mean. That's all just a hook up I didn't say what Professor Williams. What did you hook up to the water supply. It's a matter of principle. Why don't you put in the electricity put in a telephone water plumbing clean up your own yard build your own shed fix up the place. Well I've started doing that but I wonder if I don't like this place like it is. I wonder if the telephone would mean that people would call me up rather than come down and talk to me here. I'd rather talk to a man face to face into one of
those instruments. I wonder if city water tastes better than well water. I wonder if they get past the Navy in this modern age. We help a man to be a better teacher or give him better friends. Instead it might become not a means to the end a successful living but the end itself so that a man might find himself living not to become a better human being but to obtain the gadgets for better living. Oh I've thought of doing all you suggest but I've never gotten around to taking such a big chance today. Year after year the students of North Carolina discovered the eccentric Horace Williams they sought him out.
A breath of life and a world of books is more to life than books young gentleman and more to life than books to thousands who became the great teacher. But to those who were the targets of his criticism on the campus and in the state he made enemies with the facilities seldom equalled Octomom. Oh yes yes I know him he's a fine scientist good chemist I suppose. He knows one stew from another. I asked an economy teacher professor Hanley what the definition of money is. And he said there are eight different theories about that professor. Now I ask you members of the faculty a man who isn't sure himself what can he teach. To the formalist whose high priest all the Ph Ds
will be to the over educated bookish minds which look for truth only in libraries. Woe be to those prophets whose minds are bibliographies. When I found out that Jesus was not a Methodist It was a shock I tell you. And I was 16 years old before I suddenly realized what the Methodist Church had entailed me understand that God was not an American. Good afternoon Professor Williams come in. Fine day isn't it. Well it's raining but in here I don't suppose you would notice would you. Yes well. Well I've been very busy. Research has me going I see you have a stew there on the stove.
Dr. Markel this is a Bunsen burner not a stove professor and I would try not to take much of your time. But something has come to my attention that I cannot let go but my students do to me that you made a statement in your class that it meant between science and religion. Science always way and did you say that that is a historically correct statements or Truth is not historically correct it is eternally correct. It does not depend on the views of generation. Truth is a bit hard to define at any rate Dr. Williams I'm far too busy to discuss metaphysics with you. You can go back to test you. But you're in a university professor and I'm here to talk to you about your students I'm talking to you as a teacher. Dr. Markman you can't put God in a test tube. You can't measure spiritual truth with a ruler any more than you can measure water with a router or cloth with a quart jar.
Science is not concerned with the eternal truth that all that may be your opinion Professor Wedgewood is science doing to improve man innumerable things. Perhaps you don't care about telephone radio electricity for better hospitals for better drugs and surgeons. Perhaps you're satisfied with your house but we have better construction better bridges better roads better cities. Farming is improved immensely. It's a safer cleaner better world Professor William. Yeah but what are you doing to improve man. What do you want me to say. Any number of things are you any better than your father. Are you any better than Socrates. Are you any better than Jesus to scientists have hope of producing a man better than Socrates because he didn't have a telephone. Will this laboratory give us a man who can better follow Jesus on this earth. The questions that bother men today are perennial questions Dr mock Monday on how many molecules do a grain a table salt no matter how important it may be for some uses. Men ask what is the meaning of life. How many molecules in life.
PROFESSOR MARK WRIGHT I don't understand how many pounds of molecules does it take to turn a man's heart or to make him remember his dignity when he's under pressure. How far away is it tentative professor. The truth is for me a handful of beauty and give it to me some justice with your Bunsen burner slice me off a pound of love and I'll take it home with my wife you're talking nonsense. Dr. Markham I'm just saying that in those places and in those times when science and religion come to read struggle. So science doesn't even have an answer. Well I'm sorry to be abrupt in this visit but my students quoted you and it was a statement that I just couldn't let slip. Science commerce English sociology language education
all departments came under Horace Williams better criticism except his own their philosophy. Even the administration felt his stinging tongue. Yes we have better buildings on this campus now and better equipment now than what is being done about education at one time before the student body. Horace demanded that the new dean of the School of Education state his definition of education which the Dean was not able to attend under the pressure of Horace Williams stare. And back in 1917 just after we had ended the war with Germany and when the nation was a united and patriotic fervor Horace Williams said to a group of friends the United States of Europe is just as necessary as the United States of America. Until there is a United States of Europe war will follow war forever. And I think we're playing the food to get mixed up in it. Disloyal to his country Mr. President the people of this state are roused. This
university must take proper action and speedily. I think that is unquestionably true. Mr. President I gentlemen I'm not going to defend the statement Professor Williams is quoted as making. But I will say that he made it not to the press but to a group of friends in which a reporter was present and this were not allies Mr. President this Williams did say we had no business in this war on which our boys are getting ready to fight and the cause of freedom. And he is teaching in our state university. I see. And what do you propose that I do. I suggest you fire professors who are obviously un-American. What is Americans or if it does not include freedom of opinion. What do you think it is. I think it is a dedication to freedom. First of all and this is a war for freedom but not I take it for the freedom of heart as Williams. What action do you plan to take Mr. President. Gentleman Horace Williams is a good professor. He's not an historian. His opinion about this war is an opinion not in his field. I wouldn't want him teaching history in a classroom or representing this university on the start of it.
But he has demonstrated time and again some qualities which are admirable and desirable in a few professors on any campus. He was out of step with everybody in the world. He's an eccentric and individual just in a faculty vote if all agree except one I know who the one is it's not us Williams. If the citizens of Chapel Hill vote several hundred to ten on an issue I know a hardass Williams was one of the ten I wouldn't want to campus or town or a country full of photos where dims. But I wouldn't want to be able to tolerate a few weeks there. He's made a campus full of enemies and now he's gone national even international Lamas. So far as I'm concerned this university cannot destroy hardass Williams freedom to think and speak his opinions without altering the concept of the university itself. I'm afraid we'll be forced to go over your head that won't do you any good. Almost everybody on the board of trustees isn't hard to watch is when I write a past student
of artist William and then we'll go to the legislature. I don't know whether Professor Williams has a majority there now or not. Last time I looked into the matter he was rather close humane. You mean that that man has just gotten an incredibly large percentage of the leaders of the state. And I dare say that that is not an accident. As to moving Professor Williams from this university is there. I would advise you to find a less imposing task. His men control the courts. How old are you Professor Williams. 72 are you old enough for me to ask you a personal question. So let me put this dove right your way is Professor out in the state. We try to defend
you. We students who have gone back home. But but in some things we find it hard. I see people say you're an eccentric old man what does eccentric mean Mr. COLEMAN. Peculiar in manner sir you know peculiar AMA. You know what the definition of peculiar is. No sir it come from the Latin word peculiar Arius which means of private property. Yes sir. It means one's own. I'm happy to be an eccentric I'm happy that I am my own property that I am my own for there are so few people in the word anymore even in this great country where at one time almost everybody was his own man. But now so few who belong to the US they belong to a pattern which somebody decided was the perfect American man or woman a most unusual pattern which replaces accomplishment with a vague notion of happiness which change is love to
say X which defines the human female but forgets to mention motherhood in the definition where I am my own authority my own man I am myself I am what I am. And if somebody in New York or London or Hollywood says I'm out of step I just say who's playin the march. I'm playing on my own and I'm in perfect step with it. I don't know why I can't get warm anymore. But there are certain things society has decided aren't there professor. Yes there are patterns but they aren't copyrighted or finished yet. It's when people decide they have arrived at the perfect society and try to put a lock on it to keep it from changing and to keep individuals from being different. They run into trouble. Professor Don't you know what I mean. Do I have to say it. I'd rather have you say it and be afraid. Do people in this town in this state say you're cheap. They say you make 15 percent interest on your negro rental property
with National. True I make 20 percent. But Professor that that's un-Christian 20 percent increase. Course that isn't money I have the upkeep taxes interest don't mind vestment retirement on my capital as the housing rundown. They tell me you loan 80 dollars to a man and took a note for one hundred. But tell me that you gave your wife two souls for an anniversary present. I mean you look on a woman's face before sense she insulted me in a way Bless your art she gave me the money to buy her an anniversary present because she said I'd never think of it. Never buy anything for you remember me wear that hadn't occurred to me that's true but I thought in our lives together we had a gracious plenty of things to remember each other and I still remember this marriage she had when she was a girl I've been boasting look go in her face cause she and when she dragged me to an art gallery I
remember the first time I found it would everybody have been looking at that. I can't go through this house today with that hundred things which to me and for him to say that to me. When I bought two sow's and put them in the yard but Professor Don't you think that was thoughtless. Mr. COLEMAN given your wife too sad for an anniversary present may be many things but thoughtless is not one of them. But you're a self-professed servant of beauty truth and goodness. Look what you do. It hurts us professor. I know it hurts me too. When I was eating dinner in Greensburg a couple of weeks ago two men at a nearby table commenced to talk about me. Williams call me a heathen. Said I was contaminating you steering them wrong. It got so I just pushed my food and sat. I know
how it feels to be falsely accused but it wasn't that it was that much of what they said was true. Not about my intentions I and I. I should never have tried to mislead a student but a teacher and a teacher in the course of his life make so many mistakes. It's a tremendous responsibility to be a teacher then. Then you do understand Professor. You know what the people in the states say about you. Yes I know. Well what's the answer to their criticisms. Why do you have to have an answer. I admit I'm not a perfect man did they think I was going to if I were to try to explain myself I would say this. I am saving because as a boy I was desperately hungry. I am peculiar because I have a peculiar gift. I have the truth and must stand out in the
sea. I am outspoken because I have something to say and because I have to say it so that young people will be attracted to it. I am called an atheist because I do not believe in the divine inspiration of ever preacher that had as is or is about preach the I love God more than any other man I've ever known. And I love Jesus for what would we know of gone except for him. If it seems I dislike scientists it's because they presume too much science does not presume. Neither should scientists. If it is true that modern times have left me behind is because I don't like the direction in modern times of taking. But anyway I've made out a way out of which I should like for you as though you did look over. Be happy to Professor get it.
All right. Yeah thank you sir. I may get this second. By this instrument. All my property of every description and all of it shall be given to the University of North Carolina to be held in trust for ever. The income to be used for fellowships and philosophy. Professor Williams you will always confound your critics not you. I've been mighty saving the dead fund for training young men to think for themselves and through the years. That's a very important thing is to go men. At 82 years of age old Horace's mind was still sharp as ever
but his heart was weak. And with a morbid It is not uncommon to mind it was popular in the state to wonder how old Horace the philosopher would die. Professor William Don't you ever pray. No Mrs. BAKER I don't need to pray. You don't need to. My life is a prayer the best prayer I can make you all your life. Professor or mind that. It is foolishness to try to divide life into except aboard and now on except in segments. Life is unity. I don't believe I understand you sir. But if you say so it may be true. Mrs. Vickers I want to ask a favor of you. I want you to go out and see me Betty. Oh I couldn't do that professor.
After having nursed you for these months. I couldn't bear to see you put under the ground all Christians have the wrong idea of death nowadays. Death isn't die. Music is eternal life lies beyond. Death doesn't signify the close of everything even here on Earth either. What did Jesus say about a man planting a grain of wheat. That brings forth other grains for. Twenty four thousand. But I've been a teacher. A good teacher. Yes professor. How many grains of wheat for the good teacher. I have. Rain. Professor.
I see. What. I base. Mean. That's another thing about Horace Williams. He knew who he was right up until the end. American Adventure is written by Johnny Lee directed by John Clayton produced by the communication center of the University of North Carolina American Adventure was a study of MADD in the New World. His values and his characteristics who he is what he believes. The series is made possible by the National Association of educational broadcasters and the fund for I don't education an independent agency established by the Ford Foundation. And the eccentric professor Williams was played by Johnny Lee Miss Cathy by King
Oliver. Dr. Markham by Wesley Wallace University president by Earl when. And Coleman by Malcolm Rollins. Carl Kasell speaking American Inventor is produced and recorded by the University of North Carolina on the campus at Chapel Hill. This is the ne e b network.
American adventure
Producing Organization
University of North Carolina
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
A study of the eccentric in our society. The story of an outspoken philosophy professor.
Series Description
This series studies the values and characteristics of notable figures from America's early years. It is written by John M. Ehle and directed by John S. Clayton.
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Social Issues
Williams, Henry Horace, 1858-1940
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Actor: Wynn, Earl
Actor: Ehle, Gail
Director: Clayton, John S.
Host: Kasell, Carl
Producing Organization: University of North Carolina
Writer: Ehle, John, 1925-
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-12-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:26
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Chicago: “American adventure; Eccentric,” 1954-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 25, 2024,
MLA: “American adventure; Eccentric.” 1954-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 25, 2024. <>.
APA: American adventure; Eccentric. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from