Selecman, Charles Claude, 1874-1958

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Born on October 13, 1874 on a farm near Savannah, Missouri to Isaac Henry and Josephine Smith Selecman, Charles Selecman entered Central College in Fayette, Missouri in 1892. He quarterbacked the school’s football team for four seasons and was undefeated as a sprinter on the track team. In 1898, at the age of 24, Selecman began pastoring in a church in Pattensburg, Missouri, dropping out of college two months before graduation to do so. Here he met Bess Kyle Beckner, whom he married on April 27, 1899. They subsequently had two children: Frank and Josephine. After serving in several locations in Missouri as pastor and circuit rider, Selecman engaged in "home mission work" in Louisiana and Missouri before being appointed pastor of a church in Los Angeles, California in 1913. In 1920 he was called to the First Methodist Church, South, in Dallas, Texas. He became president of Southern Methodist University in March 1923.

During Selecman’s fifteen years at the helm of SMU, the school grew despite the financial struggle brought on by the Great Depression. At the beginning of his term the campus had two permanent buildings and an endowment of $883,000. By 1938 the school had eleven buildings and an endowment of $2,300,000. In 1923 SMU was a liberal arts college with a seminary and music school. A decade and a half later the university boasted schools of engineering, law, education, and business, as well as graduate programs. Research and scholarly output also increased during the period. In 1924 the university acquired the Southwest Review, a literary magazine, from the University of Texas. In 1932 the departments of geology, geography, physics, biology, and chemistry began publishing Field and Laboratory, a semiannual journal. In 1937 the school established its own publishing press.

Early in his tenure, Selecman outlined his vision for SMU. He desired a high standard of scholarship, a "warm religious atmosphere," and a "conservative, yet progressive, business policy." The school, he said, needed to maintain an atmosphere that would enable students to develop "Christian faith," a chaste character, and the quality of selfless service. "We shall make our largest contribution to civilization," he said, "by training men and women who will be leaders in Christian thought." A short time later, he explained that all the work of SMU is "aimed to prepare trained leadership for the social, commercial, and religious life of the Southwest."

During the Selecman administration, relations between the faculty and the president were often tense. Professors expressed uncertainty about Selecman as a university president because he did not possess a bachelor’s degree, and their vision of what SMU should become often differed from his. Selecman also found himself thrown in to the church-wide controversy between religious fundamentalism and modernism as it played out at the university among faculty members. Controversy also swirled around athletics, especially football, as well as the question of who should control the school: the Methodist Church, or Dallas businessmen. But perhaps the most controversial aspect of Selecman’s tenure was the reduction in staff personnel and the salary cuts prompted by the onset of the Great Depression. In May 1931, 41 professors signed a petition opposing Selecman in what subsequently became known as "The Faculty Rebellion of 1931."

In May 1938, Selecman was elected to the office of Bishop in the Methodist Church. He resigned as university president, effective the following September, to take up his position as the bishop in charge of the Oklahoma Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In 1943, while the Selecmans resided in Oklahoma City, headquarters of the conference, Bishop Selecman’s wife Bess died. In 1944 Selecman returned to Dallas to head the North Texas Conference. In 1945, he was elected president of the Council of Bishops of the Methodist Church, the denomination’s highest ranking office. He held this position for one year. Two months after this appointment, in July 1945, Selecman married "Mrs. Pierre D. Mason of Hollywood, California," according to the newspapers. Selecman simply called her Jackie. In June 1948 Bishop Selecman retired from the episcopacy. In 1951, he was elected to the Methodist Hall of Fame in philanthropy. He died on March 27, 1958 at age 83.

Sources:

Agnew, Peter W. "C. C. Selecman and SMU: The ‘Perils’ of Methodist Higher Education, 1923-1938." Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas 17 no. 2 (Fall 2005): 12-24.

"Bishop Elected to New Post." Dallas Morning News November 16, 1952.

"Bishop Selecman Gets High Methodist Post." Dallas Morning News April 27, 1945.

Cawood, Richard A. "Dr. Charles C. Selecman and His First Year." (1989).

Craig, Joan Dunning. "Southern Methodist University under the Leadership of Dr. Charles C. Selecman (1923-1925)." M.A. Thesis, SMU, 1979.

"Death Takes Former SMU Head’s Wife." Dallas Morning News December 29, 1943.

"Dr. C. C. Selecman, Methodist Bishop and Educator, Dies." Dallas Morning News March 28, 1958.

"Dr. Selecman Will Marry Californian." Dallas Morning News July 7, 1945.

"Selecman is for Southern Ideals." Dallas Morning News August 12, 1923.

"Selecman Tells Plans for SMU." Dallas Morning News February 23, 1925.

Terry, Marshall. "From High on the Hilltop..." A Brief History of SMU. Dallas: SMU Press, 1993.

Thomas, Mary Martha Hosford. Southern Methodist University: Founding and Early Years. Dallas: SMU Press, 1974.

"Young Layman Choice Urged to Head SMU." Dallas Morning News May 4, 1938.

From the guide to the Charles C. Selecman papers SMU 1995. 0247., 1890-1989, 1923-1938, (Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Selecman, Charles Claude, 1874-1958. Charles C. Selecman papers, 1890-1989, bulk 1923-1938. Southern Methodist University DeGolyer Library
creatorOf Charles C. Selecman papers SMU 1995. 0247., 1890-1989, 1923-1938 Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University
referencedIn Watson, Emory Olin, 1865-1935. Emory Olin Watson papers, 1834-1935. University of South Carolina, System Library Service, University Libraries
creatorOf Hickenlooper, Bourke B. (Bourke Blakemore), 1896-1971. Exercises on presentation of portrait of Bishop J. Ralph Magee by the Methodists of Iowa to the Iowa State Department of History and Archives. State Historical Society of Iowa, Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Southern Methodist University corporateBody
correspondedWith Watson, Emory Olin, 1865-1935. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Texas
Subject
Colleges and universities--Texas
Methodist Church--Texas--Clergy
Universities and colleges
Methodist Church--Clergy
Occupation
Activity

Person

Birth 1874

Death 1958

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