Martha Ann Cox was a fixture on this campus for many years. She made a lasting impact on the lives of students and may hold the record for Step Sing attendance and meals eaten in the caf. One afternoon over coffee at Panera Bread in the fall of 2012, Martha Ann shared some lesser known stories of her time as a student and how those experiences informed her work as an administrator. The following are Martha Ann’s tidbits of wisdom on education and light-hearted anecdotes:
“My theory is that you learn as much out of the classroom as you do in the classroom. And sometimes you have to manufacture your own learning experiences, which turned out to help me when I came back to Samford to work.”
Bending the dress code rules on the old East Lake campus:
Martha Ann: Dr. Alston Dobbins taught English for a long time, very good English teacher, superb Shakespeare teacher. I had freshmen English and we had it in a house on a side of the campus that had a potbelly stove in the middle of the room. Several of us, guys and girls, decided that we would wear Bermuda shorts to his classroom. That was a no-no. You didn’t wear shorts anywhere. If you wore shorts you had your raincoat on. But we decided, 7 or 8 of us, that we would wear Bermuda shorts. So we go prancing in his classroom, sit in our usual seat. He comes in, looks around, announces that he believes some of us need to go back to our rooms, and come back to class appropriately dressed. We didn’t argue. We got up and ran back to the dorm.
Swimming in Reid Chapel …
Martha Ann: And the chapel was an interesting story, when they started to build the chapel they dug three foundations and it rained. Well, it was a swimming pool . . .Muddy, oh muddy. We’d bend them [the rules] a little bit [when] we’d go swimming. But always in our clothes. Because at that point at camp and stuff in the Baptist Church, boys and girls didn’t go swimming together. I don’t know that we ever really got in trouble for that. We had a few talking to’s. “Don’t go swimming in a foundation!”
Relations with Homewood
Martha Ann: I don’t know exactly. Now this was while I was still a student. Yeah, we’d go over there. When I say we, it was probably twenty or thirty of us would hang out together. And see we didn’t have cars. We would walk to Homewood but we would walk through the houses behind the campus until people started putting up fences and then they had dogs. There’s always been a little rift between Homewood and Samford. We may not have done our part in helping Samford by walking through their yards. Although, we never tore up anything.
Pulling pranks on campus safety…
Martha Ann: The campus police at that time were from the Pinkerton Detective Agency. That was a detective agency in downtown Birmingham. It was a contract service. So you know what we called them? The “pinkies.” They were the brunt of many stories. They had a little Volkswagen. Tell me why campus safety had a Volkswagen? I can’t figure that one out. But it got painted pink one night. Another night some of the guys decided that on that main sidewalk, now remember there weren’t any trees . . . coming in, and the pinkies would drive down that sidewalk at a certain time. . . I reckon they were looking for us. Some of the guys went over to one of the construction sites and got some concrete blocks and built a little church [with] a little window and a little flower sitting in the window. And we were all [hiding] over in the bushes, somewhere around the library. So here come the pinkies and they always cut their lights off, and remember there were no trees and no lights on that campus. Well, they cut their lights off. They ran into the brick. Now we did get in trouble. We had to pay to get that car fixed. It didn’t cost much to get a little Volkswagen fixed.
Her most embarrassing moment … as homecoming queen
Martha Ann: There are many things that happened when I was a student. Probably my most embarrassing moment while I was a student was [with] my roommate, . . . Gail Hiles. Gail and I were both nominated for Homecoming queen. Well, that was about the furthest thing from my mind. I’m the saddle oxford and socks type person. Now Gail was absolutely beautiful. So I was chairing the homecoming that year for Student Government and, so I decided that Gail was going to be the homecoming queen. I just knew she was.
So we went downtown and rented furs (stoles), and so I got one [for] Gail – [she] was very dark haired and I was red headed. [I got the] one that would go with the dark hair. We had a parade and I looked funny because we had a pageant on Friday night and I was in charge of homecoming [so] I was running around, changing clothes at the last minute.
I had borrowed a dress, a strapless, waltz length dress from somebody, [but] failed to take my saddle oxfords off and my socks. No one told me. So I go walking on the stage. And of course, everybody is laughing at this point, and I don’t know [why] because I’m very comfortable. Then I realized what it was, so I started trying to get that waltz length dress to cover up my shoes and my socks. To make matters worse, I won!
So they put this cape on me, and by this time I was beside myself. I have always had trouble with my eyes and light, and they had spotlights on the end of the runway and I walked off [the runway]. I fell into some students that were sitting on the front row. It didn’t hurt me because I had on that big robe. So, they just picked me up and turned me around, set me back up there. Unbeknownst to me, my parents were there. I was a bit embarrassed.
I won Homecoming Queen. And so the next day at the parade, here I am with this red hair and this very light fur, which should have been dark with red hair. That’s probably the most embarrassing thing.
Bending the rules for girls under curfew
Martha Ann: . . . girls had to be in by 9:00 o’clock and the guys didn’t have to be in. Well, the girls would call them to go get them a pizza. So one night I hear this knock on my window. And I said, “What you want?” They said, “Here’s your pizza.” So I just raised the window up, took the pizza and said, “Thank you,” and put the window down.
The girls in the next room were the ones that had called. So they came out in the hall and the guys were out there [saying], “Where’s my money, where’s my money?” Well, I just walked out in the hall, and I said, “Did ya’ll order a pizza?”
“Well, here it is.”
Turned around and walked off. I didn’t say a word to them. Scared them to death.
Adapted from Oral History Interview with Martha Ann Cox, October 29, 2012.