Special Collection Treasures
Published on June 4, 2024 by Becky Hyde
Image. Battle of the Marne trophy

Birmingham-Southern College was created on May 30, 1918, when two Alabama Methodist schools for higher education merged. On January 25, 1856, The General Assembly of Alabama passed an act to incorporate the Southern University in Greensboro, Alabama. The North Alabama Methodist Conference was granted fifteen acres of land on a hill overlooking Bessemer and Birmingham. Owenton College opened on this spot in 1898; the name changed to Birmingham College in 1906. The two colleges suffered considerably both financially and in student enrollment during the Great War. Rather than face both colleges closing, they merged opening as Birmingham-Southern College in 1918.

A rivalry was born between the two Christian colleges in Birmingham, the Baptist Howard College and the Methodist Birmingham College, when both met on the gridiron for the first time in 1906. It was this rivalry that opened the newly built 21,000 seat stadium Legion Field in 1927. It was at this game The Birmingham News donated a trophy to the commemorate "Birmingham’s Own Classic." Howard College won it that first year and held onto it, prominently displaying it in the campus library, for a couple of years.

For five years, in the mid-1920’s boys from both universities were engaged in a prank war every football season. Perhaps the most memorable of these pranks was in 1926 when a group of Howard students kidnapped the taxidermized panther mascot from the Birmingham-Southern science hall in the middle of the night. Once back on Howard’s campus they let their mascot, the living bulldog, damage the stuffed cat. They then returned the damaged mascot in an ambulance with 12 carload of screaming Howard students tailing behind.

Cover Photo. Birmingham-Southern Leopard and the Howard Bulldog, 1926

After Birmingham-Southern’s football program ended in the late 1930’s the rivalry was able to become more friendly. By the mid 1940’s Howard College had outgrown their East Lake campus. Birmingham-Southern College offered land to Howard to build side by side colleges that could work together. Though the proposed move never happened, the two colleges continued to work together and participated in a joint fundraising program in 1948. When Howard did eventually move campuses to Homewood in 1957 a group of students decided to carry the flagpole on foot from one campus to the next. They found out in downtown Birmingham that 12 miles is quite a long way to carry a flagpole and abandoned it along the route. The next day Howard students were greeted by the unexpected but greatly appreciated sight of Birmingham-Southern students carrying the flagpole on their shoulders onto this Homewood campus.

We are saddened by the 2024 closing of our friend Birmingham-Southern College. We’ve shared the mission of Christian education in this city for 126 years. A piece of Birmingham Southern’s history will continue to live on with Samford and the times we all came together.


  • "1929-11-20, the Howard Crimson - Samford University Digital Collections." n.d. Digitalcollections.samford.edu. Accessed June 4, 2024. https://digitalcollections.samford.edu/Documents/Detail/1929-11-20-the-howard-crimson/862.
  • Corley, Robert G., and Samuel N. Stayer. 1981. View from the Hilltop: The First 125 Years of Birmingham-Southern College. Edited by Donald Brown. Birmingham, Alabama: Birmingham Publishing Company.
  • Flynt, Sean. 2001. 160 Years of Samford University. Arcadia Publishing.
  • Legion Field, Treasures Found in Special Collection, Samford University Library. n.d. Library.samford.edu. Accessed June 4, 2024. https://library.samford.edu/special/treasures/2022/legion-field.html.
  • Lewellyn, Benjamin, and Peter Starr. "The BSC-Howard rivalry: Birmingham's ‘Battle of the Marne’: for thirty-three years, Howard College and Birmingham-Southern College on the football field to determine the winner of a rivalry that captivated Alabama's largest city--and stirred up a fair share of Shenanigans." Alabama Heritage, no. 91 (2009): 38+. Gale Literature Resource Center (accessed June 4, 2024). https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A207062214/LitRC?u=naal_sam&sid=googleScholar&xid=c8c0d14f.
  • Wilbur Dow Perry. 1931. A History of Birmingham-Southern College, 1856-1931.
  • Samford University Special Collection, SC 6285
  • Samford University Special Collection, Harwell G. Davis Papers SC 4137