Life of Patrick Hues Mell
In 1856 he was appointed to the Presidency of Cherokee College, Georgia; Principal of the Columbus, Georgia, Male High School; Principal of the Baptist Female College at Talladega, Alabama; Pastor of the Talladega Baptist church; and Professor of Ancient Languages in the University of Georgia. He declined all of these positions except the last. He had decided to accept the Presidency of Cherokee college until it was shown him that the Institution would be a rival of Mercer University. And although he felt very keenly the unjust treatment of the Board of Trustees of Mercer University, still he knew that the great body of the friends of the college were not responsible for this wrong, and he was, therefore, unwilling to lift a hand against the Institution that he had served so long and faithfully and had learned to love.
Dr. Mells great desire was to live and work in Georgia, his native State, and he, therefore, refused to consider all invitations that would call him to other States. He thought when he was dismissed from Mercer University that it was due to himself to remain in Georgia and attain a greater rank than the one of which he had been deprived. Not to gratify an improper ambition, but because he felt that lie had been greatly wronged and misjudged, and he was not satisfied until he was reinstated in the full confidence and esteem of The people of the Baptist Denomination.
Dr. Alonzo Church, President of Franklin Collegeafterwards the University 9f Georgiawrote on November 22nd, 1856, the following letter to Prof. Mell requesting permission to present his name before the Board of Trustees for the Chair of Ancient Languages:
A mutual friend of yours and myself, as I understood him some time since, intimated to me that he would write to you upon a certain subject and that I would probably hear from him or yourself, em this. Not having heard from either I am apprehensive that he may have written and the letter miscarried. The subject was the Professor of Ancient Languages in Franklin College, and whether you might be willing to accept the office if offered to you by the Board of Trustees, which has a meeting on the 10th of next month? I suppose you were aware of the state of things here during the past year or more? I think a large majority of the Board are convinced that there must be a change of officers to a considerable extent. I have little doubt that the Professor of Ancient Languages will be a new man. I think I know the feeling of the Board on that subject. My impression is also that you could be elected to the office if it can be certainly known that you will accept. As, however, you are so well known in this part of the country. and to members of the Board, I do not suppose it would be necessary that you should do more than simply authorize some One to assure the Board that you would accept. With an energetic Faculty I have no doubt all things may be made p1easant in a short time, and the post of the Professor an eligible one to a man pleased with such profession. . . .
Yours with respect,
Professor Mell, having signified his consent to the use of his name before the Board of Trustees of the University of Georgia, was elected on December 11th, 1856, to the Professorship of Ancient Languages, as the following letter from the Secretary indicates:
“UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA,
ATHENS, GA., December 12, 1856.
REV. P. H. MELL,
On yesterday you were elected Professor of Ancient Languages in this Institution. The exercises of the college will be resumed on the 15th of January next.
I am respectfully
Your obedient servant,
Professor Mell accepted this position and entered upon the discharge of his duties in January, 1857. In accepting the chair he stipulated that its duties should not interfere with his relationship to the churches at Antioch and Bairdstown; that he should be allowed to spend Sunday and Saturday of each week at these churches, and this arrangement was kept in force up to the time of his election to the Chancellorship of the University of Georgia in 1878.
He was elected President of the Georgia Baptist Convention in 1857, and, with the exception of the period when he was confined to his home by a serious spell of sickness, he was re-elected each year thereafter up to the time of his death in 1888. It is thus seen that in spite of the unjust treatment of the Board of Trustees of Mercer University he was being honorably vindicated by the people of Georgia. And, although the unkind feeling on the part of some members of this Board followed him through many long years thereafter, he steadily strengthened himself in the confidence of the people of Georgia until he occupied the most honorable place in the gift of the State.
In 1858 Furman University of South Carolina conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. In 1859 Dr. Church resigned the Presidency of the University of Georgia and also the Professorship of Ethics and Metaphysics and the Institution was reorganized at the meeting of the Board of Trustees in 1860. Dr. A. A. Lipscomb was elected Chancellor and Dr. P. H. Mell was elected to the chair of Ethics and Metaphysics. At this meeting the following resolution was passed:
“Resolved.That the office of Vice-Chancellor be established and that he be elected from one of the Professors best suited to the office; and that by way of compensation he have his house rent free. And in the absence of the Chancellor it shall be his duty to preside at all meetings of the Faculty and administer the laws and discipline of the college.”
On the same day that this resolution was passed Dr. Mell received the following communication from The Secretary of the Board:
“REV. P. H. MELL,
Under the above resolution you were unanimously elected to the office of Vice-Chancellor, of which you will consider this an official announcement.
I am yours, etc.,
This office Dr. Mell held until 1872, when it was abolished under the reorganization of the University at the time the Agricultural and Mechanical College became a part of the University System.