Alabama Academy of Honor

Harry Melvin Philpott

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1972 and 2008.

Dr. Harry Melvin Philpott was born May 6, 1917 in Bassett, Virginia, and reared in North Carolina. He was an ordained Baptist minister, but spent his professional life in the field of higher education.

Dr. Philpott was graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1938 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree Cum Laude. Holding a scholarship during his four years at Washington and Lee, he was awarded the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Medallion in 1938. He did graduate work at Yale and received the Doctor of Philosophy Degree from that institution in 1947. His major field of study was religion and higher education with extensive work in philosophy and psychology. He was the winner of the Tew Prize for outstanding work in ethics in 1941, was designated a Yale University Scholar in 1941-43, and held the Walter C. Teagle Fellowship in 1946-47. The Auburn University president had honorary degrees from Stetson, Washington and Lee, University of Florida, and the University of Alabama.

He was director of religious activities at Washington and Lee from 1938 until 1940. He served with the Chaplains Corps, U.S. Naval Reserve with the rank of lieutenant from 1943-46, and was attached to the U. S. S. Tucson and saw action with the Third and Fifth Fleets in Pacific operations, including the surrender and occupation of Japan.

In 1947, he joined the faculty of the University of Florida as a professor of religion. There he organized the University's Religion in Life Program which received a Freedom Foundation award. He was called to Stephens College in 1952 to become Dean of Religious Life and head of the Department of Religion and Philosophy. He returned to the University of Florida to become vice president in November, 1957. From 1965 until 1980 he served as president of Auburn University.

He served as chairman of the Alabama Education Study Commission in 1967-69. The study he headed led to increased appropriations for education in the state and to the establishment of a permanent commission. His work in this area led to his designation as the Alabama Educator of the Year by Kappa Phi Kappa, and as Citizen of the Year by Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

He was a member of Kappa Alpha Order, Omicron Delta Kappa, Kappa Phi Kappa, Blue Key, Kappa Delta Pi, Phi Delta Kappa, Phi Eta Sigma, and was active in the First Baptist Church and the Kiwanis Club.

Dr. Philpott served as a member of the Board of Directors of the First National Bank of Montgomery and of the West Point Pepperell Company.

He was married to the former Pauline Moran and they had four children: Melvin, Jean, Cabell, and Virginia.

Dr. Philpott died on January 28, 2008.