James Ralph Thaxton smoking a pipe at his deskDr. James Ralph Thaxton was the fourth president of Georgia State Womans College. He served as the Acting President from 1948-49, and replaced Dr. Reade as president in 1949. He served for a total of 18 years (1949-66). Dr. Thaxton was born on March 23, 1901 in Griffin, Georgia.  He received an A.B. from the University of Georgia in 1921, an A.M. from the University of Georgia in 1924, a diploma from the University of Grenoble, France in 1922, and he received his PhD from the University of Indiana in 1937. Dr. Thaxton married Helen Clarkson in December 1922, and the couple had two sons. 

Dr. Thaxton’s career in public education lasted for 45 years.  Beginning as a teacher at Griffin High School (Georgia) in 1921, he moved on to teach at the University of Georgia working his way from instructor to full professor (1922-39),  he was also the Director of Admissions at the University of Georgia (1943-48) before coming to GSWC in 1949.

James Ralph ThaxtonDr. Thaxton oversaw two of the most important changes to GSWC.  In 1950, the name of the school became Valdosta State College to reflect the change from an all female population to a now coeducational facility. With the addition of men, enrollment grew from 300 to almost 2,000 students. The course catalog was expanded to include new science courses and VSC began to offer a B.S. degree in Biology and Medical Technology. In the early and mid 1960’s, VSC underwent one of its largest building booms. Dr. Thaxton led the school through a peaceful, voluntary desegregation in the fall of 1963. The campus grew to include Pound Hall, Nevins Hall, the Gymnasium (the Old Gym), Brown Hall, and Palms Dinning Center. It was during Dr. Thaxton’s presidency that intercollegiate sports began with men’s basketball and baseball. 

Dr. Thaxton retired from VSC in 1966, to be replaced by Dr. Martin. He remained active in the Valdosta community until his death on August 18, 1982.

Thaxton at Faculty Old English Christmas Festival
Old English Christmas Feast, 1950

J. Ralph Thaxton Papers, 1918-1966

These boxes contain papers and correspondence from VSU President J. Ralph Thaxton, the fourth President of the VSC following Dr. Reade in 1949. The dates range from 1918, before his time at VSC, until his retirement in 1966. The college underwent a lot of changes and growth during his years as President. Some topic highlights include desegregation, the establishment of intercollegiate sports and Greeks, adding a graduate program, the addition of men to the school (and therefore a name change from GSWC to VSC), and the semi-centennial celebration. The semi-centennial has its own section, including a space for all the pictures and the insert published in the Valdosta Daily Times.

The boxes also contain subjects more mundane, from general papers concerning the college such as the hiring and firing of teachers to student grades, expansion and naming new buildings. The correspondences are separate from other papers and are arranged alphabetically by topic from A through W. Sometimes the correspondence folders contain more than just letters, but also telegrams, memos, and cards. The collection also includes photographs from various events, but center on the semi-centennial anniversary.

President's Annual Reports, 1948-1966

All of the President's Annual Reports for every year Thaxton was in office are available here. The path of the VSU from the Georgia State Womans College to Valdosta State College proceeded under Thaxton. Historically, desegregation and the rapidly changing times and culture of the era are captured in these reports.