By Jim Buchanan
We’ve all become so accustomed to seeing new buildings sprout from the ground at Western Carolina University that it has been a bit of a shock to see buildings coming down. But that’s the case with Scott Hall and Walker Hall.
Scott, a 142,655-square-foot building, opened in 1969.
The 70,658-square-foot Walker Hall was completed in 1972. For decades the halls were home to around 1,150 students, putting the number of WCU alum that called them home well into the tens of thousands.
Now, brick by brick, they’re turning into little more than memories. A common knock on the buildings was that they lacked air conditioning, and that if there were lines for the elevator or bugs in the system, you could be looking at the prospect of climbing nine stories of stairs, something not even the young looked forward to.
But once they were the shiny new pride of the campus. We’ll look back to 50 years ago this month, when Scott dormitory was dedicated in 1970. (Walker Residence Hall was named in 1973 for Edyth Walker, a former fourth-grade teacher in Cullowhee and a former WCU faculty member).
Scott was named in honor of Mary Elizabeth White Scott. Scott was wife to W. Kerr Scott, who served as N.C. Agriculture Commissioner from 1937-48, N.C. Governor from 1949-53 and U.S. Senator from 1954-58, when he died in office.
She was also mother to Bob Scott, North Carolina’s governor from 1969 to 1973.
But Scott was an accomplished person in her own right.
While Kerr Scott was commissioner, Mary Scott was the bookkeeper and manager for the Scott family’s 1,300-acre dairy farm. Upon Kerr Scott’s ascension to the governorship, she helped spearhead the move to restore the Governor’s Mansion, which had suffered decades of neglect during the Great Depression, when funds were scarce, and World War II, when other priorities came first. Nearly a quarter-million people visited the mansion during the four-year residency of the Scotts.
Along the way, Mary Scott won awards from the American Red Cross, National Arthritis and Rheumatism Foundation and was named Woman of the Year by the state Grange and Progressive Farmer Magazine, a big deal when the state’s economy still relied heavily on agriculture. N.C. State gave her lifetime honor recognition in 1970.
Mary Scott died of pneumonia at 75 years of age in 1972. A newspaper editorial of the time said “She was a quiet, gracious and strong woman who believed public service an obli-gation and thought principled conduct an unremarkable expectation.”
The building honoring Mary Scott is coming down. Her legacy remains as strong as ever.