a personal preface
novels (The Sound of Small Hammers, The Nazi Hunter, and Days of
Power, Nights of Fear) and a history of the Baptists called Divided
We Stand.
I was especially happy that Shaw was willing to write Volume
Four of the History. We had been friends since he arrived on the
campus in the fall of 1940, and I knew of no one who both under-
stood and loved Wake Forest with more perceptiveness and with
more passion. Scales’s decision to appoint him to his new writing
task was more than justified when, in 1988, Volume Four was pub-
lished. It is thorough, it is honest and balanced, and it is entertaining.
When President Thomas K. Hearn approached me about writ-
ing Volume Five of the History, I was hesitant to say yes. I had been
Provost during the sixteen years of the Scales presidency, and I had
taken part in a number of controversial administrative decisions.
Could I be fair and unbiased as I reported on what happened from
1967 to 1983? Could I look objectively at campus events in which I
had played a role or about which, even if I had not been an actor, I
had strong personal opinions? Furthermore, how would I refer to
myself when the occasion required: as “the Provost,” as “Wilson,”
or simply as “I” or “me”?
I finally answered my doubts by recognizing that my History
would inevitably be both a “history” and a memoir. I would base my
“history” on available and dependable records, and I would always
try to be fair to points of view that were opposed to my own. But
I would write in the first person, and it would therefore become
obvious to any reader that the perspective of the author was shaped,
day by day, by his intimate working relationship with the President
and with the other men and women who made up the Scales admin-
istration. Occasionally I might even wander down some inviting
path that lured me as a person, even though it might seem to have
little relevance to the themes and issues that formed the central
narrative of the history.
I was, ultimately, the more willing to accept President Hearn’s
request because I remember with fondness and gratitude my years
with President Scales. His tenure as President was marked by struggle
and anxiety, as the chapters of this History will amply show. But
the campus was alive, day by day, with a creative passion that I had
not seen before at Wake Forest and that I have not seen since. In
student government, in the unpredictable pages of Old Gold and
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