James Douglas Harcombe

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James Douglas Harcombe (May 3, 1882 - November 11, 1946) served as mess officer of Clemson Agricultural College from 1920 until his death. Harcombe Dining Hall is named in his honor.

Origins

James Douglas Harcombe was born May 3, 1882, in New York City. His parents were James Harcombe, a native of Scotland, and Edith Saunders, a native of Ireland. (Standard Certificate of Death, Division of Vital Statistics - State Board of Health, State of South Carolina, State File No. 13616, November 23, 1946.)(http://image1.findagrave.com/photos/2010/26/19478326_126464240155.jpg)

Arrival at Clemson

Harcombe came to Clemson in 1920 to replace Augustus "Shorty" Schilletter, who resigned as mess officer of the college in 1919. He came from the Port of New York Army Hospital where he had served as chief mess officer feeding the wounded soldiers returning from European battlefields. (Reel, Jerome V., "The High Seminary: A History of the Clemson Agricultural College of South Carolina Volume 1", Clemson University Digital Press at the Center for Electronic and Digital Publishing, Clemson University, South Carolina, 2011, ISBN 978-0-9842598-9-2, page 239.)

1924 student walk-out

From October 11 to October 14, 1924, the last and largest student walk-out in Clemson history, and the greatest challenge of acting President Samuel Broadus Earle's tenure occurred. Student gripes about the quality of food in the mess had spiralled out of control when the cadet emissary sent to the commandant, Colonel Otis R. Cole, to ask permission for a student meeting was accused of having "liquor on his breath". He was hauled immediately before the discipline committee and suspended for a year. Outraged cadets were refused permission to meet regarding the expelled, a popular student who was senior class president and captain of the football team, but they met on Riggs Field anyway and drafted a petition demanding better food, the dismissal of mess officer J. D. Harcombe, and reinstatement of their dismissed classmate. According to Reel's "The High Seminary", the complaints against Harcombe involved hemp allegedly found in apples and a fly in the syrup. The charge against the mess officer remained unproven and represented, if it happened, a single incident (page 239).

When Earle refused their demands, promising only to continue investigating the mess allegations, 500 cadets left campus on the evening of October 14 in protest. The walk-out resulted in twenty-three dismissals and 112 suspensions, as well as sixty-five honorable discharges from various classes, and the withdrawal from school of thirty-six students who were unwilling to face the punishments awaiting them when they returned to campus. Although the board of trustees commended Earle for not relinquishing his authority to student demands, the toll on the school was a lingering discontent and unwanted bad publicity.

Blue Key

When a chapter of Blue Key, a leadership and service honorary society founded at the University of Florida in October 1924, was chartered at Clemson in 1932, Harcombe was one of the initial members. (Reel, page 265.)

Death

Capt. Harcombe, after serving as mess officer at Clemson for 26 years, died at home at 6 a.m. on Monday, November 11, 1946, following several months of poor health, age 64. During his tenure, he oversaw feeding a corps that grew from 847 to ~3,000 students. He was interred on Cemetery Hill on the Clemson campus on November 12, 1946. He left a widow, Lyda Harcombe. (Standard Certificate of Death.)

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