David Barrow Jr. served as chancellor of the University of Georgia from 1906 to 1925, a position roughly analogous to the modern presidency of that institution. Through background, hard work, and an amiable personality, Barrow became one of Georgia’s leading public servants.
Barrow’s dedication to public service and education was in part an outgrowth of his family’s tradition. David Crenshaw Barrow Jr. was born in 1852 in Oglethorpe County, where his father, David C. Barrow Sr., was a leading planter and a trustee of the university. His mother, Sarah Pope Barrow, was the granddaughter of former governor and senator Wilson Lumpkin. She died when Barrow was three. The principal influences on his character were his father, his maternal grandmother, Lucy Lumpkin Pope, and his governess (later his stepmother), Priscilla Flint Sawyer. Barrow’s values were also molded by a conversion to Methodism as a young man.
Barrow was educated at the University of Georgia, receiving both a B.S. and a degree in engineering in 1874. After trying the law and geological surveying, he became in turn a popular professor of mathematics and engineering, a department head, dean under Chancellor Walter B. Hill, acting chancellor upon Hill’s death (1905), and in 1906, chancellor. Building upon Hill’s vision and plans (many of which he had helped formulate as dean), Barrow led the university through a period of great growth.
At the time of his appointment as chancellor, the University of Georgia could be accurately described as a collection of colleges, consisting of a liberal arts college, a law school, a summer school, beginning schools of pharmacy and forestry, an embryonic college of agriculture, and some graduate courses in various fields. When Barrow retired in 1925, the university had become a modern institution, with an established college of agriculture, much-strengthened versions of the 1906 schools, new schools of education, commerce, and journalism, and a structured graduate school. Regular enrollment had more than quadrupled because of Barrow’s efforts and the admission of female students. Faculty size had tripled, funding had increased greatly, and several new buildings had been constructed on campus.
Barrow’s contributions to the university, however, cannot be measured solely in statistics. His moral and spiritual influence on students was of equal—perhaps greater—importance. College undergraduates in the early twentieth century were the age of high-school upperclassmen in the early twenty-first, and therefore the university was expected to impress values upon them, both through precept and by example. Barrow’s speeches at the chapel and elsewhere, his writings, and his campus presence demonstrated his own beliefs. Students nicknamed him Uncle Dave and thought of him as benevolent, wise, caring, and able to enforce rules with the proper mixture of justice and concern.
Barrow’s accomplishments were also partly due to his political astuteness. The other state colleges were part of the university by law though not in fact and thus included in Barrow’s administrative duties. Controversies developed with both the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and the all-female Georgia Normal and Industrial College (later Georgia College and State University) in Milledgeville, two schools aggressively seeking independence from the university in Athens. Barrow resolved these disputes adroitly.
He also used his political skills in dealing with the usual problems of administering a university, such as the place of intercollegiate athletics and the role of powerful deans with statewide constituencies (especially the College of Agriculture). Barrow often had to lobby the legislature for funds.
Barrow was often called upon for public service outside of his university duties. In 1907, at the request of Booker T. Washington, Barrow served on the board of the Jeanes Fund for the improvement of rural education for African Americans. He also served as the neutral arbitrator in the Central of Georgia Railway strike in 1909. After Black workers were hired to work alongside whites, white employees of the railroad, who were represented by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, called a strike. The Black employees received a lower wage than their white counterparts. The issue was settled by a federal board of arbitration, which ruled that Black workers should be paid equal pay for equal work. Barrow’s vote thus led to the retention of Black firemen at equal pay with whites.
Barrow’s personal life was also rich and full. He married Frances Ingle Childs of Athens in 1879, and they had four children and ten grandchildren. Barrow’s name survives in Barrow County, in an Athens elementary school and an Athens street, and at the University of Georgia in Barrow Hall and the David C. Barrow Chair of Mathematics. Barrow died in 1929.