Known as the “Cradle of the Supply Corps,” the Navy Supply Corps School (NSCS) was located in Athens from 1954 until 2010. During that time all active-duty supply corps officers in the U.S. Navy were trained in Athens, and the school contributed around $70 million annually to the local economy.
Supply Corps Training
Prior to the school’s opening, supply corps officers received their training in various formal schools or on the job. In 1921 twenty-five officer-students constituted the first class of the Navy Supply Corps School of Application, located at the Navy Department in Washington, D.C. After just three years the school was closed, and for the next ten years supply officers learned their profession at sea from senior supply officers and correspondence courses.
A more formal arrangement was achieved in September 1934, when the Naval Finance and Supply School was opened at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for instruction of regular navy supply corps officers. Training of reserve officers was not available until 1940, when the Supply Corps Naval Reserve Officers School was established in Washington, D.C. After ten months the two schools were merged, creating the Navy Supply Corps School, located at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
During World War II (1941-45) 13,000 officers graduated from Navy Supply Corps School, Harvard. In 1944 the Naval Supply Operational Training Center was established at the Naval Supply Depot in Bayonne, New Jersey. It was redesignated the Navy Supply Corps School in 1946, but within a few years it outgrew its facilities. Through the efforts of two Georgia politicians, U.S. senator Richard B. Russell Jr. and U.S. congressman Carl Vinson, the school was moved to Athens in 1954.
The NSCS occupied a fifty-eight-acre campus rich in educational heritage. The site had been used as a school since the 1860s, first for the University of Georgia’s University High School, then as a Confederate military school, and, at the end of the Civil War (1861-65), as a federal garrison. In 1866 the site housed a school for disabled young Confederate veterans, which existed with state support for two years.
The University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts used the campus until 1891, when it was purchased to establish the State Normal School, a teacher’s college. At this time the historic buildings still on the site today were constructed. The NSCS administration offices were housed in Winnie Davis Hall, built with funds raised by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and named after Confederate president Jefferson Davis’s daughter. In 1932 the University of Georgia’s Department of Education assumed teachers’ training for the state. The normal school was taken over by the university and became known as Coordinate College but was used only as dormitories for freshmen and sophomore women.
During World War II, from 1942 to 1944, the facilities were leased to the U.S. Army, and a special training program was conducted on the site. After the war, university women again occupied the facilities until the U.S. Navy purchased the buildings and grounds in 1953. The NSCS opened on the site and graduated its first class there the following year.
In 2005 the federal government announced its decision to close a number of military bases around the nation, including the NSCS as well as Fort Gillem and Fort McPherson, both in the Atlanta metropolitan region. Five years later, on October 29, 2010, the last class of students graduated from NSCS in Athens. The school relocated to Newport, Rhode Island, the following December.
The deed to the NSCS grounds in Athens was transferred to the University of Georgia in a ceremony held on October 19, 2010. Prior to the transfer, a series of events, including an opening of the grounds to the public, was held to commemorate the school’s contributions to the Athens community. In January 2012 the site reopened as the UGA Health Sciences Campus, in partnership with Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta.