When Oliver Cromwell Carmichael, 65, took over the presidency of the University of Alabama in 1953, the post was to have been the climax of a distinguished educational career. After graduating and getting an M.A. from the University of Alabama, Carmichael went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, eventually rose to be chancellor of Vanderbilt University, later president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For Alabama, it was something of a coup to get a man of such a reputation.
It soon turned out that Carmichael and Alabama had different ideas about what the university should be. While Carmichael tried to tighten academic standards, he refused to share the concern of some alumni over the fact that 'Bama's oncegreat football team has won only two games in the last 23. To many old grads he became the original longhair. But even worse: he broadly hinted that the university might one day have to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision against segregation.
During the tragic Autherine Lucy affair (TIME, Feb. 13 et seq.) Carmichael was caught between those who thought he should have taken a bolder stand for principle and those who blamed him for allowing a Negro to get into the university in the first place. He began to receive anonymous phone calls accusing him of being a "nigger lover." Gradually, his trustees began to turn against him, and the strain became too much.
Last week Oliver Cromwell Carmichael decided to get out of Alabama and to accept a two-year-old offer from the Fund for the Advancement of Education to do a survey of higher-education programs. "I feel," said he of his new job, "that it is the greatest opportunity that has come to me."