ASI Leaders


Any institution – whether a nation, a church, a corporation, or a school – is a factor of the people who have put it together and made it work.  To truly know an institution, therefore, it is necessary to know those people who have made the institution what it is.

In the founding and development of Alexander Schools, from its earliest beginnings in 1925, to the School that it is today, three men stand out among the many who have given of their time, their wealth, and their love to the school.  These three truly are the leaders:  Mr. Jacob Alexander, benefactor and patron for whom the School is named and without whom the School would not have existed;  Mr. W.E. Sweatt, who directed the School for twenty-five of the first twenty-six years of its existence; and Mr. John Vogler, who has directed the school for the past twenty-four years.


Jake Alexander

Mr. Jacob F. Alexander

A quote from the Forest City Courier dated December 24, 1925 gives the following estimate of Mr. Jacob Alexander, benefactor of Alexander Schools, Inc., for whom the school was named:  Forest City suffered an irreparable loss in the death at St. Petersburg, Florida, Thursday, December 17, of Mr. J.F. Alexander, native of this city and one of the great outstanding figures of the South in many respects – a leader in philanthropy and Christian work and education, banking and manufacturing circles.”

“His years of successful achievement never dimmed in Mr. Alexander the warm love of his fellowman which characterized his entire life.  He was one who drew to him in a close relationship the men with whom came in contact.  Hundreds of St. Petersburg residents knew him as a friend and thousands more admired and accepted him for the kindly great-heartedness which characterized his dealings with all he met.”

Mr. Alexander was born January 11, 1859 in Rutherford County near Forest City.  He was educated in the schools of the county and moved to Texas where he studied for the ministry.  His health failed however, and he was forced to give up his studies.  Finally he returned to Rutherford County and entered the mercantile business and with Dr. G.E. Young, of Forest City, bought a small sawmill and a limited area of timberland.  Soon he formed other partnerships and expanded his business in different towns even as far as Georgia and Alabama.

In 1911 he went to St. Petersburg, Florida, for his health and spent much of his time there for the remainder of his life.  Quoting from the Forest City Courier: “He was a devout Christian and a conscientious citizen.  Scores of young men and women were enabled to complete their education through his assistance.  He contributed unstintingly to the support of religious and charitable institutions.  Perhaps the greatest monument to his philanthropic generosity is the Alexander School for Mountain and Motherless Children, purchased and endowed by him this year for the education of North Carolina motherless children.”

In St. Petersburg he built the Alexander Hotel of which he was the sole owner and also founded the Alexander National Bank there.

He headed at least ten companies in different places.  In 1915, he organized the Farmer’s Bank and Trust Company in Forest City and in 1917, Alexander Manufacturing Company at Forest City, manufacturing cotton goods.

Mr. Alexander was a member of the First Baptist Church of Forest City and was also active in a church in St. Petersburg.

In 1915 he married Miss Kathleen Young, the daughter of his associate in business.  Six years he served in the State Legislature and two years in the Senate.

In giving account of Mrs. Alexander’s death and reviewing some of his bequests he had made, an Asheville newspaper said that these would amount to about $32,000 to North Carolina educational institutions.  It said further that “the deeds of trust incorporating the bequests was received by Rev. J.W. O’Hara, of the Baptist mission board under whose supervision the schools endowed now operate.  The total endowment includes a lease for 99 years and a valuable real estate now bringing about a $32,000 annual income as Mr. Alexander’s interest.  The property is under option to be sold between 1937 and 1948 for a sum of $1,190,000.”

“When the property is sold, the schools benefitting in the bequest will receive one-third of this total amount, in addition to the income now running.”  There were seven institutions to receive income annually.  Among those was Alexander Schools, Inc., which was to receive the highest amount of $10,000 along with Mars Hill College.  The endowment was to become operative on January 1, 1927.  What has happened to this bequest will be explained later in this write-up.



Professor Willie Ernest Sweatt

Willie Ernest Sweatt was the fifth child of the late J. Walker Sweatt and his wife, Adella Holcomb Sweat.  He was reared in Union County, South Carolina, near Spartanburg.  He was married on August 2, 1941 to Martha Mell George of Laurens, S.C.

For nearly a quarter of a century (1926-1951) Willie Sweatt wielded, through his magnetic, adventurous, Christian life, deep influence on the people of Union Mills, North Carolina.

He spent his first day in Union Mills in the home of Frank Johnson and his first night in the home of Mr. and Mrs. W.P. Smart.  Thus from the beginning, the community, school, and church were bound together in his heart.

Round Hill Church had sponsored and nourished Round Hill Academy.  The two had worked together through many strong leaders both in school and the church.  Mr. J.D. Justice, Mr. D.J. Hunt, and Willie Sweatt, having eyes opened by Christ and a heart quickened by His love, channeled this spirit and cooperation into a powerful community feeling.

He organized a scout troop with the larger boys in Alexander Home and the village boys.  Their “Scout Quarters” was above a store in the village.

His maximum love for the school, church, and community seemed to stem from an innate love to serve.  Quoting his words, “I expect to serve as long as I live.” (When those of us who knew him best wanted him to slow down some.)

He wanted to be a medical missionary. It was no accident then that he turned to Dr. L.C. Buchanan, practicing physician in Union Mills, for advice and aid in ministering to the children in Alexander Home.  Many families in that area called him to the sick room.  Cheerfully he went day and night to help and comfort those in distress.  Sometimes he took the patient on to the hospital in Rutherfordton and waited until the patient no longer needed his help.

Willie’s keen sense of humor and wholesome personality endeared him not only to the sick and little children, but to those who led in civic and political life.

He helped to get the road paved from the highway (Marion highway) #221 through Union Mills and influenced some of the citizens to pave walks in front of their houses to connect with the school walks.

The Duke Power Company and Bell Telephone system came to Union Mills chiefly through his effort and vision for a better and bigger school and community.

After the road was paved into the village, he worked through the local Grange organization and secured ample bus service for residents of this part of Rutherford County.

Alexander Schools was his pride and joy.  Many children sought entrance within its walls, and he took them until he was compelled to launch a building program.  The first building was a gymnasium, the next a cottage for the youngest children in the Home.  The dining hall and the vocational buildings were next.

Misfortune beset the school, (I haven’t the dates) late in the forties when within a few years fire destroyed three of the buildings.  The first to go was the administration building in ’44.  Then the Girls’ big brick dormitory and the temporary school building.  This could have discouraged him, but he was not downcast or defeated.  The characteristic noble spirit blossomed more perfectly as he led forth into a larger building program for the school.  When the modern school building was completed, the school alumni lovingly named it in his honor.  Then came a modern and well-constructed building known as the baby cottage – moved from the former structure and farther from the road.  Following this was the duplex dormitory to accommodate junior and intermediate girls, and a new kitchen with modern equipment.

The crowning glory of his building achievements came in close cooperation with members of Round Hill Baptist Church as they build and tried to pay for the present structure.  The church was almost ready to use; the pews had been ordered when his untimely death occurred March 13, 1951.

The buildings he built, though sturdy and strong today, will crumble and pass away with time, but his love for boys and girls, his Christian influence over them, and unselfish life of service will live on.

        Written in the 1950’s by Mrs. W.E. Sweatt


Laurens, S.C.

                                                Sept. 10, 1974

My Dear Alumni:

In 1975 we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Alexander Schools Incorporated.  Let me express sincere thanks and gratitude to teachers and students who compiled information, writing the history of our School.  Also a tremendous “Thank You” to the publishers who assembled the material into book form.

It occurred to me that one of Mr. Sweatt’s Chapel talks would be suitable to include in you book.  Therefore, after study and much help from others I wrote this article for you.

                  In love and appreciation for you

                  I am, Sincerely yours,

(signed)     Mrs. W.E. Sweatt

                  (Mell George Sweatt)




Proverbs 3:1-6

A refreshing part of each school day was for students and faculty to assemble in the auditorium for chapel.  The teachers led these services until at the end of the school year the seniors had a turn in leadership. 

Some sermons and interesting subjects were expounded.  One sensed Divine influence as he listened to helpful suggestions by those who led.

“Prof” Sweatt was the speaker on this morning and expectancy filled the air.  Today he would introduce us to the portraits that hung on the chapel wall.  First picture was Rev. Carr Baylus Justice, second was Rev. David Jesse Hunt, and third was Miss N. Meldonia Livingston.  These were faithful, godly people who among others founded Round Hill Academy which was the forerunner in establishing Alexander Schools Incorporated.

Rev. Carr Baylus Justice, born in Henderson County, North Carolina in 1836, was educated at a local school and at Rutherfordton Male Academy.  Early in life he answered God’s call to preach.  He was well liked.  In fact, he was recognized as the strongest preacher in the Green River Association.  While pastor for thirty-nine years in Rutherfordton, his home church, he began Saturday and Sunday preaching once a month at Round Hill Church.  His preaching, though usually an hour in length, was an inspiration.

At Round Hill Baptist Church Mr. Justice found keen, alert lay-leadership in J.D. Morris, William Nanney and J.P. Nanney.  They all shared the idea that some day a school would be established in this part of North Carolina and perhaps Round Hill would be the place for its location.  The dream was realized.  And 1899-1900 became the first school year for Round Hill Academy. 

It is fitting to say the brilliant missionary efforts of C.B. Justice lingered beyond his death in 1909 to bless the Academy which lasted until 1926.

The second picture was Rev. David Jessie Hunt, a cohort of Mr. Justice.  Mr. Hunt was born near Jonesboro, Tennessee and reared on a farm.  He graduated from Carson-Newman College and came to Rutherford County to teach.  Quoting from Mr. Hunt, he said, “I am looking for a place to plant my life for God.”  And that he truly did in this part of North Carolina.

In 1899 he was chosen as the first Principal of Round Hill Academy.  For fourteen years he gave his energy, his loyal devotion and persuasive influence in building Round Hill Academy into a successful school.

In 1914 Mr. Hunt left the school to become pastor of Cliffside Baptist Church.  The urge to become a full-time preacher of the Gospel was near to his heart.  He was a devout minister and became known as the beloved pastor.

Before Mr. Hunt’s death in 1932 he signed the deed to the last foot of land he owned to be given to Alexander Home for Motherless Children at Union Mills, North Carolina. 

The third portrait was a woman, Miss N. Meldona Livingston, who in 1900 became teacher and Lady Principal at Round Hill Academy.

She was born near Newport, Tennessee.  As a graduate of Carson-Newman College, she came to teach school at Old Holly Springs, North Carolina.  A few years later she taught at Ellenboro before coming to Union Mills. 

Miss Livingston had a keen mind and natural talent for leadership.  She taught mathematics, history, and elocution.  She prepared and produced programs for entertainment to help finance projects at the academy.  These social events drew people from all this area of North and South Carolina.

Miss Livingston was admired by teachers and students.  Her high standard of conduct and unusual teaching ability met the approval of all who knew her.  She lived after retirement among friends at Grover, South Carolina.  Death came to her in 1948.

Portraits on the chapel wall which hung merely as men and women of yesteryear with strange dress and stern countenance suddenly became three personalities eminent and inspirational.  Today with great appreciation, we see them as dedicated people whose lives are a part of our school.

A few verses from Longfellow’s poem “A Psalm of Life” can well pay tribute to our three benefactors and serve as a reminder to us who still labor to give our very best to our tasks.

“Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime,

And, departing leave behind us

Footprints in the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another

Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,

A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,

Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.”


Mrs. W.E. Sweatt

Laurens, S.C.




Dr. John W. Vogler II is the fourth Superintendent of Alexander Schools, having served in that capacity since July 1, 1951, when he replaced Professor W.C. Sweatt.

Dr. Vogler was born in Quay, Oklahoma on August 17, 1920.  He received his elementary and high school training in the public schools system of Oklahoma, and received a BS degree in education from Oklahoma State University.  He received his MA degree from Baylor University, and, most recently, his EdD degree from East Coast University, of Dade City, Florida, in 1970.  He has also received an EdS degree in Special Education from George Peabody College.  He has also studied at the George Williams University in Chicago and at Tulane University.

Prior to coming to Alexander Schools, Dr. Vogler had served four years in the U.S. Army during World War II, had taught for one year in Texas, and at the time he was selected as the new Superintendent of Alexander was serving as a District Principal in Winston Salem, N.C.  From July 1, 1964 through June 30, 1965, Dr. Vogler was absent from the school on Sabbatical leave, during which time he and his family were in Juneau, Alaska, where he served as Superintendent of Schools.

On April 27, 1947, Mr. Vogler married Miss Birdie Galloway.  Mrs. Vogler came to Alexander Schools with Mr. Vogler in 1951, and has been a teacher at the school during the subsequent twenty-four years.  The Voglers have two children, John Vogler, III and Lyvonne, both of whom have worked at the School since their graduations from college.  Like her husband, Mrs. Vogler has also earned the title “Dr. Vogler”, having received her EdD degree from the University of Sarasota, of Sarasota, Florida, in 1973.

Many changes and improvements have been made at Alexander Schools under Dr. Vogler’s guidance.  Many new buildings have been erected to replace those which either burned or had become unsafe to continue in use.  A new Social Services Department has been added to the school, with full-time social workers added to the staff.  A special program of summer activities now operates for those students remaining at the School during the summer months.  A modern swimming pool, tennis courts, and a new student recreation center form the core of recreational facilities available to students, in addition to an excellent gymnasium and athletics playing field.  These facilities are under the direction of a full-time Recreational Director added to the staff this year.

During the school year of 1964, the Elementary school was accredited by the State of North Carolina, being the first elementary school in Rutherford County to be so accredited.  Now, in 1975, an effort has been made to have the Elementary School accredited by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, with the expectation that the application will be accepted.  Major responsibility and credit for these achievements belong to Dr. Vogler, his excellent staff and faculty who have worked with him through the years, and to the many other friends of the School who have given so generously of their talents.

On the personal side, Dr. John Vogler has been listed for many years in Who’s Who in American Education, and is active in the American Legion, County Club, Lions Club, and Woodmen of the World.  His hobbies include Bridge, gardening, and reading.  He once played the clarinet in a junior school band in Yale, Oklahoma, and, when a student in Hotel Management back in 1938 at Oklahoma A & M (now Oklahoma State U.), won a $2.00 second prize in a cake-baking contest competing against 35 housewives.  Unknown to most ASI people, the participation of the Vogler family in the educational process at ASI is not limited to the Drs. Voglers, John III, and Lyvonne.  Finding herself short by one English credit of the official requirements for high school graduation, and completing same by correspondence, Mrs. Maude Whipple of Yale, Oklahoma, was duly certified in 1951 as a graduate of ASI.  Mrs. Whipple is, of course, the mother of Dr. John Vogler, and having been born in 1898, has strong claim on being the oldest graduate of ASI.



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