In February 2014, I was reprimanded by my North Greenville University supervisor (now) Dean Linwood Hagin for “comments” I “had made on social media” regarding Bob Jones University. He told me to “stay out of the controversy” and refused to explain any further.
I spoke with (then) Executive VP Randall Pannell the next week. He did bring up my peer-reviewed Kenneth Burke Journal article from 2008 as proof of my problematic “social media” presence. But peer-reviewed journals are not a twitter feed and Dr. Pannell knows that. So this never made sense to me.
I covered all the details of these events in my series, Some Dark Corner in Our Land, in May 2014.
I audio-recorded that meeting with Pannell. And I listened to the recording again this afternoon.
After I heard the news this afternoon that Paul Epting had exposed his father (former) President Jimmy Epting’s affair with NGU Executive VP Keli Sewell (also here), I remembered Pannell’s words from March 2014. His comment comes in our conversation after he listed my 20/20 appearance and the American Prospect article about BJU’s sex abuse scandal as not really his concern.
Let me repeat that: 20/20 and the American Prospect were not his concern. His actual concern was my blog. The conversation continues like this:
Pannell: The things I’ve heard most about are the blog. And uh again . . .
Lewis: Now see, I haven’t posted on my own blog in . . . in weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks . . . months. So that’s kind of mysterious.
Pannell: This is in the realm of hearsay [since] I haven’t seen it myself. But I do remember one thing is like . . . I think it was in the conversation with the President . . . I think it was about one of the Joneses having an affair.
Pannell was being exceptionally cautious with me in that statement. But let me translate the Southern code into Detroit truth:
President Jimmy Epting was especially concerned, among all the things you have written, that you publicly stated that Bob Jones Jr. had an affair with his employee.
You can see the entire article here. The exact words were these:
Then there’s Ruth Flood, a willowy and pretty speech teacher whose elocutionary talent caught Bob Jones Sr’s eye. Freshly graduated with her bachelor’s degree from Taylor, she joined the Bob Jones College speech faculty and often played opposite Bob Jones Jr. in his lead Shakespearean roles. In 1935, Bob Jones Jr. invited her to join him on an overseas trip to England to “study” with Fanny Bradshaw at her “Shakespeare Fortnight Hostelry.” It was less a study trip than a “drama camp” for bored rich kids whose daddies could afford the luxury ocean cruise overseas during the Great Depression. The next school year, according to BJU’s official history, Ms. Flood was suddenly struck with a “more than nine-month” “physical and emotional breakdown” that drove her back home to Ohio. She did return to BJC, spoke in Chapel, and was honored in a 1938 yearbook dedication, only to leave behind all things related to BJC that May. Bob Jones, Jr. would marry Fannie Mae Holmes within a few weeks. Ruth never married, and, unless a person born in the last half of 1936 has something more to tell us, Ruth’s story died with her in 2002.
I have evidence for every last bit of that. The sentence that bothered Jimmy Epting I gleaned from Bob Jones University’s own official history.
I am proud of that article, and it’s just a hint of the manuscript to come.
As the recorded March 2014 conversation continues with Pannell, I defend myself. Rather than being concerned with the hearsay that people were asserting about me and my husband, Pannell was clearly more concerned about the conclusions people might make about powerful administrators of local Greenville county universities.
And now it seems we understand exactly why.