Although Bob Jones College was forced to close its doors at College Point, Florida, during the Great Depression, God was not yet done with BJC. His hand of blessing remained on the school as He opened the door to new opportunities in Tennessee.
Recovery and Growth—Tennessee, 1933-1947
In the middle of the Great Depression a bankrupt Bob Jones College (and Academy) was forced to announce that it had sold its Florida campus. Some predicted that BJC would follow the path of many other schools of the time—that it would just close.
But immediately after the 1933 graduation ceremonies at College Point, members of the administration left for Cleveland, Tennessee. A vacant building that had seen vandalism for the past several years awaited. In spite of massive amounts of effort, naysayers expected the school to flounder, enrollment to decline, and the doors to BJC and BJA to eventually close for good. Moving to Tennessee was just the final death knell of Jones Sr.’s optimistic educational idea.
God, however, had other plans. The September of the first year in Tennessee saw a 50% increase over the Florida enrollment. That was only the beginning.
Cleveland, located between Chattanooga and Knoxville, had a population of 10,000 when BJC moved to the sleepy southern town in 1933. It had but one industry—the Hardwick Stove Company. Near the middle of town were the abandoned buildings of Centenary College, a junior college run by the Holston Methodist Conference. The Depression had forced the Conference to close the school in 1929, and the buildings had fallen into disrepair. The Conference had not made payments on the property and owed $66,000 to local businessman and property owner, George Hardwick.
A deal was struck. BJC would pay $33,000 and the Conference $33,000 by 1936, and Hardwick would deed the property to BJC. The Conference saw their debt being cut in half—and expecting BJC to fail—they could reclaim a restored property. By 1936, BJC had paid their share, and Dr. Jones had even helped the Conference to raise money to pay their share. BJC once again owned a campus (Turner, 55).
Pinkston, W.S. (2016). A History of Bob Jones Academy.
Turner, D.L (2002). Standing Without Apology. Greenville, SC: BJU Press.