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Best known for his Presidency at Albion College, Samuel Dickie was also a national leader on the issue of Prohibition. As an ardent Methodist minister, he rose to the national scene through his debates and public service.
Professor and Politician
Samuel Dickie was born June 6, 1851 to William and Jane Dickie, Scottish immigrants living in Burford Township, Canada. In 1858, the family moved to Michigan and settled in Lansing. At eighteen, he enrolled at Albion College. He graduated in 1872 as the valedictorian of his class.
In 1877, he was hired by his alma mater as a professor of both mathematics and astronomy, and also became involved in the Prohibition Party, a political party focused on restricting alcohol sales. In 1886, he ran for Governor of Michigan on the Prohibition Party ticket. He placed third behind the Democratic and Republican candidates with 25,179 votes. Although he lost, he had the strongest showing of any Prohibition Party candidate in a Michigan Governor’s race.
Dickie resigned his professorship in 1887 to become the sixth national chairman for the Prohibition Party, a post he held for the next twelve years. It was said he spoke at every American city with a population over twenty thousand. Although a natural candidate for the American presidency, Dickie was unable to run for this office, because he was not born in the United States. This did not prevent him from running in local elections, however.
Mayor and College President
In 1896, Dickie won the mayoral election in the city of Albion. He joined forces with John G. Wooley and began publishing a large-circulation Prohibition newspaper entitled the New Voice. Four years later, he returned to Albion College to become the college’s tenth President. It is a little-known fact that when he became President of Albion College, severely in debt at the time, he dedicated his own money to make the College solvent.
Debates and a Mob
The new post did not impede his activism with the Prohibition Party. In 1909, he debated David S. Rose. Rose was then Mayor of Milwaukee, considered one of the “wettest” cities in America. The two debates garnered national attention with Dickie pronounced the winner. Mayor Rose refused to participate in a scheduled third debate.
The night of the second debate coincided with Calhoun County going dry, much to the chagrin of Albion’s citizens. That night, a mob opposed to Prohibition descended on Dickie’s home screaming threats to burn down the house and set fire to the college buildings. Dickie and his wife were not at home, but their terrified daughter was inside with her baby. A group of college students loyal to Dickie arrived in the nick of time with clubs and canes and drove the mob away.
Upon retiring from Albion College in 1921, Dickie planned a speaking tour to England. His passport was denied, however, because he was not an American citizen. This news greatly surprised him, since by that time he had been a political candidate, been elected to office and participated in political discourse on a national scale. Dickie applied for naturalization in Calhoun County and noted, “In my childhood, it was the common talk of the home that my father’s naturalization accomplished the naturalization of his two sons…[I] am, however, unable to find record of my father’s naturalization.” Despite becoming an official American citizen (Click Samuel Dickie naturalization record to read part of his naturalization record.), he never did tour Europe as he had hoped.
“…an inspiration to us all.”
Dickie’s political and academic leadership laid foundations for the future, and did not end when he passed away on November 4th, 1925 at the age of seventy-four. His stalwart conviction that he could rally people around his vision for a better society, his generosity and his unflappable spirit remain an inspiration to us all.
Brantford Expositor (Brantford, Canada). June 3, 2006. Page D-1.