A Walk Through Tech's History

 A Walk Through Tech's History
A journey discovering the legends and traditions, people and events that forge Georgia Tech's unique history

New South Roots

Nathaniel Harris, a state legislator from Macon, Ga., believed a technological school would foster the skills necessary for rebuilding the economy left devastated by the Civil War.

After several attempts, Harris finally steered legislation to fund a state technological school through the Legislature and onto the desk of Gov. Henry D. McDaniel, who signed it into law on Oct. 13, 1885.

A commission headed by Harris studied proposals by several cities that hoped to be the home of the new school, but Atlanta won out. Developer Richard Peters donated a four-acre tract bounded by North Avenue on the south and Cherry Street on the west and sold five adjoining acres to the state for $10,000.

The opening of the Georgia School of Technology marked an important moment for the New South Creed, a post-war philosophy embracing cooperation with the North to establish Southern self-sufficiency through industrialization.

When Tech opened, Harris was named chairman of the board of trustees, a position he held until his death in 1929. Georgia Tech was "the child of his love and a living memorial of his devotion to youth and to his state," the Georgia Tech Alumnus said.

Tower Power

The Tech Tower with its gable roof, steeple and lighted TECH sign has been one of the most endearing symbols of the Institute for generations of students.

When the original campus was built in 1888, the tower was a feature of the old Main building and a twin spire was built on the adjacent shop building. The shop burned in 1892, however, leaving only the Main tower standing.

The class of 1922 placed the first TECH sign as a symbol that would "light the spirit of Tech to the four points of the compass." The wooden letters were painted white and gold and were illuminated by lights trained on them from the ground.

During the 1930s lightbulbs were mounted inside the letters for better illumination and by 1949 neon lights shaped inside the metal frames were added to the TECH sign.

In 1988, the roof of the Tech Tower was replaced through a gift from Gene Clary, GS 32.

"We wanted to put a gold roof on there, but the president decided he wanted a copper roof tinted to look like the original roof," Clary told Tech Topics.

As a compromise, the tower now sports a golden cupola at its summit.

Buzz: Bold as brass

The Yellow Jacket is one of Georgia Tech's most familiar and oldest symbols.

The earliest known reference to the Yellow Jacket appeared in 1905, a year after John Heisman became Tech's football coach. The earliest known illustrated Yellow Jacket appeared in the Atlanta newspapers back in 1906.

Many records from Tech's early years have been lost and contemporary published accounts are scattered. The first issue of the Blueprint did not appear until 1908 and the first Technique didn't appear for another three years.

During the 1920s and early 1930s, the Yellow Jacket was incorporated on the cover of the Georgia Tech alumni magazines right along with the official school seal.

In 1985, Atlanta artist Mike Lester, who had done many of the athletic programs, was commissioned to design a mascot that had a consistent image.

The similarity to the Buzz mascot that began appearing at athletic events in 1979 and the new creation was not accidental — it was the model. Tech officials wanted the new Buzz to project a personality — the same bold-as-brass, mischievous and irreverent character that has championed athletic events and academic activities.

A Classic Wreck

The first Ramblin' Wreck of record was a 1914 Ford Model T owned by Floyd Field, Tech's first dean of men. Field's love of automobiles led to the establishment of the Ramblin' Wreck parade.

These early vehicles were the personal property of students, alumni or faculty, and none have ever served as the sole icon of the Institute.

However, in 1961, Dean of Students James Dull saw a 1930 Ford Model A Cabriolet Sports Coupe on the Tech campus and left a note on the windshield. The Model A was owned by Capt. Ted Johnson, a pilot for Delta Airlines who had partially restored the car with his son, a student at Florida State.

After some negotiation, Dean Dull was able to obtain the sale of the present Ramblin' Wreck to Tech for $1,000. The purchase price was later refunded to Tech, securing the distinction as a donation of the Wreck by Johnson.

The Wreck was painstakingly refurbished and transformed into the mechanical embodiment of the Tech spirit under the auspices of the late Pete George, IE 47, who was plant manager at the Hapeville Ford facility. He personally supervised the detailed creation of the Ramblin' Wreck.

On Sept. 30, 1961, the car was unveiled to a crowd of 43,501 on hand at Grant Field for Tech's football game against Rice University. The Ramblin' Wreck has led the football team onto the field every home game since then.

The Wreck has been restored at least three times over the years, each time under George's supervision.

©2004 Georgia Tech Alumni Association

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