A "Remembrance" of Professor Julia Dale

by her nephew, Mr. William Hardin True (2 July 1932-29 December 1997)

Julia May Dale was born October 16, 1893 at Fox Run Farm, near Eminence, Kentucky. Her parents were James Harrison Dale and Ida Todd Dale. Both were graduates of tiny Eminence College. Her father served as Kentucky's Secretary of Agriculture and later became a prominent breeder of shorthorn cattle in the Alabama Black Belt, having moved there in 1916.

Julia received her Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from Transylvania College, Lexington, Kentucky in 1914, when she was twenty years old. She served as class secretary and as costume director of the glee club, and she was active in the Chi Omega Sorority. In the Class Profile her ``Desiderium'' was listed as a wish to ``Unseat the Faculty'' and her ``Distinatio'' as ``School Marm.''

Julia's parents had encouraged her to attend college, but they were not happy that she wanted to attend graduate school. Evidently, Missouri was one of the few schools to offer women assistantships in mathematics, and she received her Master of Arts Degree from the University of Missouri in 1922. Julia went on to earn a doctorate from Cornell University in 1924. She had no financial help from her family; in fact, they were opposed to her graduate work, her travels, and her refusal to come home and ``settle down.''

Julia taught at Mississippi State College for Women in Columbus, Mississippi, the University of Oklahoma, and Delta State College in Cleveland, Mississippi, before coming to Duke University in 1930. While at Oklahoma, Julia did volunteer work on the Indian reservations in addition to her teaching duties. At Delta State she helped coach the women's basketball team for several years. Julia served as Chairman of the Department of Mathematics form 1925 to 1930.

In 1925 her youngest sibling, William Pratt Dale II, developed polio. Seeking the best treatment then available, Julia and her brother went to Boston; they traveled in a private railroad car with a nurse to care for William. Their expenses were paid by a rich uncle, William Burr Dale, a Louisville wool broker and a director of the L & N Railroad.

Much later, Julia took her brother to Marblehead, Massachusetts, for further care. Until her death, Julia provided a home for her brother, first in Cleveland, Mississippi, and later in Durham, North Carolina. William Dale went on to receive his doctorate from Duke University and taught history at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Julia's youngest sister, Mary, cared for William after Julia's death. A somewhat difficult person, Mary evidently destroyed Julia's keepsakes and professional papers.

An avid bridge player, Julia often attended duplicate bridge conventions. She did lovely needlepoint; we have a Princeton Tiger piece she designed--an early beau was a Princeton man we think! Julia also greatly enjoyed college basketball and football games.

A favorite family story is that about 1917 a younger sister's college roommate went to Alabama to visit. The friend had heard much about the brilliant older sister--her first glimpse of Julia was of a slender woman perched on a tractor in a far field, holding a book and working out a math problem! Julia waved and just continued to disk the field.

Julia's sister-in-law, Mrs. J. Todd Dale, remembers Julia's visits to Greensboro, Alabama, and their frequent bridge games. When Frances Dale [i.e., Mrs. J. Todd Dale] and her sister, Nancy, visited Durham, Julia gave a lovely party for them and invited students as well as many faculty members.

On a personal note, Aunt Julia helped with my delivery, though the doctor did arrive in time! I remember visiting her in Durham, partly because of the long train ride from Alabama. Aunt Julia gave me a train set and also bought me an overcoat, which probably pleased my mother a great deal. I was four years old when Aunt Julia died, so this trip is my only clear memory of her. I do know she was my mother's favorite sister, and they were very close.

As to William Elliott*, we know very little. He and Aunt Julia met at Cornell University. They shared an interest in bridge and both loved to travel. When Aunt Julia was in Marblehead with her brother, Professor Elliott visited several times. He also visited in Greensboro, Alabama, and was very popular with her friends there. At her death in 1936, William Elliott accompanied Aunt Julia's body to Greensboro, where she rests in Newbern Cemetery.

*William Whitfield Elliott (1898-1993) was a Duke Professor of Mathematics and a close friend of Professor Dale. After Dale's death, Professor Elliott helped establish the Julia Dale Memorial Fund. Also, in 1988, through a generous gift to Duke University, Elliot endowed the W. W. Elliott Research Assistant Professorship.