History of SAMLA, 1996-1998

Richard J. Finneran, University of Tennessee at Knoxville

In 1996 President Margaret E. W. Jones appointed an Ad Hoc Committee to review the Constitution and Bylaws, which had not been revisited for some time. Chaired by former Executive Director Robert F. Bell, its members were Vice President Richard J. Finneran and long time SAMLA member Joseph E. Flora. The work of the Committee resulted in a number of changes. Some simply institutionalized what had long been common practice, such as the office of Past President and the five-year structure of Group and Section Executive Committees. Among the major revisions were the granting of voting rights to Graduate Student members; the elimination of the list of states connected to the Association; and the creation of the office of Second Vice President. The revised documents also clarified the relationship between the elected and appointed officers and members of the Executive Committee. With some revision, the new Constitution and Bylaws were approved by the Executive Committee and submitted to the membership for final approval by mail ballot.

Another significant event during the same period was the development of a World Wide Web site for the Association, www.samla.org. The Executive Committee approved the idea of a site at its meeting at the 1996 Convention. A prototype, designed by Richard E. Finneran, was presented to the Committee at its 1997 spring meeting (another innovation of this period), and the site was formally launched with a Special Session at the 1997 Convention.

In the late 1990s, the governance of the Association went through a period of change. Early in 1997, the Executive Director, R. Barton Palmer, announced his intention to resign several months before the completion of his term. President Finneran agreed to serve as Acting Executive Director until a replacement could be found. A search was begun, with the hope of maintaining the SAMLA Office at Georgia State University. The Search Committee, consisting of Finneran, Past President Margaret E. W. Jones, and Vice President James Rolleston, interviewed the candidates in conjunction with the 1997 spring meeting. The Committee recommended, and the Executive Committee approved, the appointment of Margaret Mills Harper of Georgia State University as Executive Director. However, Professor Harper was about to take up a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and thus asked to delay her appointment. Finneran agreed to remain as Acting Executive Director through the 1998 Convention.