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Draughon’s Practical Business College opened in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on February 5, 1900. During its more than ninety years of operation, it offered a variety of courses ranging from typing and shorthand to courses in servicing television and radio equipment.
The first Draughon School of Business was founded by John F. Draughon in eastern Tennessee in 1879. At the age of sixteen, Draughon would transport books and materials by cart from town to town, offering classes in basic business skills. His first non-mobile instruction was offered in Nashville, Tennessee, a few years later. By the time he died in 1921, thirty-eight such schools had been established in southern and western states from Georgia to Texas, including schools in Savannah, Georgia; St. Louis, Missouri; and Fort Worth, Texas; as well as in Arkansas in Texarkana (Miller County), Arkadelphia (Clark County), and Little Rock. The Little Rock school was to be housed in the Pythian building at the corner of 5th and Main.
By July 1900, additions were being made to the faculty with the hiring of Laura Baird. Baird was an experienced teacher who previously taught in other branches of Draughon’s schools. Professor H. K. Ford was the manager of the school. He served at Draughon’s school in Nashville and later in Fort Worth before coming to Little Rock. A 1913 advertisement gives the school’s location as 7th and Main Street. Courses offered included bookkeeping, banking, shorthand, typewriting, telegraphy, and railroading.
On May 24, 1913, E. F. Valentine, W. A. Ziegler, and Wallace Townsend “associated themselves together as a body politic and corporate, to be known as Draughon’s Practical Business College of Little Rock, Arkansas.” At that time, the school was located in the Hollenberg Building. The corporation was formed for the purpose of “purchasing, leasing or otherwise acquiring, and to teach at its place of business or by correspondence, and to sell or to lease the right to teach systems, methods, forms of instruction and courses of study relating to bookkeeping, stenography, typewriting, manifolding, telegraphy, commercial law and whatsoever belongs to a thorough and practical business, commercial or technical education.”
A full-page advertisement appearing in 1919 in the Jonesboro Daily Tribune lists R. H. Bewley as president, R. W. Manly as vice president and principal, and R. J. Brown as secretary. The address of the school was 112 East Capitol Street. The school also fielded a basketball team that regularly played state high school and college teams. John Thomas Vetter bought the college from D. L. Lacey in 1928. Vetter owned the school until his death in 1964.
An ad appearing in the Perry County News in 1929 touted Draughon’s as “Arkansas’ Largest Business College.” The school address is given as 4th and Louisiana. A School of Radio was established in 1930 at Draughon’s. On July 20, 1931, W. M. Roberts was president and Vetter was secretary of the school, which was located at 6th and Center streets. In 1935, the president of the school was J. T. Hamilton, and the secretary was Vetter. The school moved to 220 ½ West 6th Street.
The school moved frequently during the early years as the number of students increased, causing a need for more space. The name was changed to Draughon School of Business on September 30, 1935. The school began to issue the following degrees and diplomas: Master of Commercial Science, Master of Accounts, Bachelor of Commercial Science, and Bachelor of Accounts. Later, the address was given as 216 West 6th Street; it was housed in the historic Moore Building, where it maintained residence for more than fifty years.
On May 5, 1935, Draughon School of Business announced the opening of a summer term to begin on June 3. In 1936, Draughon was fully accredited and approved by the Arkansas Department of Education to certify commercial teachers to teach typing and other business-related courses in the junior and senior high schools of Arkansas through their two-year “Commercial Teacher’s Curriculum.” This certification continued through the years 1962–63.
During the late 1940s, Draughon was filled with men returning from active duty in World War II, many seeking a specific vocation (with a shorter period of training) rather than spending four years in college. Many students worked during the day and attended night school on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the fall and spring. At that time, the school operated much like today’s vocational/technical schools. Around 1930, Draughon began advertising a “School of Radio.” The school also had a working radio station, although broadcasts could only be picked up within a few blocks of the school. Students in electronics took math classes and learned how to read schematics, got hands-on experience in lab courses, and were coached before taking state licensing exams for electronics.
A full-page advertisement appearing in the August 22, 1948, Arkansas Democrat encouraged prospective students to “Train for Business in the ONE and Only Private Business School in the State of Arkansas That Is Fully Accredited and Approved by the State Department of Education.” In 1959, Draughon was “named the only authorized school in Arkansas for teaching the use of machines manufactured by the Comptometer Corporation of Chicago.” The Comptometer Corporation manufactured ten-key adding machines, calculators, and dictation machines. Completing the course offered in using these machines took twelve weeks. In the 1960s, television servicing was added to the courses offered.
In 1966–67, Minnie Vetter served as president. P. R. Childers and Learle Burford purchased the school from Vetter on September 1, 1971. From 1971 until 1984, Childers served as president, with Burford as manager. In November 1984, Draughon was sold to Paul E. Compton of Houston, Texas, who moved the school from downtown Little Rock to 4821 University Avenue. Marty Berry served as director from 1987 to 1991. In November 1991, Draughon Business College, under the ownership of Paul E. Compton, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Despite the fact that Draughon’s plan for reorganization was confirmed by the Bankruptcy Court on July 7, 1993, Draughon closed its operations in Little Rock.
For additional information:“Docket No. 92-94-ST, Student Financial Assistance Proceeding: In the Matter of Draughon Business College.” U.S. Department of Education Office of Hearings and Appeals. http://www.ed-oha.org/cases/1992-94-st.html (accessed May 11, 2015).
Paddock, B. B. History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas. Vol. 2. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906.
Lynda Childers SuffridgeNorth Little Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated 5/11/2015
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