E. E. Just is widely known for his national and international work in marine biology and zoology. During his lifetime he received many honors and more posthumously. Among them, the Ernest Everett Just Middle School in Baltimore, MD and the E. E Just Environmental Center at KUA were named in his honor, the Ernest Everett Just 1907 Professorship of Biological Sciences chair was established at Dartmouth College, and the United States Post Office issued a commemorative stamp in 1996.
Just was born on August 14, 1883, in Charleston, SC, to Charles Frazier and Mary Matthews Just, their first of three surviving children. His father and grandfather, both wharf builders, died when he was four-years-old leaving his mother to support her family. She became a teacher in an African-American school she had established by selling some of her property. In the summers, she worked in the phosphate mines on James Island, SC. Mary noticed there were available areas of empty land on the island and persuaded other families to come and farm the land. Eventually a town grew up and became known as Maryville in her honor. Just attended her school and, with the hope that he would become a teacher, at age 13 she enrolled him in the Industrial School of Orangeburg, a boarding school for African Americans, now known as South Carolina Sate University.
Mary realized that African American schools in the South were inferior to other schools and together they decided he should go North to further his education. Just left home the summer of 1900 and found his way to New York working on a coastal boat service, the Clyde Liner. His mother had enrolled him at KUA for the fall term and now, age 17, he had the means, in combination with KUA’s $100 Dollar Plan, to pay the fees. Before sending her son such a distance, Mary must have heard of KUA’s long history of acceptance of qualified students regardless of race, creed or class.
The journey to Meriden surely was embarked upon with some trepidation as KUA was not only far from home, but in a very rural area. The nearest train station to KUA for the Boston & Maine Railroad was in Lebanon, NH, and for the Central Vermont Railroad, in Windsor, VT, where travelers could board the daily stages on their return trips to Meriden. According to the 1900-01 KUA catalogue, “The morning stages connect with all north and south bound midday trains on both roads, and make ample arrangements for conveying students to and from Meriden.” As it has been for others for over 200 years, surely Just found it an exciting ride through the autumn countryside, wondering who would be at KUA to greet him, to help him find his way.
It is written that Just kept to himself during his first weeks at KUA as he felt the need to concentrate on academics in order to catch up with his classmates. His literary interests and his seriousness of purpose became clear early when his essay, A Firm Foundation, was printed in the November 1900 issue of The Kimball Union. It began and ended with these thoughtful words, “As we are all here for the same purpose, we should arm ourselves with the proper equipment so that we shall be able to withstand the test. We should be careful how we lay the corner-stone of our future, for we are to be weighed and we must not be found wanting.” … “So, fellow students, try for the right start. Aim high. Strive to conquer the false. Live with the true, and when you are ready to embark on life’s unknown waters, place yourself at the helm confident of but one destination – Success ….”
The following month, he gave a recitation at the Junior Literary Society: Glorious New England. Referring perhaps to his first autumn in New England or perhaps to a freer society than he had known. The following year, as treasurer of the men’s literary and oratory club, the Philadelphian Society, he gave the Junior Oration: At History’s Behest. Towards the end of this year, a premonition came to him that his mother was ill and he left KUA for Charleston only to reach home a few hours after her funeral. Distraught but determined, as he knew it would be his mother’s wish, he returned to KUA to finish his studies. In his senior year, Just was chosen as Editor-in-Chief of The Kimball Union and as Vice President of the Philadelphian Society. During Commencement Week, he played Tom Twist in his class’s presentation of She Stoops to Conquer, read the class Prophecy at Class Day Exercises and delivered a speech at Commencement where he received a first place prize for Extemporaneous Speaking.
Just studied under the Classical Courses while at KUA. It was not until he entered Dartmouth College and took a science course, that it became evident that that would be where his future lay. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Dartmouth in 1907.
Next time: Theatre in early 19th century KUA