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Discussions about establishing a church-sponsored school in Union County began as early as 1876 at the yearly meeting of the Brown Creek Union Baptist Association. The Civil War had led to the closure of the free common schools in the area and virtually no public school had reopened. In 1895 the Association passed a resolution authorizing the establishment of a school for the higher education of young men and women of the county and in the Association. The land for the school was selected for its close proximity to water, to the railroad, and to Meadow Branch Baptist Church, which figured prominently into the school’s establishment. G. M. Stewart donated ten acres of land for the site. The school opened in August 1896 and was named “The Wingate School” in memory of Dr. Washington Manley Wingate, the former president of Wake Forest College. Marcus Baxter Dry became the school’s first principal. The North Carolina General Assembly formally chartered the school in 1897.
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By 1919 the Wingate School was facing competition from six free public schools in the area, so the school discontinued its first six grades and focused on being a competitive denominational high school. In 1923 the Wingate School became Wingate Junior College, Incorporated. At that point the State Baptist Convention took over responsibility of the school from the Union Association. Amidst the financial struggles of the Great Depression, on April 23, 1932, the Administration Building that housed all the classrooms, library, auditorium, society hall, and administrative offices, burned. Despite serious financial straits, the college remained opened and the building was replaced.
In 1977 Wingate Junior College became Wingate College, a four year liberal arts institution and, in 1995, it became Wingate University. Wingate has grown from a 10-acre campus to a 390–acre campus with 30 buildings. Its 1,600 students are offered a curriculum including thirty five different majors. The university continues to be affiliated with the North Carolina Baptist State Convention.
Sylvia Pierce Little-Sweat, The Chalk Dust Chronicle (1997)
William S. Powell, Higher Education in North Carolina (1964)
Wingate University Website: http://www.wingate.edu/about/default.asp