Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Speech Communication


This dissertation analyzes eight ceremonial speeches delivered between 1880 and 1899 by William Preston Johnston, Southern educational leader. Emphasis is placed on the contexts in which he spoke, the strategy he employed, the various forms of support he used to amplify his messages, and the degree of his effectiveness. Realizing that the South needed to implement universal education, Johnston helped to launch the early educational awakening in his region. Speaking on behalf of the movement, Johnston displayed certain features. First, he demonstrated a "rhetoric of optimism," stressing the New South creed. Second, he employed a strategy for prompting change, beginning with the arousal of educators, followed by the involvement of the general public, finally producing a groundswell of indignation which initiated legislative reform. Third, when verbalizing his strategy, he applied Whately's rhetorical principles and the "think-the-thought" approach to delivery. Fourth, though supporting education for all races, he believed in white supremacy and racial separation. Perceived as a man of good character, he exuded trustworthiness, which influenced public opinion and produced beneficial changes in the South's educational status during the late nineteenth century.