Ralph Brown Draughon was born in 1899 in Hartford, Ala. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Alabama Polytechnic Institute and was a teacher and administrator in the Alabama public school system until 1931, when he returned to his alma mater as an assistant professor of history and political science.
Draughon also served as executive secretary to the president and secretary of the API board of trustees from 1937 until 1944, when President Luther Duncan appointed Draughon as director of instruction.
After Duncan’s death in 1947, the board named Draughon acting president, and a year later he became the president of API.
In Draughon’s 17-year tenure as president—he retired from the position in 1965—the campus underwent major changes, including the renaming of API as Auburn University in 1960.
“There was a big boom in higher education, not only in Auburn, but nationwide,” said Dwayne Cox, University archivist, “and he presided over that time period at Auburn.”
In 1947 API formed a separate athletics department, published its first graduate catalog, hired 75 instructors and added 12,000 volumes to Carnegie Library.
In December 1960 the University began construction of a major library to replace Carnegie, then located in Mary Martin Hall. Completed in 1963, the 172,000-square-foot building could hold 1 million volumes and provided seating for 1,200.
In 1965 it was named after the president who pushed for its construction.
RBD’s renovation and expansion began in 1988 under President James E. Martin. The groundbreaking ceremony for the addition was attended by Draughon’s son, Ralph Draughon Jr., who said that his father “loved books … More than anything, my father wanted Auburn to have adequate facilities for its library.”
The addition increased the floorspace to 380,000 square feet, the capacity to 2.5 million volumes and seating to 2,000. The project also included a 345-car parking deck.
Also during the Draughon administration, 50 buildings were erected, on-campus housing doubled, 16 doctoral programs were initiated and the University received SACS accreditation, according to “The Post-War Years: Ralph Brown Draughon” by Martin T. Olliff.
It was said when Draughon retired that “he inherited a polytechnic institute and he left his successor a University.”