Accountancy’s Ambassador to the World

In memoriam: S. Paul Garner: Accountancy’s Ambassador to the World

Previts, Gary John

Abstract. Samuel Paul Garner spent nearly seven decades, as a student, professor, administrator, leader and visionary, enhancing the understanding and development of our academic community. Born in 1910, he studied at Duke University, then briefly as a non degree student at Columbia before teaching and then entering the Ph.D. program at the University of Texas at Austin. At Texas, under the direction of George Hillis Newlove, he focused upon accounting. His interest in history had been kindled by a noted economic historian Earl J. Hamilton, under whom Garner had studied at Duke. His first post doctoral appointment would be his lifelong assignment, as a member of the faculty of what is now the Culverhouse School of Accountancy at the University of Alabama. Starting in 1939 he served as a faculty member, next as department chair, and then for seventeen years, from 1954 to 1971, as dean of the College of Business. His career achievements are many and include being the only person to serve as President of both the American Accounting Association [1951] and the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business [1964-65]. His post-retirement activities identified with the quarter century from 1971 through 1996 permitted members of subsequent generations to benefit from his knowledge and counsel. Garner’s work as a scholar, a historian, an institutional developer and a visionary-especially in the area of international relations, are told in this paper. A special appendix, which contains the last known curriculum vita prepared by Garner, is also provided.

Si Monumentum – Requires Circumspice/If You Seek His Monument, Look Around You.

Paul Garner died October 16, 1996, at the age of 86. In this paper, we present some of his many achievements. However, this is but a “glimpse” of the accomplishments of this remarkable human being. Paul was perhaps the last of the leaders of an age when the academic and professional community were driven to new levels of size and activity during the economic expansion of the post World War II period. Garner worked with and knew well the individuals who comprise a list of Accounting Hall of Fame members, including William Paton, Carman Blough, Eric Kohler and David Solomons. His involvements spanned the six decades following his doctoral work at the University of Texas, which was completed in 1940. Although he “retired” in 1971, he enjoyed good health most all of his life, and he remained a presence in events, including the Accounting Historians Seventh World Congress in Kingston, Ontario in August 1996 and being in attendance at research seminars and Ph.D. student presentations until shortly before the brief hospitalization which preceded his death.

This paper is presented in six sections. The first provides a biographical review, followed by a section which profiles Garner’s view of scholarship. The third and fourth sections consider his research and institutional contributions. The final two sections address his international activities and role and his legacy of wisdom. An appendix is also provided which reproduces curriculum vita, believed to the last one completed by Gamer. It contains many details which are beyond the scope of the text of this paper.


Paul Garner was born August 15, 1910, in Yadkinville, North Carolina to a family of moderate means, a factor that proved repeatedly important in shaping his life. He was the oldest of seven children and fond of telling stories about these times and the lengthy walks required to get to school, or to anywhere for that matter. His younger brother Thad, [who died in 1997], with whom Paul was very close, and advised, became a local business legend in the Carolinas for making “Texas Pete Hot Sauce” which is one of the best selling products of is kind in the nation.

Garner did undergraduate study in the field of economics at Duke University where he had earned a scholarship. He tutored football players, waited tables and worked in the library and during the summer, drove a cab for his father who owned a taxi business, so as to pay part of the cost of his college education. He even managed to save. From his savings, Paul paid for a graduation trip to Europe in the summer of 1932. This six week trip was the prelude to his becoming a famous global traveler and the “ambassador” of academic accountancy from the U.S. Paul returned to Duke and, in 1934, earned a Master’s degree in economics. With the support of Dr. Earl J. Hamilton, a graduate of Mississippi State University, under whom Garner had first studied business history at Duke, Paul was hired to teach at Mississippi State for two years, 1935-37. Among the five courses he taught each semester were several courses in accounting. He became aware that accounting professors were relatively better paid than those in economics. Realizing that a doctorate in accounting would provide him a better return, he decided to specialize his advance studies in the accounting discipline. Garner entered the University of Texas in the Fall of 1937 to pursue the Ph.D. Working under the direction of, and with materials available from George Hillis Newlove, he completed a dissertation, Evolution of Cost Accounting to 1925, in 1940.

Prior to defending this dissertation, he chose his most rewarding offer, of an appointment at the University of Alabama, in 1939. He and his wife, Ruth Bailey Garner, who he had married in 1934, and later traveled the world with and had three children by, settled in to make Tuscaloosa their home. At the University, he achieved full professorship in 1943 and became department chair in 1949. In 1954, Dean Lee Bidgood, who served 35 years in that office, retired and Paul succeeded him as dean where he would serve until his retirement at age 60 in 1971.


Perhaps the quality which was universally attributed to Paul Garner by all who knew him well was that he was a gentle man, the truest gentleman. His presence at conferences and seminars constantly reminded all of gentile consideration and behavior of a time gone by. Paul was always constructive in his comments at seminars, glowing in his praise when he heard a new idea, supportive of scholarly efforts irrespective of direction, conclusion or paradigm. He was genuinely interested in all areas of accounting and he read widely to support his ability to understand issues. Above all, Paul continuously, but gently, sought to keep research presentations focused on the application to current, practical problems facing accounting. In Paul’s world, it was not scholarly to demean another’s work as a tactic in attacking a different paradigm. His world of scholarship involved growth, expansion, new ideas and new insight and breadth of understanding and knowledge. In this world, no person and no research was omniscient. No one possessed all the answers to a particular question. Research was exciting because of its promise of discovery. In this sense, his pursuit of knowledge was a lifelong scholarly endeavor.


Paul Garner published over forty scholarly papers which appeared in a variety of languages from 1940 to 1980. Several of these papers were published in the Accounting Review [TAR]. The subject matter included historical and biographical topics, papers on accounting education and papers on practice issues such as cost accounting for government contracts.

His last major publication activity was to serve as co-editor with Atsuo Tsuji for the Greenwood Publishing volume Studies in Accounting History-Tradition and Innovation for the Twenty-First Century, which appeared in 1995. A reviewer, writing in the July 1996 volume of the CPA Journal, observed that while “reading this book one is reminded that some of these situations have occurred in other countries over an expansive period of time.” In this regard, the volume had served its purpose to provide perspective for today’s practitioner!

In addition to this extensive variety of publication, Paul served as originating editor of the “Teacher’s Clinic” a popular section of TAR, from 1947-1950.

Paul’s most notable contribution to the literature of our discipline stemmed from his dissertation. With the support of his mentor, Newlove, Garner revised and updated the doctoral project and published it in 1954. Evolution of Cost Accounting to 1925 has been reprinted in paperback and hardback and has consistently been used by scholars into a third generation. It has been translated and published in Japan [1954] with a version in Chinese [1989] as well. In 1996, with the support of The Academy of Accounting Historians and an alumnus of the University of Alabama, Garner gave permission for the book to be “published” it is entirety on the Academy’s website, without any fees or charges to be assessed. It was to be his final legacy. The work appeared in full text in June 1996. It is now available instantaneously around the world; the first accounting book known to be so published. In this way, Paul Garner was the visual, living and symbolic link between classic accounting theorists such as William Paton and A.C. Littleton and cyberspace. A. C. Littleton’s comprehensive tome Accounting Evolution to 1900, first published in 1933, provided both a guide and a challenge to Garner. Littleton’s work was recognized and acclaimed, but seemingly overlooked cost-managerial accounting’s role in the development of industrial capital market accounting. Paul undertook his research project with materials provided by Newlove during this early period of academic historical research development in the United States. Garner meticulously traced numerous examples of cost accounting for labor and materials in job cost systems in the 14th through 16th Centuries in Europe and thereby established the “provenance” of what was becoming known as management accounting. He observed that these early cost techniques were not widespread, perhaps due to secrecy as required in the business, for such techniques were valuable to managing complex enterprises. He also observed that, despite evidence of books published on financial accounting for trade and agriculture, no texts on cost accounting appear until the mid-Nineteenth Century, thus limiting the dispersion of cost practices. Cost accounting during the Renaissance arose, Garner noted, because “owners of small central workshops found themselves competing now not only against guilds, but also among themselves” [pp. 2-3]. More accurate records of costs became necessary as a factor of success. An incentive was provided then for careful study of many phases of practice which had previously been neglected.

After examining why, where and how cost accounting was used in the centuries before the Industrial Revolution, Garner then devoted the major portion of his work to the examination of various topics in cost accounting such as overhead allocation, transfer pricing among departments, byproduct and scrap accounting. As noted above, Paul’s work was just as Littleton’s, a general history. Furthermore, Garner begins and ends his work with quotations from Littleton’s “Evolution” [ pp. 1; 349].

In addition to this major treatise, Garner’s other major writings included authorship of textbooks and teaching materials with his mentor, George Hillis Newlove and others. Elementary Cost Accounting [1941] written with Newlove and revised in 1949 was adopted by the United States Department of Defense during World War II as a basic instruction manual to train defense contractor personnel in the Educational Defense Program. Thousands of managers and engineers of companies dealing with the Defense Department learned cost accounting via the NewloveGarner book. With the revision in 1949, the text was translated into Spanish and distributed throughout Latin America by the U.S. Agency for Assistance in Development.

Another major Newlove-Garner project was a two volume advanced accounting text written in the early 1950s which received excellent reviews in TAR. [16 (Fall 1950) p. 47 for Vol. II 17 (Spring 1951) p. 60 for Vol. I]


Paul Garner will be remembered not only for his scholarship but also because he was instrumental in the development of several important institutions. Paul’s skill as a leader and visionary have benefited a wide range of organizations. This legacy will be felt into the 21st Century. His involvement, for instance, in the American Accounting Association [AAA] began in the early 1940s. Paul assisted in the 1948 founding of the Southeast Region of the AAA, including annual regional meetings. The Southeast was the AAA’s first region and served as an important example for the formation of other regions. Paul served as national president of the AAA in 1951. Under his leadership, regionalism was promoted and regions expanded. Paul visited many locations and gave support to the idea of regions, which critics argued would divide the association. One of Paul’s legacies is the success which the regions have achieved in building the service base for the AAA. Decades later, Paul also assisted in the formation of both the International and Public Interest sections of the AAA.

When the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business [AACSB] initiated an international outreach program in the mid 1960s, Paul was an influence, especially during his term as President of that organization in 1964. In the 1950s, he had begun to “invest” in his personal balance sheet by traveling to business and academic conferences throughout the world. Accompanied by his wife, Ruth, he thus came to be recognized as the unofficial ambassador of the U.S. academic accounting community. His network was supported by a “pen pal” correspondence list which numbered in the hundreds. An active correspondent, Paul’s letter’s, dictated, typed but then most often hand addressed, were a common link before the rise of e-mail. He continued this activity until immediately before his death. His worldwide contacts and his standing among not only accountants, but also business school deans and business leaders, especially in countries which were developing management education, continued to grow until the very end. His interest in international subject matter was an important catalyst in the eventual development of an accreditation rationale for the subject.

In the 1970s, Paul supported the formation of The Academy of Accounting Historians, which held its formative meeting in Quebec during the 1973 annual meeting of the American Accounting Association. Although the Academy did not become a special interest section of the AAA, it predated and modeled the special interest movement, and early Academy leaders counseled with the founders of the American Taxation Association, for example, when the latter group held its formative meetings in 1974 at the AAA meetings in New Orleans. In 1984, Garner served as founding President of the International Association for Accounting Education and Research [IAAER]. This organization presently serves as a unifying force to enhance global relations among accounting academic organizations worldwide.

Perhaps the institution which benefited the most from a long association with Paul is The University of Alabama. During his years, as enrollments grew from post World War II expansion, Paul was instrumental in preparing the foundation for the future of management education in the state through supporting program development. Student enrollment in the College of Commerce grew from a small base to more than 700 annual graduates at the time of his retirement. Graduate and undergraduate program faculty grew and, in turn, improved curriculum and performance. Under Paul’s leadership as accounting department chairman, the College’s first two Ph.D.s were awarded to Catherine Miles and Robert Seiler in 1953. Paul had actively supervised their accounting research. These were the sixth and seventh Ph.D.s granted by the University of Alabama which had begun offering Ph.D.s in selected areas only three years before. Catherine Miles was not only the first Ph.D. from the College, she was the first female at UA to earn a doctorate. In 1965, Vivian Malone Jones, the first black student to receive a degree from the University, graduated in management. Paul had played a role in opening new programs and in opening doors in other ways as well.

Soon after Paul was appointed to the faculty, he and Chester Knight, the chair of the accounting faculty, formed the CPA firm of Knight and Garner. It was the first such firm in Tuscaloosa. In his CPA capacity, Paul served as the external auditor for the city, and later, as its financial advisor over many decades as the city grew substantially in the 1970s through the 1990s. Up to the time of his death, he maintained a small tax clientele and continued to serve on boards of directors of several businesses. From this perspective, Paul made his contribution to the financial and professional infrastructure of his community, serving as a counselor, guiding new practitioners and a developing city.

During the early 1950s, Garner became involved in continuing professional education. This concept had been popularized in the literature following World War II as CPAs returned from either military or government services and required “refresher” courses. Paul led to the effort to teach the first course of this type in Alabama. He presented a course on “How to Set Fees” in Birmingham in 1954 which was subsequently used in other states across the country. Also, at about this time, following the departure from the University of Alabama of Professor Ralph Russell, one of Garner’s Ph.D. classmates, Paul “inherited” the fledgling CPA Review Course, and invited others on the faculty to participate. Fifty years and over 10,000 candidates-students later, the program continues as a hallmark of continuing education activity at the University.


At the time of his death, Paul was continuing his “pen pal” correspondence and was in active communication with scores of the individuals who were a part of his letter writing network at home and abroad. In several places, especially the Far East, his role and influence is widely recognized. Indeed it was in the Far East where Paul and Ruth first traveled extensively-continuing to “invest” in the personal balance sheet asset of professional contact development. Citizens of South America, Africa and Europe also were his neighbors. Paul, in fact, visited many of the principal countries in these regions not once, but several times. For example, South Africa alone was visited by the Garners on six separate occasions. In the 1970s, following his “official” retirement from the University, Paul would respond with interest to inquiries about a travel map in his office, a wall map of the world with pin and string routes leading from Alabama to all the parts of the world he had traveled. It was an impressive “website.”

Beginning with the six week, $500 graduation trip to Europe in 1932, to which he treated himself from savings from his college work, Paul enthusiasm for travel was unbounded. More significantly, the travel had a mission of meeting scholars, exchanging ideas and building a network. He attended innumerable world conferences in the1950’sand 1960s. In a video taped interview in 1992, Garner suggested that his desire to continue to travel and develop the international accounting community had been a reason for his decision to retire just before his sixty-first birthday in 1970. And travel he did! When someone from the U.S. visited a country and met with accounting faculty there was likely to be the question asked of the American “Do you know Paul Garner?”


Paul was as unassuming as he was courteous, almost to a fault. These personal traits will be emulated and remembered. He will be remembered for his research and his writings, for his colleagueship and mentoring, for his leadership and for his genuine hospitality. Paul’s example of fellowship, international friendship and historical scholarship will not likely be surpassed. It serves as a model to us at a time when the truly global nature of our profession is being defined and the nature of teaching and scholarship in this environment is being designed in daily exchanges on the Internet and by e-mail.

In conversation with Paul shortly before his death, one could not help but be impressed with the clarity and purpose with which he would become engaged in a discussion. There was a sense of graciousness about his commentary which might lead the unwary or pretentious to ignore the wisdom which would unfold in the short commentaries he provided. One example which comes to mind involved Paul’s concerns about the limits of human perception and ability to adapt characteristics of human nature which he had studied his entire career. Paul, appearing sincerely perplexed, observed: “It is difficult to perceived the average person grasping all the implications, on a day to day basis, of a truly global economy. And yet that is what will be required because that is what it has become.” He wondered aloud whether an individual’s ability to think in global terms…beyond regional and national boundaries… would be the principal restraint to achieving lasting global harmony.

This was the type of issue, beyond mere accounting, which Paul challenged his friends and colleagues to consider. In this manner, his sense of intellectual curiosity served to stimulate us to exercise our own capacity for thinking about the future. His investment to our discipline, our professional community and to international fellowship has provided the downpayment for future generations.


Bohting, A.A.H., “Book Review: Studies in Accounting History -Tradition and Innovation for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Atsuo Tsuji and Paul Garner,” The CPA Journal. July 1996. p. 10. Culverhouse School of Accountancy 1996 Annual Report, The University of Alabama, College of Commerce and Business Administration. 1996. pp. 34.

Garner, R.M., S. Paul Garner: A Study of Selected Contributions to the Accounting Profession. University of Arkansas Ph.D. dissertation. 1986. Garner, S. P., Evolution of Cost Accounting to 1925. University of Texas Ph.D. dissertation. 1940. Tuscaloosa AL: University of Alabama Press. 1954. Reprinted by Garland Publishing Company, 1977. Japanese edition, 1956. Chinese edition, 1989. The full text of this work, Evolution of Cost Accounting to 1925 can be found on the Internet at: weatherhead. cwu. edu/accounting/pub/garner.

Graves, O.F., ed. The Cost Heritage: Studies in Honor of S. Paul Garner. Harrisonburg VA: The Academy of Accounting Historians. 1991. Littleton, A.C., Accounting Evolution to 1900. New York: American Institute Publishing Company. 1933.

Mayer, M. and Melancon, R. The College of Commerce and Business Administration-The First 75 Years. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama. 1995.

Newlove, G.H. and Garner, S. P., Elementary Cost Accounting, New York: D.C. Heath and Company, 1941. revised edition 1949. Spanish editions Constabilidad de Costos. 1952, 1953.

Newlove, G.H. and Garner, S. P., Advanced Accounting Volume 1. 1951. and Advanced Accounting Volume 2. 1950. Boston: D.C. Heath and Company.

Newlove, G.H. and Garner, S. P. Advanced Problems Book I and Book 2 to accompany Advanced Accounting,, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Boston: D.C. Heath & Company. 1951 and 1950 respectively.

Previts, G.J. and Flesher, D.L., “Conversation with Paul Garner,” videotape. Oxford MS: Academy of Accounting Historians. September 1992.

Tsuji, A. and Garner, S.P. (eds.). Studies in Accounting History -Tradition and Innovation for the Twenty-First Century. Oxford MS: Greenwood Publishing Co. 1995.

Gary John Previts


William D. Samson


Copyright Academy of Accounting Historians Dec 1997

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