UNG Accounting Faculty Now Includes a Vangermeersh Award Winner

WIlliam Black at his desk

by Laura Beth Snipes, senior marketing major and marketing intern, Mike Cottrell College of Business

One of our very own Assistant Professors of Accounting here at University of North Georgia was recently chosen for a very prestigious award. The Vangermeersh Manuscript award, established by The Academy of Accounting Historians in 1988, is an annual manuscript award founded to encourage scholars new to the field of accounting to pursue historical research. The research can focus on any facet of accounting in a broad sense. Winners of the award receive a plaque, monetary prize and the high honor of being published in the Accounting Historians’ Journal. This year, Dr. William Black of UNG was chosen to receive the Vangermeersh Manuscript Award for his journal article – The Unintended Consequences of Tax Policy: How Mississippi’s Ad Valorem Tax Contributed to Environmental Devastation.

When Dr. Black was pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Mississippi, he was given a research paper assignment to be based on the Mississippi History Archives located in the university library. Dr. Black’s interest in this topic generated from the stories his uncle, John Batson, had told him of his family’s lumber business, Batson-Hatten Lumber Company. Although the archives on his family’s company seemed incomplete, he connected the stories and facts together by conducting interviews with his uncle and several other relatives. Although this may have been an unusual structure for an accounting history paper, Dr. Black believed that this was the most appropriate way to develop the story of his family’s company.

The award-winning article explores the unexpected consequences of tax policies. It illustrates the story of how, in the 1920’s, Randolph Batson and the Batson-Hatten Lumber company responded rationally to Mississippi’s ad valorem tax on standing timber by clear cutting vast expanses of southern Mississippi timberland, resulting in substantial environmental degradation. The story ended happily, as Randolph turned into quite the environmentalist and made major contributions towards restoring his surrounding area in the 1930s and 1940s. One of his contributions included giving land and wildlife to the establishment of DeSoto National Forest, thought of by ecologists as “one of the most important protected areas for the biological diversity of the Gulf Coast eco-region of North America.”

Dr. Black says that the article was not a cakewalk to get published. First, he submitted the article for a course grade and based on feedback, he revised the paper for hopeful publication. Then the paper was sent out for editorial review and was rejected because the content “did not have enough accounting in it.” The research paper was rejected yet again after his next submission. With the intentions to continue revising the paper, Dr. Black got caught up in developing his teaching career for several years. He was contacted years after with news that his paper on Mississippi’s ad valorem tax would be well suited for this manuscript competition in Accounting History. He dusted off his research paper—one that was unpublished, written by someone less than 7 years removed from his latest degree, and dealing with Accounting History in a very broad sense—and put it forward to the competition. Dr. Black was overwhelmed when he was notified that his family’s lumber company paper won the prestigious international competition.

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