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Presidents of Virginia Tech

John McLaren McBryde

July 1, 1891-September 1, 1907

John McLaren McBryde. --- Fifth president, 1891-1907. Born Jan. 1, 1841, in Abbeville, S.C., of Scotch immigrant parents. Entered sophomore class at South Carolina College in 1858 (17 years old). From there, entered University of Virginia, where he was at outbreak of Civil War. In January, 1861, returned to Abbeville and joined a Confederate volunteer company. Saw opening shot of bombardment of Fort Sumter, S.C., from Fort Johnson. Volunteered for service in Virginia. Served in cavalry; contracted typhus. Upon recovery, entered Confederate States' Treasury Department at Richmond. T wo months later was assigned to War Tax Office, where he was later made a division chief. At close of war, farmed in Buckingham County, Va., until 1867, when he moved to 1,000-acre farm near Charlottesville and took an active part in organizing a Farmers' Club. Published many scientific articles, leading to an appointment as professor of agriculture and botany at the University of Tennessee. Was offered a chair at the reorganized South Carolina College. Two days after his arrival at South Carolina, was elected chairman of the faculty. In May, 1883, was elected president of South Carolina College. Declined offers to direct Texas Experiment Station in 1886 and to become president of the University of Tennessee in 1887. Succeeded in raising standards at South Carolina, which became a university in 1887. During state political disturbances in 1891, agricultural work was taken away from South Carolina and transferred to Clemson, and the University reverted to a college. McBryde, greatly disturbed, decided to accept an offer in 1891 to become president of Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College. He declined later offers to become assistant secretary of agriculture under President Cleveland, to become president of the University of Virginia, and to become president of Sweet Briar Institute. He retired in Blacksburg in 1907 and devoted time to research and writing botanical articles. He was named first "President Emeritus" of V.P.I., in 1907 and received V.P.I.'s first honorary degree (Doctor of Science) in 1907. He died at age 82 on March 20, 1923, while visiting his son in New Orleans, La.

Source: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Historical Data Book: Centennial Editon, ed.Jenkins Mikell Robertson, Bulletin of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, vol. 65, no. 4, 69-70.
Inventory of the papers of President John McLaren McBryde
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Last updated April 26, 2010