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Men of mark in Virginia, ideals of American life; a collection of biographies of the leading men in the state (Volume 1) online

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Men of Mark in Virginia

Ideals of American Life

A Collection of Biographies of the
Leading Men in the State


President William and Mary College


Illustrated with many Full Page Photo-Steel Engravings


Washington, D. C.




Copyright, lgo6

Men of Mark Publishing Company




PROF. E. C. GLASS Lynchburg

City Superintendent of Schools


Chairman Virginia State Library Board ; Late Rector University of Virginia

S. H. HANSBROUGH Winchester

President Shenandoah Valley National Bank



HON. J. T. LAWLESS Norfolk

Ex-Secretary of the Commonwealth


President Roanoke College

S. S. P. PATTESON Richmond


JAMES G. PENN Danville

President Commercial Bank


Judge Circuit Court



HON. J. HOGE TYLER East Radford

Ex- Governor

LYON G. TYLER, LL. D Williamsburg

President William and Maty College


In so far as history is chiefly an account of the deeds of
prominent and leading men, biography is its natural handmaid
and companion. Sometimes measures, critical in their effect
upon history, have turned upon mere ties of relationship; some-
times upon hereditary traits ; sometimes upon a question of birth ;
and often upon environment and local associations. No other
State in the Union has furnished greater men, or has had in the
annals of modern times a more distinguished part than has the
Commonwealth of Virginia. In the opinion of many she was the
most influential State of the Union in the American Revolution,
and for half a century succeeding ; she was certainly the leading
State of the Southern Confederacy in the War between the States.
Yet hardly in any other country have the wants of the public
been less liberally met, hitherto, in the matter of biographies.

The design of the present work is to afford a comprehensive
list of biographies of the men who now represent the intelli-
gence and energy of Virginia. Suppose that for each generation
in the past history of Virginia such a series of books as this plan
contemplates, had been published; what a magnificent fund of
information would have been provided for the historian ! How
the dark places in our history would have been lighted up !
Accuracy of statement would have supplanted the numerous and
absurd legends and myths which too often have obstructed the
avenues of truth !

Works like the present are liable to three faults: that of
giving undue prominence to insignificant names; that of over-
looking some men of high repute ; and lack of wise proportion in
selecting adequately from the different fields of human enterprise.
It is difficult to avoid such faults ; and the editor has no idea that
this work is entirely free from them. Conscientious effort has
been made, however, to reduce to a minimum these faults.

Much of the difficulty in preparing these biographies is found
in the lack of accurate information as to personal statistics.
Some very eminent persons are parsimonious of detail, seeming


to assume that their deeds and proceedings are known of all men.
There are some who will not answer the questions to which
replies from them are necessary, if biographies are to be accurate
in presenting facts and interesting in emphasizing essentials.
Perhaps such people may be divided into three classes : the very
busy people who postpone an answer till they shall be less busy
a date which never comes ; the over-modest people, to whom it is
really distasteful to appear in print; the very conceited people
who gratify their instincts of self-applause by declaring them-
selves "unworthy of a place" in a list of biographies entitled
" Men of Mark." But for the cordial cooperation which has been
so generously accorded us in securing material for this work, we
are grateful.

Several instances may be cited of the value of a knowledge of
personal statistics such as are given in these biographies. When
Dr. E. D. Neill, in 1884, wrote his excellent work entitled
" Virginia Vetusta," it was known that John Rolfe married three
times. His first wife was a lady whom he had married in Eng-
land before he sailed for Virginia ; his second wife was Pocahon-
tas, who was converted to the Christian faith and baptized under
the name of Rebecca; his third wife, who survived him, was
Jane, daughter of William Peirce, Captain of the guard at James-
town. His son by Pocahontas was Thomas Rolfe, who had a
daughter named Jane. Why was she not named Pocahontas or
Rebecca? Dr. Neill was inclined to believe that Thomas Rolfe
named his child Jane, because he was the son of Jane Peirce, the
third wife of John Rolfe. Now had Dr. Neill known the fact
(which is abundantly proved by the wills on record in the clerk's
office of the old eastern counties of Virginia) that it was a
custom of our ancestors to name the eldest daughter after the
step-grandmother ', he might not have put himself on record as
favoring the view which he advocated.

In Bacon's Rebellion, several members of the council, who
were attached to Governor Berkeley by very close official ties,
gave their support to the young rebel. Among them Hon.
Thomas Swann was perhaps the most conspicuous. The explana-
tion is simple enough, when it is learned that Swann's son,
Samuel Swann, afterwards speaker of the North Carolina


assembly, married Sarah, daughter of William Drummond, one
of Bacon's most prominent adherents. Everything about George
"Washington, the Father of his Country, is interesting to the
American people, and volumes have been written about the
Washington family. But no one has sought to explain how he
came to be named George, although that name does not occur
anywhere among his ancestors of the Washington name. Yet
there can be no doubt that it was conferred upon him to preserve
the memory of his descent from Col. George Keade, Secretary of
State, a character in our history of whom until twenty years ago
little was known.

In this collection of biographies, emphasis is laid upon the
principles, methods and habits which have contributed most to
success. This is a feature which distinguishes this work from
those in some respects like it. A due regard to the experience of
the men whose biographical sketches are now published, suggests
valuable thoughts concerning the strengthening of sound ideals
in American life. These sketches certainly show that persistency
in effort directed to a single end, is the most important of all the
elements entering into a successful career. This was eminentl} 7
true of the great Virginians who have figured in history; and
indeed it is true of all great men everywhere. Nothing was so
characteristic of Washington as the one high purpose which he
cherished and in which he succeeded that of freeing his country
from British oppression.

The second principle which it is hoped these sketches illus-
trate is the value of a clean life. Avoidance of bad habits, of
profane language, and of evil associations, and the consecration
of mind and soul to clean, pure and open methods of action and
thought, are promotive of success, not only from the Christian
standpoint, but from the point of view of business, and in all
professional pursuits. It has been the purpose of the Advisory
Board and of the publishers to have these volumes contain the
names and lives of such Virginians only as may be characterized
as clean men, whose word is as good as their bond, and who only
know graft, the taint of modern life, as a thing sternly to be
denounced and avoided.

The old-fashioned virtues of industry and economy have lost


none of their force, we believe, with these modern Virginians;
and the line is sharply drawn between these virtues and that
niggardliness of spirit which blunts the intellect and benumbs
the warmer instincts of the soul.

Finally it is clearly shown from the examples of human
energy here described, that the career of this grand old Com-
monwealth of Virginia is not a closed book. Its present aspect
is one of hope; and the breeze that blows from the future to
which all eyes are directed is crisp and fresh, and instinct with
the spirit of new victories and new triumphs in all the wide range
of human activities. No State is more blessed with natural
advantages than is Virginia; for nowhere are the rivers more
numerous or broad, the valleys more beautiful, or the climate
more generous or equable ; and it is only necessary that the men
of the coming generation shall not fall behind the ideals of the
men of the present generation, who by their self-sacrifice in
youth, and their resolute faith and effort in later manhood, have
raised the Commonwealth from the dust in which she was left
exhausted by war, and have won for themselves personally com-
fortable homes, competent estates, and in many cases extended
fame and reputation.

It is hoped that the names which appear in this first volume
will commend themselves to the public. The selection has been
made by the editor with the concurrence of the Advisory Board
and the Men of Mark Publishing Company. It should be said,
however, that biographies of the editor, and of several members
of the Advisory Board, are included, not by their own vote and
approval, but in deference to the suggestion and the urgent desire

of the publishers.


December 5, 1906.




* L


SWANSON, CLAUDE AUGUSTUS, was born March 31,
1862, in the town of Swansonville, Pittsylvania county,
and his parents were John Muse Swanson and Catherine
Pritchett. His father was a highly respected merchant and
manufacturer of tobacco in Pittsylvania county, who suffered a
reverse and lost all his property in the panic of 1876. The
subject of this sketch was put early to school and made steady
progress, but the misfortune which involved his father compelled
him to suspend his education at fourteen years of age and go to
work on the farm. With a majority of men such a set-back would
have been decidedly discouraging, but to an ambitious and
determined spirit like Claude Swanson's it proved a fortunate
circumstance. He worked two years on the farm, and this served
to teach him that the rewards of life were only to be found in
hard labor.

While tilling the ground, he read the story of Warren
Hastings, whose successful efforts in winning money and fame
under the burning suns of India filled Swanson's young brain
with dreams of honor and distinction, and the very obstacles in
his way served to stimulate his ambition. He put his spare time
on his books, and at the age of sixteen undertook to teach school ;
and after two years saved enough money to pay his way for two
sessions at the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical college at
Blacksburg. He had then to go to work again and clerked in a
grocery store at Danville two years, and while so engaged four
prominent men of that city, one a leading lawyer, and the other
three worthy tobacco manufacturers, seeing that there was some-
thing in the young man, a future before him with the assistance
of a helping hand, went to him, and voluntarily offered to lend
the requisite money to complete his education and equip him for
the practice of law. After much hesitation, he accepted this offer,
and gave the gentlemen his individual notes for the amounts
advanced by them, respectively, declining their generous offer to
make it a free gift. With this money he went for three years to

Vol. 1 Va. 1


Randolph-Macon college, taking the degree of A. B., the Suth-
crlin medal for oratory, and the debater's medal in the
Washington Literary society. While at this college he edited
the " Hanover and Caroline News," the organ of the Democratic
party for those counties, and thus at that early period actively
espoused the principles and the practical work of the party to
which he has given a life-long loyalty and devotion. In 1886, he
attended the University of Virginia, and took the degree of
Bachelor of Law, accomplishing in one year the two years course
at that famous institution. On his return home he entered upon
the practice of his profession at Chatham, Pittsylvania county,
and in two years his business enabled him to return every dollar
of the money lent him by his generous benefactors. In 1892, less
than six years after he had left college, he was nominated for
congress over many competitors, was elected, and has since been
without opposition nominated and elected for six terms. In
1901, he made a vigorous campaign for the gubernatorial nomina-
tion, but was defeated in the convention at Norfolk by A. J.
Montague. He took his defeat quietly, and instead of sulking
like Achilles in his tent went into the canvass, and made more
speeches than any other man in the state. Such manly methods
won to him thousands of friends, and when, in 1905, the first trial
was made of a popular primary for the nomination of governor,
he easily won the coveted prize by a large vote over two of the
most worthy men in Virginia William Hodges Mann and
Joseph E. Willard.

The fruits of Mr. Swanson's services to the state are, of
course, chiefly to be found so far in his labors in congress, of
which he was so long a member. His committee assignments
were equal to those of any other congressman. For ten years he
was a member of the Post Office and Post Roads committee,
which has absolute control of all postal affairs, and for eight
years a member of the Ways and Means committee, which is the
leading and most important committee of the house of repre-
sentatives and has charge of all measures appertaining to the
revenues of the country.

On the Post Office committee he was for a long time the
ranking Democrat, and while on this committee he interested
himself especially in procuring appropriations for rural delivery.


The first appropriation ever voted for this purpose was made
while Mr. Swanson was a member of this committee. When an
effort was made in congress to put the rural delivery service under
contract like the star route service, which would have resulted in
its destruction, Mr. Swanson led the fight to have the service
conducted as now with carriers. In that contest, which lasted
two weeks in the house of representatives, he had charge of the
debate on the measure and was antagonizd by all the members of
the Post Office and Post Eoads committee except one, and by most
of the leaders on both the Republican and Democratic sides.
Mr. Swanson won a signal victory and defeated the efforts to thus
revolutionize and destroy the rural delivery. In the Ways and
Means committee Mr. Swanson made himself equally useful.
In regard to the tariff bills, Mr. Swanson always advocated the
views of the Democratic party, favoring tariff for revenue only.
He took a very active interest in the passage of the bill for
reciprocity with Cuba and for free trade between the United
States and Porto Rico and the Philippine Islands. During the
session of 1904, in a speech on Cuban reciprocity, which was
much commented on and complimented at the time, he pointed
out the great dangers which threatened our immense foreign
trade from the exorbitant rates of the Dingley bill. In this
speech he foretold that other nations would certainly retaliate in
kind, and the present high tariffs of Germany and many other
countries fully sustain this view and prophecy.

Among many speeches made by him in congress the following
may be mentioned speech favoring the passage of the Wilson
tariff bill; speech advocating a reform of our currency system
and permission to banks to issue currency upon assets ; speech on
the repeal of the supervision of elections by Federal authority;
speech on the enactment of Federal legislation to prevent the
growth and creation of trusts and monopolies ; speech against the
passage of the Dingley tariff bill; speech earnestly supporting
the cause of the Cubans and favoring a declaration of war against
Spain; speech on the acquisition of the Philippine Islands.

To conclude this account of Mr. Swanson's political services
it may be said that the element in his nature which has con-
tributed to his success, in a degree secondary only to his own
native ability, is the remarkable enthusiasm with which he


addresses himself to every subject. This enthusiasm, tempered as it
is with good nature and ability to stand the hardest kind of labor,
has made him almost irresistible. There are some who predict
for him honors even higher than those he has attained, and these
look confidently forward to his filling a seat in the senate of the
United States. Mr. Swanson is of a sociable disposition, and is a
member of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity, of the Masonic
society, of the Elks and of the Odd Fellows, and is fond of
fishing, hunting and horseback riding. In religious preference
he is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and
in politics he has never swerved from the Democratic faith. He
is a great reader and has found much help in books, especially in
books of history and biography.

He married Lizzie Deane Lyons. December 11, 1894. but has
no children.

His postoffice address is Richmond. Virginia.







JOHNSTON, GEORGE BEN, distinguished surgeon and
educator, was born at the town of Tazewell, Virginia, July
25, 1853. His father was John Warfield Johnston, who was
United States senator from Virginia for three terms. His mother
was Nicketti Buchanan Floyd, a daughter of Governor John B.
Floyd, of Virginia.

Doctor Johnston comes of a long line of worthy ancestors
who have, from time to time in the last two hundred years, served
their state with loyalty and distinction. His childhood days were
passed in a Virginia village, where he grew up surrounded by all
the refining influences of a noble home and at the same time was
afforded all the opportunities that a country boy could have for
roaming the fields and engaging at will in manual labor to the
improvement of his physique. At this period he seemed fonder
of the fields than of his books, and thus happily laid up a store of
sturdy energy that was at a later day to be so well used in his
strenuous labor for his fellow-men. His education was obtained
at Abingdon academy, at Saint Vincents' college, Wheeling, West
Virginia, at the University of Virginia, and at the University of
New York where he won the degree of M. D. in 1876. He has
also received the degree of LL. D. from Saint Francis Xavier
college of New York city.

Doctor Johnston has been twice married, his first wife being
Miss Mary McClung, of Texas, who lived only a few months after
her marriage. On November 12, 1892, he was married to Miss
Helen Coles Rutherfoord, of " Rock Castle," a well known estate
on (he upper James river. Of this union there are four children.
all daughters.

It was the desire of Doctor Johnston's father that he should
study law, but the son's taste seemed to turn instinctively to the
medical profession. His career as a Doctor of Medicine was
commenced at Abingdon, Virginia, in 1876, but the capital city of
his native state soon claimed him and it was in Richmond that his
great life work was inaugurated. Here also he has for twelve


years, as professor of surgery in the Medical college of Virginia,
had the privilege of sharing the benefit of his rare gift and
experience with the young men of the South who have been so
fortunate as to receive his instruction. In Richmond too, he has
seen the Memorial hospital evolved by his efforts, assisted by
those of Mr. John L. Williams, the well known banker.

Doctor Johnston has been the recipient of many honors, pro-
fessional and otherwise. He is a fellow and ex-president of the
Medical Society of Virginia; a member and ex-president of the
Eichmond Academy of Medicine and Surgery; a founder and
ex-president of the Southern Surgical and Gynecological society,
and honorary member of the Medical society of South Carolina ;
a fellow of the International Surgical society; a member of the
American Medical association; an honorary member of the
Tazewell county Medical association ; an honorary member of the
Southwest Virginia Medical association ; an honorary member of
the East Tennessee Medical association ; sometime surgeon to the
1st Virginia brigade of vounteers; surgeon to the 1st Virginia
regiment (1884-86) ; and has on two occasions been appointed to
represent the United States government in the International
Medical congress at Geneva and Brussels. In 1904, he was elected
president of the American Surgical association, thus receiving
the highest recognition that can come to a surgeon in the United

Although he is an exceedingly busy man and has little time
for pleasure of a social nature, yet Doctor Johnston is a member
of many organizations which he is so well fitted to adorn by the
traits of intellect and of manner that are his. He is president of
the Virginia Society of the Sons of the Revolution, a member and
vice-president of the Society of the Cincinnati, and a member of
the Phi Beta Kappa society, of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and
of the Westmoreland club, at Richmond.

In politics Doctor Johnston has always been a Democrat. In
religious affiliation he is a Roman Catholic.

Doctor Johnston was recently (autumn 1905) the recipient
of an invitation of a pressing nature to devote his time and talent
to the University of Virginia, but he has not been willing to sever
hia professional connections in Richmond.

Hard work, together with natural talent and strong character


have combined to place Doctor Johnston at a point in his
profession that is rarely attained even by the aged and that
is unusual indeed for one of middle age. He has himself said
that he considered " fixedness of purpose " as the quality surest to
bring success when coupled with morality and honesty. His
home in Richmond has for years been a meeting place for the
cultured and the gracious and many distinguished visitors have
from time to time been his fortunate guests. In reputation as a
surgeon he has only one or two rivals in the state.
His address is Richmond, Virginia.


ALDERMAN, EDWIN A., was born at Wilmington, North
Carolina, May 15, 1861, and he is the son of James
Alderman and Susan Corbett. His ancestors were pros-
perous Scotch and English emigrants of good birth and good
character, who came to America about 1740. His father was a
lumber merchant characterized by dignity, integrity, and quiet
strength of purpose and action. His mother exerted a very
strong influence upon his intellectual and moral life, being a
constant stimulant, by precept and example, to his success in life.
The subject of this sketch passed his early life in Wilmington,
a city of about fifteen thousand inhabitants, and acquired a
polish of manner suggestive of city life and constant association
with persons of refined and cultivated habits. He had no special
difficulties to overcome in obtaining an education as he was for-
tunate in reaching manhood, when the worst of reconstruction
was over. He was a voracious reader, even in childhood, and has
been greatly aided in his self imposed studies by an excellent
memory which enables him to use what he has read. In 1870, he
entered Bethel Military academy, Virginia, and stayed two
sessions. In 1882, lie took the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy
at the University of North Carolina, making a specialty of Latin.
On leaving college he immediately entered upon his chosen work
of teaching, and began the active work of life as principal of the
high school at Goldsboro, North Carolina. From 1885 to 1889,
he was superintendent of the city schools of Goldsboro, North
Carolina, from 1889 to 1892 he was state institute instructor.
During his period of service as state institute conductor he was
largely instrumental in inaugurating the great crusade for popu-
lar education which has not only changed the face of affairs in
North Carolina, but has swept over the entire South. As a
member of the Southern Education Board and one of its chiefest

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Online LibraryLyon Gardiner TylerMen of mark in Virginia, ideals of American life; a collection of biographies of the leading men in the state (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 23)