John Preston McConnell
JOHN PRESTON McCONNELL, A. B., M. A., Ph.D. Among the leaders in the cause of education, social reform and rural betterment in the Old Dominion in recent years, Dr. John Preston McConnell, president of the State Normal School at Radford, has been recognized as one of the most active and influential. His scholarship, culture, zeal and unusual executive ability have been devoted to the development of the moral, intellectual and material resources of the state and the nation.
Doctor McConnell is of Scotch-Irish extraction. His ancestors settled during the close of the Revolutionary period near Philadelphia and in adjacent counties of Pennsylvania, whence they migrated to Virginia: Doctor McConnell was born at Mack, in Scott County, Virginia, February 22, 1866, a son of Hiram K. and Ginscy F. (Brickey) McConnell, a grandson of Joab Watson McConnell, and a great-grandson of George McConnell. George McConnell came from Pennsylvania to Virginia about 1800 and acquired a large body of land in Scott County, where he subsequently became a man of great influence. His wife, Susanna (Snaveley) McConnell, was born. in Pennsylvania and died in Scott County, Virginia. Their son, Joab Watson McConnell, spent practically his entire life in Scott County, dying there in 1881. Ile was a farmer, like his father, and a leading citizen of his community. His wife, Rebecca (Kilgore:) McConnell, wits a native of Scott County, and died there when their son, Hirran Kilgore, was about ten years old.
Hiram K. McConnell was born Nickelsville, Scott County, Virginia, July 25, 7838, and has spent his long and busy life in the vicinity of Mack, where he still overlooks the operation of his large farm. He is a veteran of the war between the states, having served in the Confederate army as a first lieutenant, from 1861 until 1865. For half a century lie has been active in community and county affairs, having held various offices most of the time. He is a member of the Free Will Baptist Church and in political life has always been a democrat. In early manhood he married Ginsey E. Brickey, who was born at Fort Blackmore, Scott County, February 20, 1840, and died at Mack, Virginia, in December, 1920. Of their family of seven children, all survive except the youngest, Steven Patten, who died in infancy. The first born was John Preston. Two sons, Robert Watson and Hiram Kilgore, are graduates of the Louisville Medical College, and are actively engaged in the practice of medicine. Another son, Henry Madison, is a graduate of the National University, Lebanon, Ohio, and is engaged in the practice of law in Oklahoma. One daughter, Rebecca Lucy, is the wife of Otto Lubker, a contractor at Grand Junction, Colorado. Another daughter, Victoria E., is the wife of Nathan Carter, a farmer at Fort Blackmore.
John Preston McConnell received his elementary education in the public schools of Scott County, and his secondary education in a private academy, the Riverview Seminary. He then entered Milligan College, in Tennessee, from which institution he was graduated in the class of 1890, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts, with first honors of his class. He later received the degree of Master of Arts from this institution. He became an instructor in this college and later became professor of Latin and Greek in that institution, in which capacity he served until 1900. During 1895-6 he was acting president of the college.
Upon retiring from Milligan College, Doctor McConnell entered the University of Virginia as a graduate student, where he continued until 1904, specializing in history, economics and English literature, and was graduated with the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. He then became identified with Emory and Henry College, as professor of history and economics. When he resigned nine years later he was dean of the college. In the meanwhile, on October 2, 1911, Doctor McConnell was elected president of the State Normal School at Radford, Virginia, of which institution he has had active charge since June, 1913. His work in this connection is well known, and the history of the growth of this institution in numbers, material resources and influence is a remarkable chapter of achievement. The institution opened its doors to students in September, 1913, and has in ten years become one of the leading higher educational institutions of the state.
Doctor McConnell was president of the Virginia State Teachers’ Association during 1911-12. He is president of the Virginia Society for the Study of Education; president of the Southern Educational Society, covering all the Southern States, since 1919; and since 1922 has been president of the Southern Cooperative League for Education and Social Service. In 1913 Doctor McConnell was made an honorary member of the Phi Beta Kappa Greek letter fraternity by William and Mary College, and in 1915 was the recipient of the same honor from the University of Virginia. While a student in the University he was one of the charter members of the Raven Society.
Doctor McConnell is the author of “Negroes and Their Treatment in Virginia,” “The History of Virginia Since 1865 in the South in the Building of the Nation.” He is also one of the contributors in the Library of Southern Literature. He is author of many published lectures and addresses on various subjects.
During the World war Doctor McConnell’s three sons were soldiers, and he dedicated his own services in many capacities. He had charge of the War Savings campaigns for Montgomery County, and was chairman of the Junior Red Cross work for the State of Virginia, and at present is a member of the War History Commission of Virginia, appointed by the Governor.
At Milligan, Tennessee, May 21, 1891, Doctor McConnell married Miss Clara Louisa Lucas, a graduate of Milligan College with the degree of Bachelor of Science. Her parents were Chas. D. and Nancy (Charlton) Lucas, her father at one time being an extensive farmer in Montgomery County. Doctor and Mrs. McConnell have five children: June Evangeline, the wife of Prof. Henry C. Graybeal, of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, is a Bachelor of Arts graduate of Emory and Henry College, and graduate student in Vanderbilt University, and of Cornell University. Robert Lucas, a dental surgeon at Radford, is a graduate of the Atlanta Dental Coilege, and is a veteran of the World war, volunteering in April, 1917, and received his honorable discharge with rank of first lieutenant in the spring of 1919. Carl Hiram, an overseas veteran of the World ward is now a student in Lynchburg College. John Paul is a Bachelor of Arts graduate of Lynchburg College and Master of Arts graduate student of William and Mary College, and is engaged in educational work as a professor of education in Radford State Normal. During the World war he was a member of the Lynchburg College Students’ Army Training Camp. Annie Ginsey is a graduate of Radford Normal with the degree of Bachelor of Science. In addition to his educational and other public activities Doctor McConnell has given much attention to business matters, being interested actively in agriculture and fruit growing. He is identified with many business enterprises as president or director. Since 1919 he has been president of the Farmers and Merchants National Bank of Radford.
Doctor McConnell is a member of the First Christian Church of East Radford, an elder in the same, a member of the Executive Committee of the State Missionary Board and a member of the International Board of Managers of the Christian Church, which has charge of the church’s affairs throughout the world. He has also been a member of the Board of Recommendations of that church. He is a member of the National Educational Board of the Disciples or Christian Church. He is an active member of many boards of directors or trustees of a large number of educational, charitable, business and other organizations. Since January, 1921, he has been president of the Anti-Saloon League of Virginia. He has been active in temperance and prohibition legislation practically all his life. His wife has shared with him his devotion to altruistic and humanitarian movements. She has for many years been a member of the State Board of Public Welfare in Virginia.