John Blair Smith

H-SC President, 1779-1789

John Blair Smith Upon his elder brother's departure in October 1779, John Blair Smith stepped into the breach. Also a Princeton valedictorian (1773), he had been one of the original faculty recruited in 1775; in 1778 he had been captain of the student company that was formed in partial fulfillment of Prince Edward County's militia levy and was now the senior member of the faculty.

The day S.S. Smith resigned his presidency and the pastorates of his churches, John Blair Smith, who had been studying theology under him, was ordained and a few hours later elected President. The outlook was bleak: with the Revolution in full swing, some students left to join the revolutionary forces and others had followed the elder Smith to Princeton; the boarding arrangements were unsettled; faculty were difficult to secure and of brief tenure; the College buildings narrowly escaped being a target of British Colonel Tarleton's raiders in 1781, but operation continued and showed such viability that on 28 May 1783 the General Assembly of Virginia granted a charter with the authority to award degrees. Hampden-Sydney's is the oldest private charter in the South.

But just as things were looking up, Mr. Smith, began to draw criticism for his religious zealotry and his freely expressed Federalist politics.  in 1789 Smith went to a pastorate in Philadelphia and then in 1795 became the founding president of Union College in Schenectady, New York.