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"Founder of Western Carolina University & its president, 1889-1912, & 1920-1923. Lived 5 mi. N." Robert Lee Madison (1867-1954) was born in Lexington, Virginia, and educated at East Tennessee Wesleyan University. In 1885 he first came to the Jackson County area. After writing for a local newspaper and teaching school in the Qualla community for several years, Madison was recruited by Lewis J. Smith and others in 1889 to become principal of Cullowhee Academy, forerunner of present Western Carolina University. The school opened its doors on August 5, 1889, with eighteen students.
Madison lived in the Smith home until he married Ella Richards in 1891. The academy quickly prospered and in 1893 received state support. The school’s name changed several times, to Cullowhee Normal and Industrial School in 1907, to Cullowhee State Norma School in 1929, and to Western Carolina Teachers College in 1929. Madison was the campus’s dominant figure throughout the years of growth and served as the school’s president from 1889 to 1912 and again from 1920 to 1923.
William Ernest Bird, The History of Western Carolina College (1963)Max R. Williams, ed., The History of Jackson County (1987)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 201--sketch by Robert O. Conway
Ina and John Van Noppen, Western North Carolina Since the Civil War (1973)
Catamount (Western Carolina University yearbook, 1936, 1940)
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
North Carolina Civil War Historical Markers.