Monday, August 31, 2009

Arthur Stewart, MMI JC '35, World-Renowned Artist

With the recent death of COL Lewis Stewart, MMI Class of 1939, we were reminded that he was the brother of the late Arthur Walter Stewart, Jr., MMI JC Class of 1935, a world-renowned portrait and landscape artist from Birmingham.

From a large family of brothers and sisters - the children of Arthur and Jean Stewart - Arthur Walter Stewart, Jr., was born in Marion and received his A.A. degree from Marion Military Institute in 1935. He continued his education at Auburn University and at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he presented his first one-man show at the age of 23. Stewart had begun painting when he was six years old.

The MMI Corps of Cadets when Arthur Stewart (“A” Company) was a cadet. (Credit: 1934-1935 MMI Catalogue, MMI Archives)

Following a four and a half year stint in the Army during World War II, where he served as a painter in the ordnance department, Arthur Stewart traveled extensively in Mexico and Europe for several years, painting as he went. He finally settled in San Francisco in 1947, although he made annual trips to Alabama to paint portraits. In 1952, Stewart moved to Birmingham, Alabama, permanently.

Arthur Stewart taught at the Birmingham Museum of Art School, served as president of the Alabama Watercolor Society, and was inducted into the Portrait Painters Hall of Fame in 1985. During his career, he won over 30 national awards, and presented over 35 one-man shows from New York to California. Along the way, he painted literally thousands of works – oil portraits, watercolor flowers, and scenic landscapes – which today hang in more than 1,000 public and private collections worldwide.

When Arthur Stewart first moved to Birmingham, he lived in a small house on the property of the grandparents of Joel R. Hillhouse, MMI Board of Advisors member. Joel’s parents first lived on the property after their marriage, and Arthur Stewart taught Joel’s mother art and even painted her portrait. Joel Hillhouse, MMI H Class of 1959, who owns a number of Stewart paintings, has one particular favorite, “The Studio” (below), which depicts that small house.

"The Studio" by Arthur Stewart. (Credit: Collection of Joel R. Hillhouse)

Stewart later purchased the 40-acre “Glocca Morra Farm” (named after a song in Finian’s Rainbow) in Cahaba Heights near Birmingham. There he lived the rest of his life, while continuing to produce works both in the United States and Europe. When his health failed, he was cared for by his sister, Hannah Stewart. Arthur Stewart painted up until his last days, dying on September 6, 2001, at the age of 86.

Arthur Stewart’s works can be found in collections ranging from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, II, the La Scala Opera House in Milan, Italy, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., the Lyndon Bains Johnson Library in Texas, and the Birmingham (AL) Museum of Art. Reportedly, his works sell from $400 to $35,000 each.

On September 1, 1993, Arthur Stewart’s portrait of William R. Ireland was unveiled at the William R. Ireland Athletic Center at Marion Military Institute (dedicated April 3, 1993). In the image below – from the 1994 MMI Orange and Black yearbook – the group flanking the painting include from left to right: MG Joseph Fant, MMI president, Arthur Stewart, the artist, Mr. and Mrs. William R. Ireland, and Alva Caine, Chairman of the MMI Board of Trustees.

At the unveiling of Arthur Stewart’s painting of William R. Ireland at MMI’s Ireland Center on September 1, 1993. (Credit: 1994 MMI yearbook, MMI Archives)

Credit: I am indebted to Joel Hillhouse and James Murray of Birmingham for providing the bulk of this material. We know Joel, of course. He also provided the color image posted here from his collection of Arthur Stewart paintings. Jim Murray is head of Social Sciences at the Birmingham Public Library.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wearing of the Gray: The Gallant Pelham

I’ve spent this summer adding some 1500 books in the General Collection of the MMI Archives to the MMI Archives Inventory. Among the numerous gems in this collection, one book that caught my personal interest is an 1867 (just two years after the Civil War) edition of John Esten Cooke’s Wearing of the Gray, one of the classic contemporary accounts of Confederate military history, and specifically centering on famed cavalry commander, General “Jeb” Stuart, a relative of John Esten Cooke. Through Stuart, Cooke, a writer more than a soldier, gained access to the top Confederate leadership in the Army of Northern Virginia, from General Robert E. Lee on down.

A lifelong Civil War buff, one of my favorite personalities is Major John Pelham, C.S.A. – “The Gallant Pelham” (1838-1863) from Alexandria, Alabama. Pelham, commander of the Stuart Horse Artillery, revolutionized the use of light artillery as a mobile arm of the cavalry. He was inducted into the Alabama Hall of Fame in 1955, and was among the first inductees into the Alabama Military Hall of Honor here at MMI in 1976.

John Pelham in his West Point furlough coat. Pelham left the Academy in 1861, just before graduating, to offer his services to Alabama and the Confederacy. (Credit: Valentine Museum, Richmond, VA, and the National Park Service)

The youthful Pelham was the darling of Stuart’s cavalry and a personal favorite of John Esten Cooke. The women loved him, the men admired him, and he displayed all the combat skills of a genuine battlefield hero. John Pelham fought in over 60 battles and skirmishes from 1861 to 1863 – never receiving a scratch – until that fatal day (St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1863) when a shell exploded in a cornfield at Kelly’s Ford, Virginia, mortally wounding him. He was 24 years-old when he died.

The title page of the 1867 edition of Wearing of the Gray includes the faded image of General “Jeb” Stuart from the facing page. (Credit: MMI Archives)

This illustration on page 17 of the book places Major John Pelham in rather high company! (Credit: MMI Archives)

One of my Virginia Civil War friends always refers to John Pelham as the “Robert Redford of the South!” In short, he had it all.

Here are a couple of quotes about Pelham:

Stonewall Jackson at Antietam: “With a Pelham on each flank, I believe I could whip the world!”

Robert E. Lee at Fredericksburg: “It is glorious to see such courage in one so young.” Lee called him “the gallant Pelham” in his official report.

Our edition of the Wearing of the Gray includes an illustration of Major Pelham receiving his mortal wound that I have never seen before – or, at least, it is not now attributed to John Pelham. I checked the images of Pelham on Google and Yahoo, plus the site of the John Pelham Historical Association. No one seems to have this image, so, I hope this is a revelation, something that got misplaced/omitted over the years in successive editions of the book.

The illustration of Major Pelham receiving his mortal wound at Kelly’s Ford, VA, March 17, 1863. (Credit: MMI Archives)

The “Gallant” John Pelham is buried in the City Cemetery in Jacksonville, Alabama, in his home county of Calhoun County.

John Pelham’s grave and monument in Jacksonville, Alabama. (Credit:

Monday, August 17, 2009

MMI Archives: New Donations

Ward Calhoun, Records Manager at the Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History in Meridian, Mississippi, recently donated two early MI brochures to the MMI Archives. “First Consider the Cost” and “Expert Coaching” were both produced circa 1909. I thought you would enjoy seeing some highlights.

A detail from “Officers and Faculty” of Marion Institute in the “Expert Coaching” brochure lists the father and his two sons who would become the first three presidents (superintendents) of the Institute: James T. Murfee, H. O. Murfee, and W. L. Murfee:

J. T. Murfee was the top graduate in his class at Virginia Military Institute. His two sons went to the University of Virginia. Note W. L. Murfee’s tour of the English public schools supporting MI’s “Eton of the South” plan.

This detail from the first page of “Expert Coaching” tells the story.

The list is of comparative costs to attend these top American military and preparatory schools, a number of which are closed today. It is curious that VMI, a military college, is included with the preparatory schools. J. T. Murfee?

Finally, here is the architect’s drawing of the Proposed Plan to develop the Marion Military Institute campus in 1925-1926:

South side plan.

North side plan.

Credit: All images, MMI Archives.

Monday, August 10, 2009

MMI Archives: More Bits and Pieces

The Summer 2009 issue of Alabama Heritage magazine, published by the University of Alabama, includes an interesting article entitled “Where the Dead Speak: Black Belt Cemeteries and Their Stories” by Thomas C. Ware. The piece is blessed with stunning photographs by Robin McDonald of Alabama Heritage. Here are a couple of images relating to Marion, both taken by Robin McDonald:

Harry’s Monument in the Marion City Cemetery. Remember, Harry was the slave who lost his life saving Howard College students in the tragic fire of 1854, which also destroyed the college building.

“Confederate Rest” in the cemetery of St. Wilfrid’s Episcopal Church in Marion. Most of these dead were from the Confederate Breckinridge Military Hospital on the Howard College/MMI campus, 1863-1865.

In another Alabama Heritage article about Blues legend W. C. Handy, there is this image of W.C. Handy as the director of the Alabama A & M Band in Normal (Huntsville), Alabama. No, this has nothing to do with MMI, but I was the Special Collections Librarian/Archivist (Assistant Professor) at Alabama A & M University in the early 1990s, and I know this story well:

W. C. Handy (standing at left holding a trumpet and baton) as bandmaster of the Alabama A & M Band, 1901-1903. (Credit: W. C. Handy Home, Museum, and Library, Florence, Alabama)

While doing a little research for the Alabama Military Hall of Honor, I took this image from the 1974 Orange and Black, MMI’s yearbook. It’s of Captain Max Powell Bailey, USN (Ret.), MMI ’37, the Commandant, who served as Interim President of MMI from 1973-1974. Now 91 and living in Florida, four sons also attended MMI.

Captain Maxwell Powell Bailey, Jr., USN (Ret.), MMI ’37, Interim President, MMI, 1973-1974.

Last, but certainly not least, I heard back from the good folks at AMCSUS, the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States. Here is my report to Susan Stevenson on 9 July:

Hi Susan,
Rudy Ehrenberg, Executive Director of AMCSUS, just called me re: the blog. After checking with the past historian of AMCSUS, Spike Holman (?), it appears that two of the military preparatory schools – St. Catherine’s in Anaheim, California, and Benedictine High School in Richmond, Virginia – both Catholic schools – have had/have female leadership via their religious order’s organization.

However, neither gentleman knew of a female heading a military college (although, they both point back to Brenda Bryant of VWIL at Mary Baldwin College). Again, VWIL is a military program for women within a civilian women’s college.

So, it appears to me that you are, in fact, the first female head of a military college! That remains my story, and I’m sticking with it!

Susan Stevenson, Interim President, MMI (Summer, 2009). (Credit: MMI Alumni Office)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Remembering Thomas C. Carter, MMI Class of 1908

Lieutenant Thomas Clay Carter, Jr., MMI Class of 1908. (Credit: “Letters of a Hero,” edited by Ed Shields)

Thomas Clay Carter, Jr., MMI Class of 1908, was born in Meridian, Mississippi, on February 16, 1889. An outstanding cadet at Marion Military Institute, he served as the editor of The Assembly (then, MMI’s annual), Vice- Speaker of The Commons, a cadet second lieutenant in “B” Company, he played varsity football and baseball, and he was an honored member of the Jefferson Literary Society, one of two literary societies on campus (the other being the Franklin Literary Society).

T. C. Carter was an all-around cadet at MMI.

“B” Company’s cadet officers and Sponsors.

MMI’s Football Team and Sponsors.

(Credit: The above three images are from The Assembly for 1907, MMI’s annual. MMI Archives.)

After attending the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, T. C. Carter returned to MMI as a faculty member and as the athletic director. He was later associated with his brother, Eugene Carter, in the cotton brokerage business before enlisting for service in World War I. Commissioned at Ft. Oglethorpe, GA, and assigned to Camp Gordon in Georgia, Carter went to France in early 1918, where he served as acting commander of the 320th Machine Gun Battalion, 82nd Division, A.E.F. While reconnoitering the enemy’s gun emplacements in the Argonne Forest on October 13, 1918, First Lieutenant Carter was killed. His unit buried him and their other fallen soldiers near the Forest. In 1921, Thomas Carter’s remains were removed to Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D. C. His grave is located in the Southern Division, Officer’s Section, western half of lot #4000.

Thomas C. Carter’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery (photocopy). (Credit: “Letters of a Hero,” p. 52, edited by Ed Shields)

T. C. Carter, Jr., never married. His mother had died in January, 1918, and, upon learning of his youngest child’s death (T. C., Jr., was one of nine children), his father had a stroke late in 1918. He remained an invalid for the rest of his four years, dying in 1922. Two of T.C.’s sisters, Mamie and Hattie, attended Judson College in Marion, Alabama. Mamie married one of T.C.’s MMI classmates, William C. Crumpton, in 1908. A distinguished lawyer and former state senator, William Crumpton died in 1915 and is buried in the Marion (AL) City Cemetery.

American Legion Post #21 in Meridian, Mississippi, is named in honor of Thomas Clay Carter, Jr. The Post also has the American flag which covered Carter’s casket during his Arlington burial.

I am indebted to Ward Calhoun and Ed Shields of Meridian, Mississippi, for providing the bulk of this information on T. C. Carter, Jr. Ward is the Records Manager of the Lauderdale County Department of Archives & History in Meridian, and is completing a book on the Carter Family. Ed is the editor of “Letters of a Hero” about T. C. Carter, Jr. I enjoyed hosting these gentlemen when they visited MMI last Spring. They have also donated various materials regarding the Carter Family, etc., to the MMI Archives.