On the day that Alexander Quarles Holladay’s home state of Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, he did two things. He married Virginia Randolph Bolling and he went to war, joining the 19th Virginia Regiment as a second lieutenant.
During the Civil War, Holladay reached the rank of a colonel and was paroled in Greensboro, N.C., at the war’s end in 1865, according to David A. Lockmiller’s History of the North Carolina State College.
Holladay, who trained at the University of Virginia and the University of Berlin in Latin and Greek languages and moral philosophy and law, farmed and practiced law in Richmond, Va. He also served in the state senate for four years before becoming a teacher. He served as president of the Stonewall Jackson Institute in Abingdon, Va., and later as president of the Florida Agricultural College, which eventually merged into the University of Florida.
But on this day in 1889, Holladay was elected the first president of the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts.
Lockmiller described the growth of the college during Holladay’s tenure as “slow but steady.” The campus grew from including only Main Building, now called Holladay Hall, to house a mechanics building, an engineering building, a dairy and four brick dorms. He retired in 1899 due to health concerns.
“Alexander Quarles Holladay was eminently qualified by temperament, education, and experience to administer and guide The North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts during the first ten years of its history,” wrote Lockmiller in 1939. “…Stately and polished in manner, disciplined by military service, cultivated by travel, and broadened by wide and thoughtful reading, Colonel Holladay represented the best of a Southern tradition in higher education.”