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John M. P. Atkinson (January 10, 1817 – August 28, 1883) was the tenth President of Hampden–Sydney College from 1857 to 1883. He was the first alumnus of the College to be named its president and is the longest tenured president to date (26 years).

Rev. John M. P. Atkinson
John M P Atkinson.png
10th President of Hampden–Sydney College
In office
May 11, 1857 – June 1883
Preceded byCharles Martin (Acting)
Succeeded byRichard McIlwaine
Personal details
Born(1817-01-10)January 10, 1817
Mansfield, Dinwiddie, Virginia
DiedAugust 28, 1883(1883-08-28) (aged 66)
Hampden Sydney, Virginia
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Carr Harrison
Mary Biscoe Baldwin
Frances Peyton Stewart[1]
ChildrenElizabeth Atkinson
Portia Atkinson Morrison
Peyton Harrison Atkinson
Alma materB.A. Hampden–Sydney College
Union Theological Seminary
Princeton Theological Seminary
D.D. Hampden–Sydney College
ProfessionTheologian, College President



Early lifeEdit

John Mayo Pleasants Atkinson was born on January 10, 1817 at the Mansfield Plantation in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. His father was Robert Atkinson and his mother, Mary Tabb (Mayo) Atkinson. He was educated at Hampden–Sydney College, from which he graduated in June 1835.[2] He studied for the Presbyterian ministry for three years at Union Theological Seminary and for two years at Princeton.[2]


Presbyterian ministryEdit

Over the next sixteen years, Atkinson served ministerial duties — including two in Texas, seven in Warrenton, Virginia, and seven in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.[2]

President of Hampden–Sydney CollegeEdit

In 1857, Atkinson was elected as the tenth president of Hampden–Sydney College.[2] Dr. Atkinson is credited with managing to keep the College solvent while upholding disciplinary and academic standards. He was also tasked with the difficulties of reestablishing the College after the war.[3] Beginning with four professors and one tutor, he brought the student roll from thirty-eight in 1865 to ninety-two in 1873.[2] He was the first president to resign from his post as president of the College.

At the December 1863 convention, Atkinson was elected as the first president of the Educational Association of Virginia (now Virginia Education Association).[4]

"The Hampden–Sydney Boys"Edit

In 1861, near the beginning of the American Civil War, Atkinson established the "Hampden–Sydney Boys" and served as their captain, Company G, 20th Virginia Regiment.[4] The troop was assigned to Col. John Pegram's Brigade, Gen. Robert Garnett's command and fought in early battles including both Big Bethel and Rich Mountain.[5] At the battle of Rich Mountain, July 11, 1861, the Hampden–Sydney Boys were captured.[5] After a nearly two-hour fight, the Union forces split the Confederate forces and the latter retreated from Lauren Hill, resulting in the capture of Col. John Pegram's command.[5] The Hampden–Sydney Boys were paroled with the direction not take up arms again and that they return to their studies.[5]

Boys, secession is dead in this region, go back to your college, take your books, and become wise men.[5]

— General George B. McClellan

Personal lifeEdit

He married (first) Elizabeth, daughter of Rev. Peyton Hawke; (second) Mary B. Baldwin; (third) Fanny, daughter of Hon. Alexander H. H. Stuart.[2]


He died on August 28, 1883.[2]


  1. ^ "Virginia, Marriages, 1785-1940," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 16 Oct 2014), Alexander H. H. Stewart in entry for John M. P. Atkinson and Frances Peyton Stewart, 16 Jun 1869
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Tyler, Lyon Gardiner (1915). Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company. pp. 214–215. Retrieved October 21, 2014.
  3. ^ "John Mayo Pleasants Atkinson". Presidential Gallery. –Sydney College. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Early VEA Leaders". Virginia Education Association. Virginia Education Association. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e Michael C. Lucas (2005). "Prince Edward in the Civil War". High Bridge Battlefield. High Bridge Battlefield Museum. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Charles Martin
President of Hampden–Sydney College
Succeeded by
Richard McIlwaine