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Robert P. Smith, 1885-1888

Robert Perry Smith March 24, 1851 - February 4, 1936
Robert Perry Smith
March 24, 1851 – February 4, 1936

Robert Perry Smith, the second president of Presbyterian College, was a graduate of Davidson College and had previously served as the head of the Reidville Female Academy in Reidville, S.C.   While he was president, the college moved into its new building, Recitation Hall, on four acres that had been acquired on the southern edge of town adjacent to Thornwell Orphanage.

Designed by New York architect,  A. Page Brown, this building…was a brick and stone structure of 3 ½ stories with large granite pillars which supported the triple-arched recessed portico. The ground floor was equipped as a residence for the president’s family. The second and third floors housed a chapel, literary society hall, five classrooms, a laboratory, and office. In the top ½ story was a small gymnasium (Hammet, Spirit of PC, 9).

The citizens of Clinton were asked to contribute $5,000 toward the cost of the building to supplement donations made by members of the board trustees. The cost of the building was “$7,000-an impressive sum in those days and the first of many large Clinton commitments that have sustained Presbyterian College over the years.” (Hammet, Spirit of PC, 9)

Smith, like all of the early presidents of PC, combined administrative duties with teaching.   In addition to his duties as President, he taught natural science and English literature. Along with William States Lee, the third member of the faculty was Edwin L. Barnes, who taught Latin, Greek and German, as well as serving as bursar and clerk.

Robert P. Smith resigned in 1888 to return to the ministry, and later became well known for his home mission work in the mountains of North Carolina where he organized Mountain Orphanage in Haywood County, today called the Black Mountain Home for Children. He died in Asheville in 1936.