|November 3, 1924
COLONEL ROBERT PRESTON CARSON, '54, OLDEST ALUMNUS, DIES
Passes Away in 93rd Year After Devoting Most of Life to Education Work.
Colonel Robert Preston Carson, '54, the oldest living alumnus of the Virginia Military Institute, died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Preston Carson, near Abingdon, Va., on Monday, October 20th. Colonel Carson was in his 93rd year.
Colonel Carson entered the Institute as a member of the third class and graduated as the third stand man. As was customary at that time, he spent all of his summers in camp while he was a cadet and never returned home during his entire period of cadetship. Many stories of the early days of V. M. I. were told by him, reminiscences of the great teacher and soldier "Stonewall" Jackson, accounts of the old trip to Lexington by canal boat and stage, and tales of barrackes life in the early 50's.
Nearly the whole of Colonel Carson's life was devoted to educational work. Immediately after his graduation he became a teacher in Norfolk and taught there until the yellow fever epidemic when he himself contracted the disease. Soon after his recovery he took charge of a school in Russell county and was head of that school until the outbreak of the Civil War. After the war he became principal of the Abingdon Male Academy. Until his eighty-third year he was active in school work, serving on the Public School Electoral Board as Rector of the V. P. I. board.
In 1858, war being imminent, the former cadet was appointed by the Governor of Virginia a Brigadier Inspector of Militia for the counties of Lee, Scott, Russell, and Washington, with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Virginia Militia. As the war clouds continued to gather he was called from his school and organized and drilled Company "F" of the 37th Virginia Regiment, known as the "Glade Springs Rifles." This organization was mustered into service in 1860 and sent to Richmond for duty. Here he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel in the Confederate forces and ordered to Winchester where he met his old professor, "Stonewall" Jackson, and he and his Company became part of the famous "Stonewall Brigade." Colonel Carson followed Jackson thru his valley campaign and participated in the engagements at McDowell, Winchester, Cross Keys, and Port Republic. In this last engagement he was disabled by a wound which barred him from that time on from active service. However, he obtained for himself a position in the Quartermaster's corps which he held until the end of the war.
Colonel Carson was one of the greatest lovers and supporters of V. M. I. that the Institute has ever known. Besides being a distinguished graduate himself he has one son and two grandsons who are graduates and a third grandson who is a member of the present second class. Even until the last remaining minutes of his life he had the Institute on his mind and in moments of delirium told those about him of his cadet life of days with "Old Jack" and at the V. M. I.
Thus he passed the oldest living graduate of the Institute, a man who saw life at the Institute in its earliest period, a man who gave to the Institute the credit for making him a man, and a man who always considered V. M. I. head and shoulders above every other institution.