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Our History: Featured Alumni/ae: Slemp, C. Bascom, 1892

Over the decades our graduates have developed distinguished careers as justices, members of Congress, ambassadors, educators, business people, and community leaders in many fields. This site features some of those late graduates.

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Campbell Bascom Slemp

Congressman from Virginia

C. Bascom Slemp was born at Turkey Cove, Virginia in Lee County on September 4, 1870, the son of Colonel Campbell Slemp, who would become a U.S. Representative from the 9th district of Virginia from 1903 to 1907. He attended the public schools of rural Southwest Virginia at The Seminary in Turkey Cove. In 1887, Slemp entered the Corp of Cadets at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia and graduated in 1891, he graduated with the highest grade point average in the school's history. He also received the Jackson Medal for Most Distinguished Student four years in a row. He then studied law at the University of Virginia.

Slemp served as Commandant of Cadets at the Marion Military Institute for one year after which he was hired as Principal of the Stonega Academy in Big Stone Gap. He taught at VMI as Professor of Mathematics for several years. Then in 1901, after being admitted to the Virginia bar, he resigned his position at the Institute to set up a law practice in Big Stone Gap. In 1905, Slemp was elected as chairman of the Republican State Committee and served until 1918 at which point he was elected to the Republican National Committee. Following his father’s death in 1907, Slemp was elected to fill the vacancy in Congress. He was reelected to the position six times, serving from 1907 until 1922, at which point he declined to be a candidate for re-election.

On September 4, 1923, six months after Slemp completed his last term as Congressman, President Calvin Coolidge appointed him to serve as Secretary to the President of the United States, a post similar to the later White House Chief of Staff. He served until March 4, 1925 when he resigned early in Coolidge's second term. After leaving the Coolidge administration, Slemp returned to his law practice in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. In 1931, Slemp was awarded the prestigious French Legion of Honor Medal for his work as United States Commissioner General for the International Colonial and Overseas Exposition that took place in Paris in May 1931, one of his last official responsibilities before his retirement. He remained a prominent member of the community and southwest Virginia political scene until his death at the age of 73 in Knoxville, Tennessee on August 7, 1943. He was later buried in the family cemetery at Turkey Cove, Virginia.

As a philanthropist, Slemp set up the Slemp Foundation, which provides gifts and scholarships to schools and colleges in Southwestern Virginia. Many of the Lonesome Pine Regional Library locations, which serve Lee and Wise Counties, Virginia, are named in his honor. The Slemp Scholarship is awarded to outstanding college students who graduated from schools in Lee, Scott, and Wise Counties, Virginia. In October 2003, the C. Bascom Slemp Student Center opened on the campus of the University of Virginia's College at Wise, funded in part by a gift from the Slemp Foundation.

Papers of C. Bascom Slemp  in Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

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