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James Rollins

James Rollins

Courtesy of State Historical Society

Considered by many to be the father of the University of Missouri-Columbia, the Board of Curators refers to James Rollins as the "Pater Universitatis Missouriensis." He earned this appellation because of his vociferous advocation for the city of Columbia, the site of Missouri's first public University. His career as an advocate for the University began in 1839 as a young state legislator from Boone County. Over the next 47 years, Rollins was either the author or principal advocate of every measure for the advancement and expansion of the University that was considered by the state legislature. He served on the University's Board of Curators for 18 years, fulfilling the role of President of the Board for 16 of those years.

Rollins's life was not limited to the work that he did for the University. During his time as a practicing lawyer, he twice defied lynch mobs, who had targeted his black clients for lynching. He cut the noose from around their necks and secured their safety until the respective trials were finished. On another occasion, his life almost came to an early end, because of his abstinence from liquor. Once while in a tavern, a man approached him and offered to buy him a beer. He politely refused, because he did not drink. Again the man offered, and again Rollins refused. Finally, the bartender approached Rollins and informed him that the man offering to buy him a beer was the famous duelist John Smith T. With his gun drawn, John Smith T. offered to buy Rollins a beer one final time. This time Rollins accepted.

James Rollins was a life-long friend of Missourian artist, George Caleb Bingham. Although Bingham's full-length portrait of Rollins was lost in the Academic Hall fire of 1892, another portrait exists. It is currently on display in the George Caleb Bingham room of the State Historical Society of Missouri.

Odon Guitar

The early history of Odon Guitar is very difficult to ascertain. It is known that in 1852 he was elected President of the first University Alumni Association. In 1855, as a member of the state legislature, Guitar authored a bill that helped resolve a very controversial issue in Missouri history. The University was having much difficulty choosing a new President. The preceding three Presidents had only served for very short time periods; as a result, many desired to find a person that could fill the post for a substantial amount of time. Selection of the new President was left to a joint decision made by two committees. One was a committee of elected representatives of the University's faculty and the other was a committee made up of the Board of Curators. These two committees became locked in a power struggle. Guitar's bill proposed that members of these two committees would be subject to election every two years. The bill passed in 1859 and ended the stalemate. Members of both committees were now vulnerable to losing their position of power, thus they became much more willing to work together. As a result of this bill, in 1860, Benjamin Minor was named the new President. Ironically, he only served for two years.

George Caleb Bingham painted the portrait of Odon Guitar that is on display in the George Caleb Bingham room of the State Historical Society of Missouri.

Odon Guitar

Courtesy of State Historical Society

Governor David Francis

David Francis

Courtesy of the Museum of Art and Archaeology

Governor of the state of Missouri from 1889-1893, David Francis's term was marked by the fire at Academic Hall in 1892. He took a leading role in ensuring that the University would survive this tragedy. The day after the fire, the Governor sent a telegram to the students of the University to remain in Columbia. He then visited the campus and addressed the students and the citizens of Columbia. He convened a special session of the Missouri Legislature and was able to get the Legislature to appropriate $250,000 for rebuilding the University. This rebuilding of the University included the creation of six new campus buildings, including the new Academic Hall. His role during this tumultuous time period is why the Board of Curators often refers to him as the second father of the University.

Francis's role in keeping the University alive is honored in Francis Quadrangle, which was named for him. The Francis Quad is on the National Register of Historic Places and is the center of Red Campus. His portrait, originally on display in the University Business Office, can now be found in the Museum of Art and Archaeology.

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Copyright © Curators of the University of Missouri 1997 - 2001
Published by: University Archives
Originally Prepared by Blain Cerney: November 2001
Revised: 22 January 2007

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