James Major Colson, Jr. – Colson Hall
By Maurice B. Jones
The Colson’s spanned several generations as a distinguished Petersburg family. James M. Colson, Sr. born in 1830, was an extremely successful shoemaker, renowned for his ability to customize a shoe and commanding $400.00 in Confederate money for boots during the Civil War. In 1852, James Colson married Fannie Meade Bolling, a very intelligent free woman of color known for her poetry as well as for founding a private school in Petersburg after the Civil War. They had nine children including Ella and James, Jr.
Ella Colson was a teacher at Peabody High School in Petersburg, VA after graduating from the Normal Course at Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (now Virginia State University). Ella married Andrew Jackson and three of their children were prominent staff members at what is now Virginia State University: Henry Colson Jackson graduated from Virginia State, received his Masters at Cornell and served as Dean of Men from 1943-1973; Dorothy Jackson Booth served as Secretary to the President under Presidents Gandy, Foster and Daniel from 1921-1967 (non-consecutive); Alice Jackson graduated from Virginia State and earned a Masters from Columbia University School of Library Science. She served as Librarian at Virginia State, Howard University, and Morgan State University.
James Major Colson Jr., a graduate of Dartmouth College, joined the faculty in 1883 as the first science teacher and served as the second Principal of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute from 1885-1886. His year as Principal was marred by controversy over the dismissal of the first Principal James Storum. In 1886, he married Katherine Deaver Hill and she joined the faculty. In 1902, the name of the school changed to Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute and in 1904, Colson left to become Superintendent of John A. Dix's Normal School in Dinwiddie County. This school was founded by a group of white philanthropists to help improve the poor living conditions of blacks in the area. His wife, Katherine Colson, became the matron and housekeeper of the school. James Colson passed away in 1909 and Katherine moved to North Carolina in order to keep the family together. She became the matron for Winston-Salem Teachers College (formerly Slater Industrial Academy and State Normal School - now Winston-Salem State University).
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