Professor Edgar E. MacDonald
The Randolph-Macon College community mourns the loss of former English Professor
Edgar E. MacDonald, who taught at the college for more than three decades. MacDonald
died on September 8, 2011. He was 94.
MacDonald, a lifelong scholar of Virginia history and literature, joined the faculty
at Randolph-Macon College in 1953. He taught at the college until his retirement
In 1983, MacDonald was named a Fulbright Senior Lecturer to the State University
of Leningrad in the Soviet Union. A widely-published scholar in the area of Southern
writers, he co-edited numerous publications, including James Branch Cabell: Centennial
Essays, Ellen Glasgow: A Reference Guide, and Education of the Heart:
The Correspondence of Rachel Mordecai Lazarus and Maria Edgeworth.
His work appeared in American Literature, the Southern Literary Journal,
Resources for American Literary Study, and the Mississippi Quarterly.
“Edgar was a first-rate teacher and scholar who helped to establish Randolph-Macon’s
excellent reputation in southern literary studies,” says retired R-MC English Professor
Ritchie Watson. “I knew about and respected his work, which was one of the contributing
factors in my decision to ultimately teach at the college.”
R-MC Humanities Professor M. Thomas Inge ’59 remembers MacDonald fondly. “He was
the professor at Randolph-Macon who first opened my eyes to the wide world of literature,”
says Inge. “He taught a class in world literature that reflected his own experiences
traveling and studying abroad and shaped my worldview. But he also cherished the
local and taught me about Southern writing and his own favorite, James Branch Cabell.
I had the pleasure of co-editing with him a collection of essays on Cabell. He was
one of the most erudite, widely read, witty and sophisticated men I ever knew. His
congenial presence will be missed.”
“Professor MacDonald, known for his idiosyncratic ways, had a strong and lasting
impact on his students for over three decades,” said R-MC President Robert R. Lindgren.
“His recollection and retelling of the story of Randolph-Macon debaters beating
Harvard decades ago lives on and is one of the great R-MC legends of all time. He
is one of those characters that makes a place like this so unique and special.”
MacDonald was a well-known lecturer in the Richmond area, and often spoke before
such groups as the Richmond Public Library and the Ellen Glasgow Society.
At the time of his death he was serving as a board member and editor of the Friends
of the Virginia State Archives Newsletter. He was a founder of that organization
and also a founder of the Virginia Genealogical Society, which in 2010 awarded him
its Lifetime Achievement Award.
MacDonald served on the Library of Virginia Board and the Board of Regents of the
James Monroe Law Office Museum and Memorial Library in Fredericksburg. He also served
for the last two decades as a trustee of the James Monroe Memorial Foundation. He
was also a lifetime supporter of St. Christopher’s School in Richmond.
MacDonald attended the University of Virginia School of Architecture from 1936-38.
He earned his B.S. from Virginia Commonwealth University, his M.A. from the University
of Richmond and his Ph.D. from The Sorbonne, University of Paris. He was a distinguished
veteran of World War II, and earned the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Belgian Fouragere
for his service on the field of battle.
A memorial service will be held September 24 at 2:00 p.m. at Emmanuel Episcopal
Church, 1214 Wilmer Ave., Richmond, where MacDonald was a member. Burial in the
church cemetery will be private.