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Distinguished Alumni: A Rich History of Political Engagement

The Capitol Building in Washington D.C.Nathaniel Macon

A namesake of Randolph-Macon College, Macon was born in 1758 near Warrenton, North Carolina. Macon was twenty-three when he began his public service. As a private fighting the British during the Revolutionary War, Macon learned that he was elected to the North Carolina Senate, a position he reluctantly filled until 1786. In 1791 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served for twenty-four years. He served as Speaker of the House from 1801-1807. In 1815, Macon was elected to the United States Senate where he spent the remainder of his career. His retirement in 1828 made him one of the longest serving statesmen in congressional history.

Voted unanimously to be president of the 1835 North Carolina constitutional convention, he served in that capacity for one year. He retired to Buck Spring, his modest plantation in Warren County, until his death in 1837.

John Randolph

A namesake of Randolph-Macon College, Randolph was born in Cawsons (now Hopewell), Va., in 1773. His father, one of the First Families of Virginia, was a wealthy tobacco planter. Both parents had illustrious family trees dating to the founding of the country. Randolph lived on a tobacco farm (Roanoke Plantation) in Farmville and served several nonconsecutive terms in the United States House of Representatives from 1799-1833 and two years in the United States Senate from 1825-27. His service in the Congress totaled twenty-four years. President Andrew Jackson appointed him Minister to Russia, a position he held for a short time due to ill health. He died in 1833.

Claude A. Swanson (Class of 1885)

Claude Swanson (1862-1939) served seven terms in the United States House of Representatives as a Virginia Democrat from 1893 to 1906. He became the 45th Governor of Virginia in 1906. From 1910 to 1933, Swanson represented Virginia as a United States Senator. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him Secretary of the Navy in 1933, a cabinet position he held until his death in 1939.

Born in Swansonville, Va., Swanson graduated from Randolph-Macon College in 1885 before earning a law degree from the University of Virginia.

Patrick Henry Drewry (Class of 1896)

After graduating from Randolph-Macon College in 1896, Patrick Henry Drewry (1875-1947) received his law degree from the University of Virginia, taught English and Greek at Centenary College in Missouri, and ultimately became an attorney practicing in his home state of Virginia.  Throughout his adult life, he took an active interest in Virginia and national politics.  Beginning in 1912, Drewry was elected to the Virginia Senate representing the 29th District (Dinwiddie County and Petersburg City) and served as Chairman of several committees during his eight years in the Virginia General Assembly.  In 1920, he was elected to the U.S. Congress and represented Virginia’s fourth congressional district for 27 years.

Drewry served as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee for 12 years (1935-1947), longer than any of his predecessors.  He was also a member of the Board of Visitors at the United States Naval Academy and a member of the Randolph-Macon College Alumni Association.  Drewry died in 1947 at his home in Petersburg, Virginia.

William E. Dodd (R-MC Faculty 1901-1908)

William E. Dodd (1869-1940), a Ph.D. graduate from the University of Leipzig, served on the faculty at Randolph-Macon College as a history professor from 1900-1908, before accepting a Professorship of American History at the University of Chicago. On June 10, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt nominated Dodd to be the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, and the United States Senate confirmed his nomination the same day. He held the ambassadorship in Germany for four years, a period that coincided with Adolph Hitler's rise to power. After his death, his personal library was given to Randolph-Macon College where it remains intact.

E. Barrett Prettyman (Class of 1910)

The namesake of one of the most famous courthouses in the nation, the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse at Third Street and Constitution Avenue N.W. in Washington D.C. was the location of historic arguments on the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate Trials, and the first appearance by a first lady before a federal grand jury. Appointed to the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by President Harry S. Truman in 1945, Prettyman served on the bench for 26 years. He was Chief Judge of the court from 1958 to 1960, and remained a senior judge until his death in 1971. Former U.S. Senator John Warner from Virginia was one of his law clerks, and William Rehnquist, former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, made remarks about Prettyman at the courthouse dedication in 1997.

Born in Lexington, Virginia, Prettyman coached the Randolph-Macon College football team following his graduation from the college. He is known as being single-handedly responsible for President William H. Taft’s visit to campus during that time. Thereafter, Prettyman attended Georgetown University Law School, and spent the next 35 years in private practice, as corporation counsel, and working as general counsel to the Internal Revenue Bureau before being appointed to the D.C. Circuit.

J. Rives Childs (Class of 1912)

J. Rives Childs (1893-1987) was a United States consular and diplomatic official for 30 years, his final post being Ambassador to Ethiopia. He served in Jerusalem, Cairo, Teheran and Tangier in various diplomatic jobs and worked as a code breaker during World War I. His papers include correspondence, memoranda, and reports relating to deciphering of German codes.

He retired to Nice in 1953 to write full time and is the author of 14 books, four of them about Casanova, the 18th-century Italian adventurer. Childs served as president of the International Casanova Society for many years, and was the editor of the Society's magazine, Casanova Gleanings. A bibliophile, he collected extensively, bequeathing his personal collections of editions of Casanova, Henry Miller, and Restif de la Bretonne to Randolph-Macon College’s McGraw-Page Library.

A native of Lynchburg, Virginia, Childs was a 1912 graduate of Randolph-Macon College and received a M.A. from Harvard University in 1915. He established The Lucy B., John W., and Georgina Childs Scholarship Fund, in memory of his parents and wife, at his alma mater. Childs died in 1987 at the age of 94.

Hugh D. Scott Jr. (Class of 1919)

Hugh Scott (1900-1994) served in the United States House of Representatives (1941-45 and 1947-59) and the United States Senate (1959-77) as a Republican from Pennsylvania. He served in the Senate for three terms and, in 1969, was elected Senate Minority Leader. His tenure as Minority Leader coincided with the Watergate Scandal and the ensuing resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. Considered a moderate Republican, Scott’s service in the Congress spanned a total of 34 years. In 1981, after his retirement, a room in the United States Capitol was named in his honor.

Born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, on an estate once owned by George Washington, Scott’s Virginia ties ran deep. His great-grandfather served in the Confederate Army under John Hunt Morgan’s “Morgan Raiders” and his great-grandmother was a niece of President Zachary Taylor. He spent two years in the Navy during World War II. Scott graduated from Randolph-Macon College in 1919 and earned a law degree from the University of Virginia. After graduation, he moved to Philadelphia where he became an assistant district attorney for fifteen years.

Scott served on the Board of Trustees at Randolph-Macon College from 1978 to 1989 and received the Distinguished Service Award from the college in 1968. Scott died in 1994.

Porter Hardy Jr. (Class of 1922)

Porter Hardy Jr. (1903-1995) served in the United States House of Representatives from 1947 to 1969, representing Virginia’s 2nd District as a Democrat. His 22 years in the House marked the longest congressional tenure at the time from that district. Prior to his election, he had been a farmer in Chesapeake and later sold large tracts of land for home site development.

Hardy served as chairman of investigation subcommittees for the Armed Services and Government Operations Committees in the House of Representatives. He was described by The New York Times as a Representative from the Tidewater region “at once typical of his place and time and something of a maverick.”

Hardy graduated from Randolph-Macon College at the age of 19 and attended the Graduate School of Business Administration at Harvard University. He served on the Board of Trustees at Randolph-Macon College from 1968-76 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from the college in 1968.

James W. Riddleberger (Class of 1924)

James W. Riddleberger (1904-1982) was a European affairs specialist for the State Department, serving at senior levels in Geneva, Berlin, London and Paris during the rise of Adolf Hitler and also at the height of the Cold War. Appointed a Career Ambassador in 1960, he served as U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia (1953-1958), Greece (1958-1959) and Austria (1962-1967). He played a role in arranging the 1955 Austrian Independence Treaty which established that country’s neutrality.

A native of Woodstock, Virginia, after graduating from Randolph-Macon College, Riddleberger went on to receive his M.A. in Foreign Service at Georgetown University. His papers and interviews are preserved as part of a collection at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library.

J. Randy Forbes (Class of 1974)

Randy Forbes (1952- ) has been a member of the U.S. Congress since 2001. A lifelong resident of Virginia, Forbes began his career as a lawyer in southeastern Virginia. From 1989-2001, he served the Commonwealth of Virginia in the General Assembly, where he eventually served as the Republican Floor Leader in the House of Delegates and later as the Republican Floor Leader in the Senate. He was the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia from 1997-2001.

Forbes currently serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Armed Services. He is also the founder of the congressional Modeling and Simulation Caucus, the Congressional China Caucus, and the co-chair of the Navy and Marine Corps Caucus. In addition, Forbes is the founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus whose purpose is to recognize the vital role that prayer by individuals of all faiths has played in Congress and in America.

Forbes was valedictorian of his 1974 class at Randolph-Macon College and is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law. Randolph-Macon College awarded him the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2008.