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U.Va. Library Celebrates Birth Of James Madison And His Contributions To The University

March 6, 2001-- Friday, March 16, marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of James Madison (1751-1836). While festivities are planned throughout the nation to honor Madison as the "Father of the Constitution" and as the fourth U.S. president, the University of Virginia Library will recognize Madison’s great and often overlooked contributions to the University with a special display.

"James Madison, Unsung Hero of the University," in Memorial Hall of Alderman Library throughout March, will exhibit facsimiles of Madison’s letters, documents and even his will demonstrating his dedication and work for the University. The Web site www.lib.virginia.edu/jamesmadison provides an online version of the exhibit with additional information.

After years of public service and during his "retirement," Madison joined his longtime friend, Thomas Jefferson, in founding the University of Virginia. Madison assisted Jefferson in every step of the planning, says David Mattern, senior associate editor of the Papers of James Madison project, based in the U.Va. Library.

Upon Jefferson’s death in 1826, only a year after the University opened, Madison was elected its second rector. He led the University for eight tumultuous years of early growth, which included financial difficulties, the departures of several of the first faculty and episodes of student unruliness.

Madison greatly supported the University Library by donating money and books from his private collection. His 1836 bequest of $1,500 (the equivalent of more than $24,000 today) established the library’s first endowment, which still provides annual funds to buy more books.

In his will, Madison left his own extensive library to the University, but only a fraction of his volumes ever made it. Mattern said it is believed that Dolley Madison’s son from her first marriage, John Payne Todd, who was designated to care for Montpelier, the Madison home, sold much of the collection to pay gambling debts and liquor bills. After taking legal action, the University acquired 587 pamphlets from an estimated 4,000 volumes once belonging to Madison.

"James Madison was a champion of education," Mattern said. "His contributions during the University’s early years helped make it the premier institution it is today."

Visit the display in Memorial Hall of Alderman Library or the Web site to learn more about Madison’s contributions to U.Va.

Contact: Melissa Norris, (804) 924-4254

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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