Early Settlers of Union
Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
Dr. Thomas Jackson Lance,
President of Young Harris College, 1930-1942
Dr. Thomas Jackson "Jack"
Lance (31 Jan 1886 - 27 Jan 1880)
President, Young Harris College, 1930-1942
persons who have gone out from Union County and
served mankind with dignity and unselfishness, we must applaud Dr.
Thomas Jackson Lance, educator and humanitarian, who was president of Young Harris College
during the difficult times of the Great Depression Years, 1930-1942.
Lance was the first of twenty children born to his father, James
Washington Lance (1861-1940). Jim Lance, as his father was known, was a
farmer at Wolf Creek,
north of Vogel State
Park in Choestoe District, Union
County, Georgia. The
mother of Thomas Jackson, better known as Jack, was Virginia Jane L.
Henson (1863-1916). Jack, their firstborn, was born January 31, 1886. It
is possible that the young boy had a memory of his grandfather, the
Rev. John Lance (1834-1890), who was brutally murdered by moonshiners
after returning from a preaching assignment. Jack's father, Jim Lance,
spent much time and effort trying to bring the perpetrators of the
crime to justice. That story has been adequately covered in Charles
Hill's excellent book entitled Blood Mountain Covenant.
Lance's family was so large, it seems somewhat of a miracle of the
mountains that he was able to get an excellent education and become the
shining light among educators that was his calling. After a long and
useful life of 94 years, Dr. Thomas Jackson Lance died January 27, 1980. I
was able to access the eulogy given at the time of his memorial service
by the Rev. Edgar A. Padgett of the Calhoun, Georgia United Methodist Church.
From this tribute I learned much about the man whose life was marked by
selfless service to others.
Being from a
large family, and the eldest of the children, early on Jack Lance
learned to bear his weight around the farm on Wolf Creek. His
full siblings, born to his mother, Jane, were Juan Bascomb
(1888-1958), Lena Mabel (1891-1946), Sarah Theodosia, "Docia" (1894-?), Luther Edgar (1897- ?), Fannie
Lee (1900-?), Carter Paul (1903-?), Homer E. (1906-?) and Mary Emma
Louis (b/d 1908). Jack's father, when Jack's mother, Jane, died,
married Melissa Spiva. Jack's
half-siblings from this marriage were Elbert, James C. known as Jay,
Auburn, Champ C., Bruce M., Charles F., Johnny W., Donald Ray, Grace
Jane and Betty Jean (died as infants), and Bobby Gaynell.
From his early life Jack Lance was taught the virtues of hard work,
honesty, kindness, good manners, and a love for education.
learned what he could in the one-teacher schools of Choestoe, and at
the knees of notable teachers and preachers there, Jack Lance went to Young Harris College for
further education. The college took him in, giving him work on the farm
to earn his way. He was an exceptionally gifted student. He graduated
from Young Harris in 1908, with high honors.
Harris, he continued his education at the University of Georgia
where he earned both the Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees,
and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa National Scholastic Society. His
doctor of philosophy degree came later, but the information of where he
earned it is not presently available to this writer.
He wanted to
teach. His career as an educator included classroom instruction at
Hopewell High School, at Richmond Academy in Augusta, at Young Harris
College, and then as an administrator for 13 years, serving as
superintendent of schools in Waynesboro, Georgia.
His Alma Mater,
Young Harris College,
having already his record as a student and as a professor there, tapped
him as president of the college. He served admirably in that capacity
during some difficult years, beginning in 1930 and continuing through
1942. I wish the span of this short article could list all the
hardships he faced in keeping the small mountain college above-board
financially and operable during some of the darkest years of America's
Great Depression. Suffice it to say that his hard work, faithfulness
and industry during that span of his career saw him inducted into and
honored by the Kappa Phi Kappa National Honor Society for Distinguished
Of that period
of Dr. Jack Lance's career, the Rev. Edgar A. Padgett wrote: "He lived
with deficits as his daily companion, but managed to keep Young Harris
alive, serving the needs of so many who without it would have had
little, if any, chance for a college education… Dr. Lance always found
a way to help a deserving student stay in college. Many of our most
distinguished citizens of Georgia have
testified that they owe their start in life to Dr. Lance who inspired
and encouraged them to keep trying, with the assurance of his help."
Lance married Annie Rose Erwin who graduated from Young Harris in 1913.
To them were born four children: Thomas Jackson, Jr., Robert, Alice
Rose, and Thomas Bertram, "Bert." Many will recognize the name of Bert
Lance as a cabinet member during the time Jimmy Carter was president of
From Young Harris, in 1942, the Lance family moved to Calhoun, GA and
there the children were reared. He was superintendent of schools at
Calhoun for two years, 1942- 1944, and then he began a sixteen year
tenure with the State Department of Education in Atlanta as a state
school supervisor, having as his goal improving the quality of
education for every public school student in the state of Georgia.
It was said of
Dr. Lance that he had a phenomenal memory, even into his later years.
He never forgot a name, a face, a favor, a verse of Scripture, an
experience. From his rich well of experience he could recall where he
had met people and what they did.
He loved his
family, his home, and the classroom. Although many years of his
illustrious career were spent in school administration, his first love
was teaching. It has been said of him that the "moments of
illumination" when a student "sees" through a problem and has an
epiphany of insight were, for him, thrilling and emotional experiences.
"opportunites" this country boy had to
become "somebody," they were slender, indeed. But mountains were a
challenge to him, and doing good was his
second nature. "Lives of great men all remind us, /We can make our
lives sublime,/ And, departing, leave behind
us / Footprints on the sands of time." So wrote poet Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow. So lived Educator Dr. Thomas Jackson
c2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published August 21, 2008 in The Union
Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights
Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian.
She may be reached at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org;
phone 478-453-8751; or mail 1708
Updated September 8, 2008
Back To Union County, Georgia GenWeb Site