Alvin S. Maddox (1868–1939)

The Reverend Alvin Stewart Maddox established two female educational institutions in Arkansas: Maddox Seminary in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Crescent College in Eureka Springs (Carroll County). He was a noted educator and businessman.

Alvin Stewart Maddox was born on August 17, 1868, to Thomas Frederick Maddox and Amanda Lee Nance Maddox in Rutherford County, Tennessee. He grew up in Rutherford County with his ten brothers and sisters, one of whom died young. His grandfather was a ruling elder of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and the family grew up with a strong religious background.

By 1889, he and brother Finis Ewing Maddox were working for the Cumberland Presbytery and were accepted as candidates to study for the ministry at Cumberland University. While at the university, Alvin Maddox met Mary Susie Coggin, and they married on August 30, 1893. They moved to Lebanon, Tennessee, and entered Cumberland University for their last year. In the spring of 1894, Maddox accepted the office of president of Union Female College (UFC) located at Oxford, Mississippi, to begin with the fall semester. He and his wife moved to Oxford after they graduated. His wife became ill and died on August 22, 1894. He opened the UFC in September.

On December 23, 1894, he married Grace Isabella Cowling at Nashville (Howard County) during the UFC winter break. The couple had three sons and one daughter. For graduation exercises of the college in 1896. Maddox’s brother Finis Maddox came from Birmingham, Alabama, to give the commencement address. By August 1898, Alvin Maddox had printed a handbook, had hired faculty, and had gotten some student commitments. He was traveling promoting the college when Oxford was put under quarantine due to a yellow fever epidemic, and there was nowhere to hold school.

He was able to lease property in Arkansas at 1500 Lincoln Avenue in Little Rock, where the campus of Little Rock University had been located but which was unoccupied at the time. There was a two-story mansion with stables and servants’ quarters and the four-story brick University Hall building on the property. He and his wife and their growing family moved into the mansion. They were joined by Finis Maddox, and they rushed to get school ready to open.

The school opened on October 12, 1898, under the name of Little Rock University, but by 1899 they called the university Maddox Seminary. They accepted young women and also girls and boys under twelve years of age. They announced that the seminary was nonsectarian and nondenominational but was to be conducted in a Christian atmosphere. Finis Maddox was appointed vice president, and both brothers taught a few classes.

The property was owned by the Freedmen’s Aid Society and the Southern Educational Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church located in Cincinnati, Ohio. The society had purchased the property in 1882 and had paid $40,000 for the property and building of University Hall; local subscriptions added $10,000. Funding was a frequent issue, and Maddox made more than one journey to Cincinnati for extra funds. The first trip was in the spring of 1899, when he was able to obtain funds for a three-story addition to the main building and other repairs and improvements.

About 1902, another brother, Clarence W. Maddox, joined the organization as secretary and treasurer. During the summer months, he managed the Maddox hotel in the seminary buildings to help with funding. In July 1906, the Freedmen’s Aid Society did not renew the lease and sold the property where the seminary was located.

While the seminary was in operation, Alvin Maddox was also a member of the Little Rock Board of Trade and pushed for a railroad for Little Rock. He served on a committee that was planning to build a facility for the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). He was moderator for a meeting of the Little Rock Presbytery in 1905 and preached the constituting sermon.

After the seminary closed, he and Clarence opened a real estate business while he looked for another location for a school. In 1908, he opened the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women in Eureka Springs. He only stayed at Crescent College two years. While at the college, his wife served as “lady principal.”

After he left Crescent College, he began to sell insurance and continued as an agent and executive of an insurance company for the rest of his life. He also announced in 1914 that he was going to enter the race for secretary of state of Arkansas. He died in California on May 27, 1939.

For additional information:
“A. S. Maddox.” Nashville News, October 14, 1914, p. 1.

“City News.” Arkansas Gazette, October 11, 1898, p. 5.

“Educator’s Funeral Scheduled Today.” Los Angeles Times, May 28, 1939, p. 7.

“Elk Presbytery.” Tennessean, April 29, 1890, p. 8.

“Hot August.” Arkansas Gazette, July 30, 1903, p. 6.

“In Memoriam.” Brownwood Bulletin, August 30, 1894, p. 5.

“Letter from President Maddox.” Arkansas Democrat, October 27, 1899, p. 7.

“A New Enterprise.” Arkansas Democrat, August 21, 1906, p. 8.

“Presbytery Next Thursday.” Arkansas Democrat, July 15, 1905, p. 6.

“Quick Work Agreed on by Business Men’s Committee for the Y.M.C.A. Building.” Arkansas Democrat, December 5, 1901, p. 5.

Carolyn Yancey Kent
Jacksonville, Arkansas


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