Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens
JAMES GILMER McMURTY. In placing the name of James G. McMurtry, president of Drury College, in the front rank of educators who have at one time or another honored Springfield with their residence, simple justice is done a biographical fact, recognized by all who are familiar with his history. A man of high intellectual attainments, wise discretion and rare executive ability, he has managed with tactful success the great institution of which the citizens of Greene county are justly proud. He has been very largely the architect of his own fortunes, has been true and loyal in all the relations of life and stands as a type of that sterling manhood which ever commands respect. He is a man who would, no doubt, have won a conspicuous position in whatever environment fate might have placed him, for he has sound judgment, coupled with great energy and keen discernment, all of which make for success wherever they are rightly applied and a laudable ambition is persistently followed. Withal, he is an unassuming and cultured gentleman, popular in all circles in which he moves.
President McMurtry was born on a farm in Parke county, Indiana, April 2, 1870. He is a scion of a sterling old family of the Hoosier state, being a son of David W. and Martha E. (Cooper) McMurtry. The father, also a native of Parke county, was born in 1837 and died in 1910, at the age of seventy-three years, after a long and successful career as a general farmer and stock raiser. He was a son of John S. and Margaret (McKee) McMurtry, both natives of Kentucky, from which state they came to western Indiana in pioneer days, and there became well established through their industry. The McMurtrys have ever stood for right living and good citizenship, and it has been a pleasure to our subject to keep untarnished the bright escutcheon of the family name.
James G. McMurtry grew to manhood on his father's farm on which he laid the foundation for a robust manhood by performing his full share of the work during crop seasons. In the winter time he attended the district schools, later taking a course in Wabash College, from which institution he was graduated in 1893, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. In 1895 this institution conferred upon him the degree of Master of Arts, and Doctor of Philosophy in 1898. After leaving college he began his career as educator, in which his rise was rapid, each succeeding year finding him further advanced, until today he is universally recognized as one of the foremost educators of the Middle West. He has specialized in Greek, and is regarded as an authority on that old classic language. He has made himself proficient in Latin also, and he taught these languages in the Collegiate Institute at Carthage, Missouri, in 1893-94. From 1895 to 1897 he was vice-president of Washington College in Tennessee, and was professor of Greek and philosophy in that institution, then taught the same branches in Henry Kendall College until 1902. He then went to Parsons College, Fairfield, Iowa, where he remained seven years as professor of Greek. When he first entered upon his duties there one pupil out of every twenty-three was studying Greek. He made this department so popular that when he left there one out of every two students was studying this dead language, a remarkably notable increase which perhaps has not been equalled in any other school.
His insatiable thirst for higher learning led Professor McMurtry, after five years' work in Parsons College, to an extended sojourn abroad in travel and study in Scotland, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Egypt and Palestine. He had not been in Europe long until he became a member of the American School of Archaeology at Athens, Greece. He has also been a member of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South since 1905, and since 1907 his name has been on the membership roll of the American Philological Association. He is a man of highly developed perceptive faculties, and thus being a keen observer, he was greatly benefited by his studies in foreign lands, and since his return to the United States he has given many interesting and instructive lectures, especially on Jerusalem, also many other places of importance, having been frequently requested to do so. His descriptions of the scenes and places through which he passed are graphic and are of greater value to the auditor than the average lecture by travelers. He produced a masterly sermon or prose poem on the twenty-third psalm several years ago, and, while not a theologian, his interpretation of this beautiful portion of the Scriptures, is superior to any yet known, according to those who have had the good fortune of hearing his address. He has been frequently importuned to have it published, but, never having put a single line of it to paper, he has so far refused to give it to the printer.
Upon his return from Europe he went back to Fairfield, Iowa, and continued his connection with Parsons College until 1909, when, much to the regret of the curators and all concerned, he resigned in order to give his attention to personal business interests at El Campo, Texas, and although he had never given much time or attention to business affairs, he was so successful that while there he was offered the position of cashier in the First National Bank, which he accepted, acting in that capacity from January 1, 1911, until the following September. Such was his administration of the bank's affairs that he received numerous flattering offers of positions in Eastern banks. However, he had never been imbued with an ambition to become a captain of industry, and he preferred to return to educational work, and he gave up his high-salaried position with the El Campo bank to accept the chair of Greek in Drury College, at a salary of less than one-half of the amount he was receiving as cashier. Thus he has been connected with Drury College since the fall of 1911. He proved to be such a valuable addition to the faculty that his salary was raised a number of times and in August, 1913, he was appointed acting president of the college for one year. However, before the close of the year, he was elected president, which responsible and exacting position he has since filled in a manner that has reflected much credit upon himself and to the satisfaction of all concerned. He has done much to strengthen the work in all departments and increase the prestige of the school. His exceptional business acumen has been of great service in placing Drury on a sounder financial basis. He is greatly enamored of his work, believing that teaching is the greatest of all professions. He mixes freely with his students, encourages and assists them in any way possible, unlike the heads of some of our great institutions of learning who hold themselves aloof from their students. He is easy of approach, obliging and of unquestioned altruistic impulses, and is therefore popular with all with whom he comes in contact. His superior scholarship, sound erudition and rare ability as an educator being unquestioned by those who know of his commendable work. Unlike many of his profession he has never become narrow or pedantic, but his views on national and other questions are broad and progressive. He has marked ability as a public speaker.
Doctor McMurtry's domestic life began on July 25, 1894, in Crawfordsville, Indiana, when he was united in marriage with Mary Anice Bray, a daughter of Ira M. and Emma Bray, a prominent and highly esteemed family of that city. Mrs. McMurtry received the advantages of an excellent education, and is a lady of culture and refinement.
The union of our subject and wife has been blessed by the birth of two children, namely: Mildred Oenone and James G., Jr.
Politically, Doctor McMurtry is an independent voter. Socially he he longs to the University Club of Springfield, the Young Men's. Business Club, and the Springfield Club.
Springfield-Greene County Library