James Sidney Rollins is Born: April 19, 1812

James S. Rollins
Public Domain

James Sidney Rollins, often hailed as the “Father of the University of Missouri,” was born on this date in 1812. Rollins was a significant figure in American history, particularly in the context of education and politics in Missouri. Born in Richmond, Kentucky, Rollins moved to Missouri with his family during his childhood. He pursued his education diligently, graduating from Indiana University in 1830 before studying law at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky.

After being admitted to the bar, Rollins began his law practice in Columbia where he quickly became a prominent citizen. His dedication to education and civic engagement led him to serve on the Board of Curators of the University of Missouri for multiple terms, beginning in the 1830s. His most notable contribution came in 1839 when he played a pivotal role in securing Columbia as the location for the University of Missouri, the first public university west of the Mississippi River. His advocacy and financial support were crucial in the establishment and development of the institution.

Aside from his contributions to education, Rollins was also a prominent politician. He served in the Missouri State House of Representatives several times and was elected to the U.S. Congress as a Whig and later as a Unionist during the Civil War. Throughout his political career, he was a staunch advocate for the Union and worked tirelessly to keep Missouri from seceding.

After the Civil War, Rollins continued to support the University of Missouri and higher education reforms. He was instrumental in the creation of the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy (now Missouri University of Science and Technology) and advocated for educational opportunities for women and African Americans, although progress in these areas was slow during his lifetime.

James S. Rollins died on January 9, 1888, in Columbia. His legacy, particularly in terms of his contributions to education in Missouri and his unwavering support for the University of Missouri, remains a cornerstone of the institution’s history. His vision and efforts helped shape the educational landscape of Missouri, earning him a lasting place of honor in its history.