Biography of Colonel Morgan H. Hudgins

Colonel Morgan H. Hudgins, born December 4, 1878, in Portsmouth, Virginia, has been a pivotal figure in Virginia education, notably as superintendent of Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro since 1913. A Virginia Military Institute graduate, Hudgins joined Fishburne in 1901 as commandant of cadets, later becoming associate principal and then superintendent. He also served as mayor of Waynesboro for eight years and held roles during both World Wars. Under his leadership, Fishburne expanded significantly, becoming a top military school in the South. Hudgins married Elizabeth Milnes Austin in 1913.

As superintendent of Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, Colonel Morgan H. Hudgins has emerged as one of Virginia’s leading educators. He has been associated with this school since the early years of the century, and his status in his community is indicated by the fact that for eight years he served as mayor of Waynesboro.

Colonel Hudgins is a native of Portsmouth, Virginia. He was born December 4, 1878, son of Henry Clay and Lucrece P. (Langhorne) Hudgins. He graduated from high school in his native city in 1898, and from the Virginia Military Institute in the class of 1901, and his sole connection as educator, since that time, has been with Fishburne Military School. While at Virginia Military Institute, Colonel Hudgins was a classmate of General George C. Marshall, later Chief of Staff of the United States Army and Secretary of State.

When in 1901 Colonel Hudgins came to Fishburne Military School, it was to accept an appointment as commandant of cadets. He held this position until 1912, but in 1905 assumed also the responsibilities of associate principal, discharging the duties of that office until 1913. In the latter year he became superintendent and a director, and has held those posts since that time. During World War I, Colonel Hudgins served as chairman of war activities for Waynesboro, and was also staff specialist holding the rank of major in the Reserve Officers Corps, United States Army. At the time of World War II, he held the rank of Colonel, and was a member of the Selective Service Board of his community.

Colonel Hudgins was mayor of Waynesboro for eight years, and he was the first president of the Rotary Club in that city. He is a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity, is a Democrat in his politics, and is a communicant of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which congregation he serves as senior warden and vestryman.

Fishburne Military School has long been an important factor in the life of Waynesboro. It was founded in 1879 by Professor James A. Fishburne, who in that year opened a one-room private school for town students in the old Taylor Building, near the present location of the Man’s Shop. It was called at that time “The Waynesboro High School,” and, strangely enough for an institution destined to become a leading military school, was at first coeducational, numbering both boys and girls among its thirteen students. The following year the town public school abandoned the Waynesboro Academy Building, and Professor Fishburne took advantage of the opportunity offered to expand his own facilities. At the time of the school’s removal into this building, it became strictly a boys’ school, and there too he employed his first instructor to assist in the teaching. Professor Fishburne also constructed a home nearby, and students and instructors roomed there, being served meals in the basement of the building. A photograph of the school taken in 1888 shows a long, white-painted frame barracks building, adjoined by two other structures; but the reputation of the school, which was to lead to the construction of today’s impressive facilities, had already begun to grow. Throughout Virginia, North Carolina and other Southern states, word of its excellent educational program became current. In the ‘eighties, the term “Military” was added to the school’s name. Even in these early years, the school won favorable attention through competition with other schools, and was accorded prizes.

The year 1917 marked the completion of the first portion of the present extensive brick structures which house the school’s facilities. The mess hall, kitchen, swimming pool and auditorium in use today, and the entire west wing, were added in 1921. A separate gymnasium was later erected.

The founder of the school, Professor James A. Fishburne, died in 1921. He was succeeded in the presidency by W. H. Gardner, who held the office until his death in 1941. Mr. Pliny Fishburne, nephew of Professor Fishburne, succeeded Mr. Gardner in the presidency, and has held that position to the present time. While Colonel Hudgins holds the position corresponding to that which he assumed in 1913, the then title of principal has subsequently been changed to that of superintendent. He has retained the directorship throughout the intervening period of more than thirty-five years. Other members of the board are Mr. Pliny Fishburne, Major Elliott Fishburne, Colonel Max Patterson, C. G. Quesenbery, and V. R. Chew. As superintendent, Colonel Hudgins is aided in the administrative work of Fishburne Military School by the following officers: Major Elliott G. Fishburne, treasurer; Major Alexander Galt, Jr., United States Marine Corps, commandant; Major Charles M. Pace, Jr., headmaster. Colonel J. L. Lancaster, United States Army, is professor of military science and tactics; and the faculty and administrative staffs have a total of about thirty members.

The excellence of Fishburne’s training as a military school is indicated by the enviable records it has won in competitions. In 1939 and in 1940, its rifle team, under the coaching of Captain W. B. Shooter, twice captured the Hearst National Championship Trophy, and from its early days it has won prizes for the excellence of its military drill performance. It is today acknowledged to be one of the best-equipped military schools in the South, and has been designated by the War Department as an Honor School for nearly twenty consecutive years. Fishburne Military School enrolls two hundred cadets, and many of its alumni have assumed roles of prominence in the affairs of the state, and of value to their communities. Colonel Hudgins’ thorough experience, and his appreciation of the place of the military school in the nation’s educational system have played no small part in its growth and prestige.

On June 3, 1913, Colonel Morgan H. Hudgins married Elizabeth Milnes Austin, descended from one of the old and distinguished families of the Shenandoah Valley, and a native of Waynesboro.


Couper, Wm. (William), History of the Shenandoah Valley, Family and Personal Records, vol. III, New York, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1952.

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