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Pieces of Eight

Library Exhibit Features Jarvis, 'Father of ECU'

The artifacts belonging to Gov. Thomas Jordan Jarvis are on display at the J.Y. Joyner Library at East Carolina University.

Thomas Jarvis
Thomas J. Jarvis

Jarvis, who also served as an ambassador to Brazil, is considered the “Father of ECU” because of his advocacy for a teachers training college in Greenville. His advocacy led to legislation that secured a charter for the then-East Carolina Teachers Training School in 1907. The school that would become ECU opened its doors to students in 1909.

ECU’s Centennial celebration begins March 8. The exhibit at the Verona Langford North Carolina Collection is located on the third floor of Joyner Library and will be on display through April 2007.

Exhibit items include: a partner’s desk and safe belonging to Jarvis; photographs of Jarvis, his boyhood home in Currituck County, and his wife, Mary Woodson Jarvis; reproductions of sketches of the Jarvis residence on Greene Street, by former Greenville resident Sarah Speight; and facsimile images of an 1859 novel by Mary Jarvis and a 1902 booklet she authored concerning the Ku Klux Klan.

A native of Currituck County and graduate of Randolph-Macon College, Jarvis served as Lt. Governor and Governor of North Carolina from 1876 to 1884.

Mary Jarvis
Mary W. Jarvis

In 1885, he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Brazil. During his stay there, he developed a life-long fondness for the red clay tile roofs that dotted the Brazilian landscape.

This influence carried over to a great degree in the construction of East Carolina’s first buildings, when Jarvis substituted the red clay tiles in place of slate as originally planned by the architect.

The North Carolina Collection is on the third floor of Joyner. The exhibit is free and open to the public. Visit for details. For additional information, contact Fred Harrison, exhibit curator, at 328-0249 or visit

This page originally appeared in the Feb. 23, 2007 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at