John Preston Arthur

  John Preston Arthur matriculated at V. M. I. in 1866 and graduated in 1871, thirty-first of a graduating class of forty-six.  Neither he nor his brother, Edward Robert Arthur, were good students, as their mother wrote to General Smith, they did not apply themselves.  Their father died while they were at V. M. I. which necessitated their being home for several months.  Their absence undoubtedly contributed to John's taking five years to graduate.

John Arthur, Alpha 39, was the first scribe of Alpha Chapter.  When he went to Bailey Law School in Asheville, N.C., in 1871 he took with him a dispensation to found a chapter of Sigma Nu.  He initiated one man, James G. Martin, but that early Gamma Chapter was never really established.

He was a student at the University of South Carolina from December, 1871, to may, 1872.  He took a degree of bachelor of laws and was valedictorian of the Euphradian Society.  He was admitted to the bar of South Carolina in May, 1872, and a few years later was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of that state.

John Arthur's career varied throughout his life: taught school in Columbia, S.C., from 1873 to 1875; adjutant of the Palmetto regiment in 1881; clerk of the office of W.W. Phelp in New York City from December, 1881, to September 1884, and in the office of J.H. Hubbell from December, 1884, to August, 1887; admitted to the bar of New York State In February 1885; removed to Asheville, N.C., in August, 1887; became secretary of the Asheville Street Railway Company and later general manager and superintendent until 1894; admitted to the bar of North Carolina in 1894 and practiced law in Asheville until 1898, after that time doing whatever he could find to do.

He died on December 6, 1916, at Boone, N.C., at the age of sixty-five.  He was in almost abject poverty but too proud to accept assistance even from relatives.  His books, especially the History of Western North Carolina, had kept him in food and clothing.  His many friends in the poor mountain region where he had lived gave him a decent burial.  A friend of eighty-five years of age managed to raise enough money to put up a headstone, and with his own hands he hauled gravel and sand from a ruin three miles away to prepare a foundation for the marker.

In one of his last letters, written October 19, 1916, to Colonel Joseph R. Anderson at V. M. I., John Arthur wrote that he was digging potatoes and gathering apples at fifty cents a day, and he was looking for a job of any kind.  He had tried to resume law practice but did not have enough to live on while waiting to get established.