C. Bascom Slemp

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C. Bascom Slemp in 1924

Campbell Bascom Slemp (September 4, 1870 – August 7, 1943) was an American Republican politician. He was a six-time United States congressman from Virginia's 9th congressional district from 1907 to 1923 and served as the presidential secretary to President Calvin Coolidge. As a philanthropist, Slemp set up the "Slemp Foundation", which provides gifts and scholarships to schools and colleges in Southwestern Virginia.

Early life[edit]

Slemp was born at Turkey Cove, Virginia in Lee County to Colonel Campbell Slemp, a United States Representative from the 9th district of Virginia from 1903 to 1907. His mother was Nancy (Nannie) Britain Cawood of Harlan Co., KY. His father, was an officer in the Confederate army during the American Civil War. Nannie's father, Moses Cawood, was lynched by union forces near his home outside Boonville, Owsley Co., KY while his wife Emily Ann Maddy Cawood watched.

He attended the public schools of rural Southwest Virginia at "The Seminary" in Turkey Cove. In 1887, Slemp entered the Corp of Cadets at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia and graduated in 1891, he graduated with the highest grade point average in the school's history — a record that stands today. He also received the Jackson Medal for Most Distinguished Student four years in a row.[1]

He subsequently studied law at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Early career[edit]

Slemp served as Commandant of Cadets at the Marion Military Institute for one year after which he was hired as Principal of the Stonega Academy in Big Stone Gap. He taught at VMI as Professor of Mathematics for several years, then in 1901, after being admitted to the Virginia bar, he resigned his position at the Institute to set up a law practice in Big Stone Gap.

Political career[edit]

In 1905, Slemp was elected as chairman of the Republican State Committee and served until 1918 at which point he was elected to the Republican National Committee.

Campbell Slemp, his father, served Virginia’s 9th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1903 to 1907. After the death of his father, Slemp was elected to fill the vacancy. He was reelected to the position six times, serving from 1907 until 1922, at which point he declined to be a candidate for re-election.

On September 4, 1923, six months after Slemp completed his last term as Congressman, President Calvin Coolidge appointed him to serve as Secretary to the President of the United States,[2][3] a post similar to the later White House Chief of Staff. He served until March 4, 1925 when he resigned early in Coolidge's second term after friction between himself and the President was unable to be resolved.[4] He was succeeded by Everett Sanders.

Return to rural life[edit]

After leaving the Coolidge administration, Slemp returned to his law practice in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. In 1931, Slemp was awarded the prestigious French Legion of Honor Medal[5] for his work as United States Commissioner General[6] for the International Colonial and Overseas Exposition that took place in Paris in May 1931, one of his last official responsibilities before his retirement. He remained a prominent member of the community and southwest Virginia political scene until his death at the age of 73 in Knoxville, Tennessee on August 7, 1943. He was later buried in the family cemetery at Turkey Cove, Virginia.


As a philanthropist, Slemp continues to touch the lives of countless youth. He set up the Slemp Foundation,[7] which provides gifts to libraries, schools and colleges in Southwestern Virginia. Many of the "Lonesome Pine Regional Library" (which serves Lee, Dickenson, and Wise Counties, Virginia) locations are named in his honor.

The Slemp Scholarship, named in honor of the late congressman, is awarded to outstanding college students who graduated from schools in Lee, Scott, and Wise Counties, Virginia.

In October 2003, the C. Bascom Slemp Student Center[8] was opened on the campus of the University of Virginia's College at Wise. This $10.9 million, 46,234-square-foot (4,295.3 m2) structure was funded by student fees and a $2.5 million gift from the Slemp Foundation. Planning for the student center began eight and a half years before the project was completed.

Slemp was a cousin three times removed of the American film star George C. Scott.

The United States Post Office and Courthouse at Big Stone Gap, Virginia is named the C. Bascom Slemp Federal Building.


  1. ^ The Slemp Foundation., The Slemp Foundation, retrieved 2009-05-09 
  2. ^ "An Appointment", Time, 1923-08-20, retrieved 2009-05-09 
  3. ^ "C. Bascom Slemp.", Time, 1923-08-27, retrieved 2009-05-09 
  4. ^ "A Sanders for a Slemp.", Time, 1925-01-26, retrieved 2009-05-09 
  5. ^ "Honors 1932.", Time, 1932-10-03, retrieved 2009-05-09 
  6. ^ "Inspiratio0", Time, 1932-12-15, retrieved 2009-05-09 
  7. ^ The Slemp Foundation., The Slemp Foundation, retrieved 2009-05-09 
  8. ^ C. Bascom Slemp Student Center., The University of Virginia, retrieved 2009-05-09 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Campbell Slemp
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 9th congressional district

December 17, 1907 – March 3, 1923
Succeeded by
George C. Peery