north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

      Designation of an individual as the founder of a college or university can be a tricky business. In the case of Elizabeth City State University, a consensus has developed around Hugh Cale (1835-1910), the legislator who introduced the bill to establish the school. He is cited as the founder in a history of ECSU published in 1980 and is the only individual aside from college presidents named in the historical sketch in the school’s catalog.

      Born in Perquimans County, Cale worked at Fort Hatteras and on Roanoke Island during the war and in 1867 moved to Elizabeth City where he was a merchant. Locally he held a host of offices including county commissioner. He was one of thirteen African Americans to serve in the state legislature in 1876, the first of his four terms. In 1882 Cale, an active A.M.E. Zion layman, was appointed a trustee of Zion Wesley Institute in Salisbury which in 1885 became Livingstone College. He was among the initial group of nine trustees of the North Carolina Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Colored Race (present-day North Carolina A. & T. State University) in Greensboro and served in that position from 1891 to 1899. He was a delegate to the Republican national convention of 1896.

      During his last legislative term, Cale in 1891 introduced House Bill 383 to establish “Elizabeth City Colored Normal School” for the education of black teachers. Elizabeth City State University has honored Cale with a scholarship in his name. A former public school and a street in town are named for him. Personally Cale is said to have been “truthful and honest” and “very temperate in his habits.”

Elizabeth City State University Catalog, 1987-1988
Leonard R. Ballou, Pasquotank Pedagogues and Politicians (1966)
Evelyn A. Johnson, History of Elizabeth City State University (1980)
(Elizabeth City) Tar Heel, July 30, 1910 (obituary)
Eric Foner, Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders During Reconstruction (1993)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources