Henry Jerome Stockard, educator and poet, was born in Chatham County on September 15, 1858, the ninth of James G. and Mary J. Stockard’s ten sons. In 1870, James died, leaving his wife raising all the children. Henry, twelve at the time, went to work as a laborer to help support the family; however, his mother insisted that he receive a proper education.
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Stockard attended Graham High School and took courses under Professor Thomas Hume at the University of North Carolina before entering Elon College. After graduation from Elon in 1889, Stockard taught high school in Alamance County, became principal of Graham High, and then superintendent of Alamance County schools. Stockard married Sallie Holleman in 1878. Before her death ten years later, the couple had four children. In May 1890, soon after his Elon graduation, Stockard wed Margaret Lula Tate of Graham, with whom he had six more children. In 1892 he returned for a one-year appointment teaching English at the University of North Carolina.
An appointment as a professor of English and political science took Stockard to Fredericksburg College in Virginia in 1893, where he remained for seven years. In 1900, Stockard returned to North Carolina as a Latin professor at Peace Institute in Raleigh; he then served as president of Peace until 1912. Preferring the classroom to the boardroom, Stockard chose to return to his professorship, which he continued until his death in 1914. That year, Wake Forest College awarded him an honorary Litt. D. degree.
Stockard left a strong literary legacy. His poetry appeared in Harper’s, Scribner’s, Century, Atlantic Monthly and the Library of Southern Literature, and he became recognized as the unofficial poet laureate of North Carolina. He published two volumes of poetry, Fugitive Lines (1897) and A Study of Poetry (1911). Stockard also composed poems for ceremonies, such as the unveilings of the North Carolina monument at Appomattox, Virginia, and the monument to the women of the Confederacy on Capitol Square in Raleigh. He also helped found the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.
Stockard died on September 5, 1914, ten days shy of his fifty-sixth birthday. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. A portrait of him hangs in the administration building at Peace College.
Samuel A. Ashe, ed., Biographical History of North Carolina, V (1905)
William S. Powell, ed., Biographical Dictionary of North Carolina, V, 452—sketch by Mary Bates Sherwood
R. D. W. Connor, North Carolina: Rebuilding an Ancient Commonwealth (1929)
North Carolina Literary and Historical Association Proceedings (1914)