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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Webb, John Maurice

by Eva Burbank Murphy, 1996

29 Nov. 1847–5 Apr. 1916

See also: Webb, William Robert (Sawney)

John Maurice Webb, educator, was born in Alamance County at a place called Stony Point, near Oaks, the son of Alexander Smith Webb (1804–30 June 1849), who died several months before the last Webb child was born, and Cornelia Adeline Stanford Webb (d. 1889). In the 1850 census John was listed as the tenth of eleven surviving children. His brothers were James Hazel (1829–1902), Sidney Smith (1836–1910), Richard Stanford (1837–1901, father of William Alexander Webb, 1867–1919), Alexander Smith (1840–1928), William Robert (Sawney, 1842–1926), and Samuel Henry (b. 1849); his sisters were Henrietta (1830–82), Susan Ann (Suny, 1831–1905), Mary Caroline (1833–1904), Amy Pomfret (1838–39), and Adrianna Adeline (Addie, 1845–97). William Robert founded the Webb School, a secondary school for boys, in Tennessee in the 1870s.

John Webb attended the Bingham School (in Oaks) from 1862 to 1865. In 1866 he entered The University of North Carolina and joined the Dialectic Society. During his two and one-half years as a student, he held the offices of recorder, secretary, librarian, vice-president, and archives keeper. In February 1868 he was elected one of two junior debaters. On 4 June 1868 he asked for and received a diploma from the Dialectic Society. Because the university closed after the Civil War (1871–75), he was not granted an honorary degree until 1875. In 1869 Webb returned to the Bingham School, then in Mebaneville, to teach for a year, and by 1870 he had secured a post at an academy in Rockingham. The census of that year listed him as having resided with a Covington family in Wolf Pit, Richmond County. He remained at the Rockingham school until he joined his brother in Culleoka, Tenn., in 1873. From 30 Jan. 1873 until his death, he served as principal and a teacher at the Webb School, which moved from Culleoka to Bell Buckle in 1886.

On 7 Dec. 1876 in Nashville, Tenn., he married Lily Shipp (1849–1929), the daughter of Professor and Mrs. Albert M. Shipp, formerly at The University of North Carolina, then at Vanderbilt University. Their children were Albert Micajah (1877–1965), Cornelia (b. 1879), Mary Gillespie (b. 1881), Sarah (b. 1884), and another son, Hazel Alexander (1886–88). Albert taught Romance languages at Trinity College (afterwards Duke University) from 1903 until his retirement in 1947.

John Webb was known for his wide reading and comprehensive learning. He had a keen interest in Dante's works and started a Dante club to encourage his children, nieces, nephews, and others to read good literature. He and his brother William were known for having taught some of Vanderbilt's first and best students. The University of Nashville (later George Peabody College for Teachers) awarded Webb an honorary doctorate in 1895.

Webb was a charter member and president of the Philological Society of Tennessee. He was also a member of the executive committee of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, serving as president in 1899. His reputation of having some business ability earned him a term as president of the Bell Buckle Bank. He was a Methodist and an Independent Democrat. Webb died of a stroke in Bell Buckle and was buried in the Hazelwood Cemetery, named for his infant son.


Dialectic Society Papers (Archives, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill).

Washington Duke Papers (Manuscript Department, Duke University Library, Durham).

Durham Morning Herald, 9 Sept. 1965.

Graham Alamance Gleaner, 20 Apr. 1916.

Daniel L. Grant, Alumni History of the University of North Carolina (1924).

Laurence McMillin, The Schoolmaker: Sawney Webb and the Bell Buckle Story (1971 [portrait]).

Edwin Mims, John Maurice Webb, 1847–1916, An Address  . . . (1946).

Raleigh News and Observer, 30 June 1929.

Richard Dickins Webb, The Webb Family (1894).

Albert M. Webb Papers and biographical file (University Archives, Duke University Library, Durham).

W.J. Webb and others, Our Webb Kin in Dixie: A Family History (1940).

Who Was Who in America, 1897–1942 (1943).

Additional Resources:

"Webb School of Knoxville." December 25, 2009. Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, Version 2.0. (accessed March 20, 2014).

"History." The Webb School. (accessed March 20, 2014).

"Webb School 1870." Preparatory Academies and Vanderbilt University. Online Exhibits, Vanderbilt University. (accessed March 20, 2014).

Webb Family Papers, 1795-1960 (collection no. 01900). The Southern Historical Collection. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (accessed March 20, 2014).


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