Glee Club history: Student leaders of the early 20th century

Thanks to Google, the UVA library, and other online resources there is now a wealth of information available about the early 20th century at the University of Virginia–so much so that we can start to trace the history of individual student leaders of the Virginia Glee Club, not just the group’s directors. Two examples stand out from the Glee Club of the period from 1910 to 1920–Malcolm W. Gannaway and DeLos Thomas, Jr.

Malcolm W. Gannaway bears the unique distinction of having been president of the Virginia Glee Club twice, in discontinuous years. He was there in 1910-1911, when the Club reformed under the direction of M. S. Remsburg, and graduated in 1911. He seems to have been not just a leader but also quite a fine singer, having been tapped to sing at Baccalaurate in June 1911. Leaving for a fellowship at Harvard, he picked up a Masters there, but seems to have been unable to escape the gravitational pull of Mr. Jefferson’s University. He returned to UVa as a summer session instructor for the years 1912-1914, then enrolled as a law student. While he was there, the Glee Club reformed again under the leadership of A. L. Hall-Quest, and Gannaway apparently stepped up again as president.

DeLos Thomas, Jr. was never president of the Glee Club, but was present as an officer in the pivotal 1915-1916 and 1916-1917 seasons when the Club got back on its feet for good after a spotty existence in the early part of the century. Thomas served as secretary and treasurer under Gannaway’s leadership in 1915-1916 and went on to serve as vice-president in 1916-1917. Then the Great War happened, and Thomas joined the Navy, eventually becoming an aviator. He was still flying at the end of the war, when he led a squadron that helped to prove the efficacy of aerial bombardment as an anti-submarine defense. Quite effectively, too: his squad was to have been the first of three to attempt to sink a captured U-boat, but the following squads never got a chance to attack it as the U-boat sank after being hit with only about a dozen bombs. Thomas’s story sadly ends in tragedy, as his aircraft disappeared on a flight back from Bimini in 1923.

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