I’ve written a few times about one of the Virginia Glee Club’s more notable alumni, Edward Addison Craighill, Jr., who is principally credited with the authorship of the “Good Old Song,” the de facto alma mater song of the University of Virginia. But I thought it might be worth looking at his life beyond this song.
Craighill was born in 1873 in Lynchburg, Virginia. His namesake, his uncle, surgeon Edward Addison Craighill, had been at age 17 the youngest doctor to serve in the Medical Department of the Confederate Army, and wrote a memoir of his experiences. Craighill entered the University of Virginia to study law in 1892, and was there to greet the football team in the fall of 1893 as they returned triumphant from a victory. Out of the crowd came what is now the first verse of “The Good Old Song.” Craighill subsequently wrote a second and, for an alumni banquet in 1910, a third verse for the song. But in a 1922 article in the University of Virginia Magazine, he disclaimed authorship of the first stanza, noting that “no one man should be credited with the authorship.” During his time at Virginia he was a member of the Virginia Glee Club and participated in the 1894 tour.
Craighill graduated in 1895 from the Academic Department and finished his law degree in 1896, gaining employment as a writer for a law encyclopedia before joining the firm of Fletcher, McCutcheon and Brown in New York. He died in 1948.
I think there’s something touching about Craighill’s insistence, 30 years after the debut of the song, that he deserved no credit for the “Good Old Song.” It’s not clear that, after the 1922 article, he was included in alumni outreach. He’s not mentioned in a 1935 “Alumni Advisory Board” that included other past presidents and luminaries of the group, for instance. But his name remains one of the most cited in Glee Club programs, and I believe he deserves more credit than he gave himself for the song. After all, in the drunken crowd that came up with “it cheers our hearts and warms our blood to hear them shout and roar,” someone had to remember the words well enough to write them down.