James McChord
Centre College President (1820)

James McChord was born on March 29, 1785, in Baltimore, Maryland. Five years later his family moved to Lexington, Kentucky, where McChord was able to take advantage of the many educational opportunities available in that growing town. He attended the Lexington Academy, and graduated from Transylvania University in 1805. McChord began a study of law and politics under the direction of Henry Clay, but soon felt a call to the ministry. He enrolled in the new Associated Reformed Theological Seminary in New York City, graduating as class valedictorian in 1809.

One month following his graduation, McChord returned to Kentucky, and the remaining years of his life revolved around the ministry and scholarship. Licensed to preach in 1809, McChord was ordained in 1811. He was the founder and first minister of the Market Street or Second Presbyterian Church of Lexington. So prominent was McChord, that it was said that the "new church in Lexington was established there in 1815 largely for the purpose of obtaining his services on a permanent basis".

In addition to his duties as minister, McChord was dedicated to education. He was elected to the Board of Trustees of Tranyslvania University in 1814, and served as part-time professor of astronomy in the institution from 1813 until 1818. In 1819 he was appointed principal of the Bourbon Academy, Paris, Kentucky. On March 4, 1820, the Board of Trustees of the newly chartered Centre College elected McChord as its first president, but he suddenly died on May 29, 1820, before ever assuming the presidency. A popular minister and educator, McChord's death was mourned throughout the state, and the Lexington church he founded briefly changed its name to the McChord Church. McChord was interred in a special vault in front of the pulpit of the church until 1920, when his body was reinterred in the Lexington Cemetery.

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