Daniels Arch & Courtyard

319 Letcher Ave Lexington

Virginia Military Institute/Daniels Arch & Courtyard
Virginia Military Institute Museums & Archives
Written By Virginia Military Institute Museums & Archives

Visit the museums of the Virginia Military Institute, the oldest state-supported military college in the United States: The VMI Museum, Virginia Museum of the Civil War, Stonewall Jackson House, Marshall Museum and Library, Adams Center for Military History, and VMI Archives.

"One of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard in my entire ministry was performed by Jonathan Daniels." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jonathan M. Daniels was valedictorian of the VMI Class of 1961. After graduation, he enrolled at Harvard University to pursue English literature before ultimately attending seminary at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was at this point that Daniels became actively involved in the Civil Rights movement by assisting with voter registration efforts in Alabama. He also walked in the famous march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

Daniels Valedictory Address, 1961

At a voter rights demonstration in Fort Deposit, AL, in August 1865, Daniels and twenty-two others were arrested and taken to Hayneville county jail. Following their release, Daniels and Richard Morrisroe, a priest, went with two black teenagers, Joyce Bailey and Ruby Sales, to Cash's Store for a soda. At the store, a part-time deputy sheriff named Tom Coleman confronted them with a shotgun. When Coleman aimed the shotgun at Ruby Sales, Daniels pushed her out of the way, saving her life. The shot from Coleman's shotgun hit Daniels and killed him instantly. Because of this ultimate selfless act, the only Barracks arch named for a cadet is the Daniels Arch and Courtyard.

Daniels' selfless act is celebrated through two books and a 1999 documentary about his life. The date of his death is on the Episcopal Church's Calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts and he is among the fifteen people honored in Canterbury Cathedral's Chapel of Martyrs in England. At VMI, the Board of Visitors established the Jonathan M. Daniels '61 Humanitarian Award in 1997. The Daniels Arch and Courtyard memorializes Daniels’ heroic act on the VMI campus as an example for all future Cadets.

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