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Staunton Military Academy

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Title: Staunton Military Academy  
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Staunton Military Academy

Staunton Military Academy
Truth - Duty - Honor
Staunton, Virginia
Established 1860
Grades (7-8junior school)9-12
Color(s) Blue and Gold
Information 540-885-1309
Disestablished 1976

Staunton Military Academy was an all-male military academy located in Staunton, Virginia for much of its 116-year history. The school closed in 1976. Many notable American political and military leaders are graduates. A museum of the school's history is located on the Mary Baldwin College campus.


Charlestown Male Academy was founded in September 1860, by William Hartman Kable (1837-1912) at Charles Town, Jefferson County, Virginia (now West Virginia). At the start of the American Civil War William Kable joined the Confederate Army and served with distinction as a Captain in the 10th Virginia Cavalry (CSA). After the war, Captain Kable re-established his school at its original location. During this time period the school was known to the townspeople as The Kable School and its cadets were known as the "Kable boys".

In 1883, the school moved to Staunton, Virginia and became Staunton Male Academy. Captain Kable bought the site on the hill from a Mr. Alby, a prominent businessman. Acquisition of other large areas of land near the Alby estate continued until 1910. The school adopted the military system in 1886 and changed its name to Staunton Military Academy, or SMA, following by incorporation in 1893.

In 1900, Captain Kable turned over management of the school to his son, Colonel William Gibbs Kable (1872-1920). Colonel Kable proved to be very capable in school building and school management. He was a firm believer in advertising and used this medium extensively to bring the attention of the school to the public.

In November 1904, a fire destroyed the entire establishment, except for the founder's home and the old school hospital. Both barracks burned to the ground, but because of the brave and swift action of all involved, not a single life was lost. Following the fire, development of the campus was rapid: the South Barracks were completed in 214 days in 1905, the Mess Hall was constructed in 1913 on the site of the original mess hall, and the North Barracks were completed in 1918. By the 1930s, the campus also boasted Kable Hall, Memorial Hall, West Barracks, and the Superintendent's home.

Advertisement circa 1916

In 1917, the Academy became an official unit of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) Program. Two Regular Army First Sergeants were assigned to provide military instruction. The school survived the Great Depression and later prospered, becoming one of the country's most prestigious military preparatory schools. Situated on the Hill with an enrollment that exceeded 600 cadets, SMA grew into a strong economic force in the Staunton community. In addition, the cadets often participated in parades at various occasions in Staunton and neighboring towns.

With the 1960s came a new generation, geared to permissiveness and nonconformity, rather than regimentation and discretion. The fallout from Vietnam helped perpetuate an anti-military sentiment that further eroded enrollments at military schools throughout the country. Despite the best efforts of a dedicated and talented faculty and staff, inflation and unemployment weakened the schools finances, in the early 1970s.

Faced with the prospect of bankruptcy, the Kable family elected to sell the academy. The new owner, Layne Loeffler, changed SMA's charter to non-profit status when he took over the school in 1973, but it was too late. The deteriorating situation, combined with management problems, forced the academy to close in 1976, some 116 years after its founding. Mary Baldwin College, SMA's longtime neighbor and "big sister" bought the property for $1.1 million in a bankruptcy sale.

Staunton Military Academy today

Today, many of the buildings where SMA cadets lived and learned are still used by Mary Baldwin. The SMA Mess Hall sign still hangs over the entrance to the building, now called the Student Activities Center. The military legacy of the academy's grounds continues through the college's Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership (VWIL), the only all-women's corps of cadets in the world.

In 2001, a joint SMA-VWIL museum opened in the former SMA supply room at 227 Kable Street in Staunton. Additionally, the alumni association has endowed four scholarships to keep SMA's legacy alive: the SMA Leadership Scholarship, the Henry Scholarship Honoring SMA, and the Henry SMA Legacy Scholarship for VWIL cadets, and the SMA-John Deal Education Scholarship for a Florida State University student.

In April of each year an SMA all class reunion is held in Staunton. Events include an "Old Boys" parade on Friday afternoon in conjunction with VWIL on the former SMA parade field, and a banquet on Saturday night.


  • Kable House; built 1873, added to the VLR 1978-12-19, NRHP 1979-06-19 (Ref. # 79003299)
  • two barracks; destroyed in 1904 fire
  • South Barracks; built 1905, demolished c. 1980
  • Mess Hall, built 1913, currently Mary Baldwin College Student Activities Center
  • Superintendent's home; built 1916, currently the Mary Baldwin College President's Home
  • North Barracks; built 1918, demolished in 1980s
  • Kable Hall; built by the 1930s, currently Kable Residence Hall
  • Memorial Hall; built by the 1930s, currently Bertie Murphy Deming Fine Arts Center
  • West Barracks; built by the 1930s
  • Tullidge Hall; built 1966


Notable faculty include:

Extracurricular activities

Staunton Military Academy sports teams played other prep schools, college freshman teams and even college teams, such as The Apprentice School Builders, who reported a 4-5-1 football record with SMA.[2] The academy also had a group known as the Howie Rifles, a nationally known trick rifle squad.

Notable alumni


  1. ^ "Tactician's Dream". Time Magazine. 1944-08-28. Retrieved 2007-02-09. Later he taught machine-gun operation at Fort Benning, taught military science at Staunton Military Academy, attended the Command and General Staff School, was graduated from the Army War College. In 1933 he wrote: "Now I am back at Staunton where I hope they will forget all about me." They didn't. After Pearl Harbor, Sandy Patch was sent to the French island of New Caledonia in the Pacific. 
  2. ^ Builders 2004 Football Program. The Apprentice School Athletic Department and The Apprentice Athletic Club: 45.
  3. ^ "How John Dean Came Center Stage". Time Magazine. 1973-06-25. Retrieved 2007-02-09. At Virginia's Staunton Military Academy, he is best remembered not as an All-America backstroker but as having been extraordinarily willing to sacrifice himself for others. 
  4. ^ Adam Clymer (1998-05-29). "Barry Goldwater, Conservative and Individualist, Dies at 89". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-02-09. As a teen-ager, he failed half his courses in his first year in high school in Phoenix. His parents packed him off to Staunton Military Academy in Virginia, where he thrived. After graduating in 1928, he entered the University of Arizona at Tucson. 

This article incorporates text from the public domain Staunton Military Academy Alumni Association History Webpage.

External links

  • Staunton Military Academy Alumni Association

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