The University of Virginia Oral History Project: Interviews with Alexander G. Gilliam, Jr.

Author:Scarborough, Sheree

Biographical Statement
Alexander G. “Sandy” Gilliam, Jr. was born in 1933 in Baltimore, Maryland. He received his B.A. in history from the University of Virginia in 1955. Gilliam served a year in the U.S. Army in counterintelligence. Returning home, he spent a year in graduate school at the University of Virginia and taught at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond. In the early 1960s, he was in the Foreign Service, and served in both Israel and Africa. Later in that decade, he worked in the State Department under Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and studied Arabic in the Middle East. In 1970, he joined the administration of Virginia Governor Linwood Holton. In 1975, Gilliam returned to the University of Virginia, where over the course of thirty-four years, he served as assistant to three University presidents: Frank Hereford (1974-85), Robert O’Neil (1985-90), and John T. Casteen III (1990-2010). Gilliam also served as secretary to the University of Virginia Board of Visitors from 1991-2009. Since 2009, Gilliam has held the title of University Protocol and History Officer.

Interview Synopsis
Mr. Gilliam begins the interview discussing his family background and multigenerational ties to the University of Virginia. Both his father and grandfather attended the University. He recounts his memories of Charlottesville and the University as a child when visiting his grandmother who lived close to the Grounds. He describes his undergraduate years at the University, including courses, professors, fraternity experiences, and general University life. Mr. Gilliam shares colorful stories from his counterintelligence work in the Army while stationed in Germany; his time working in U.S. Embassies and the State Department; and his work in the administration of the progressive Virginia governor Linwood Holton. He narrates at length his experiences in the University of Virginia administrations of Presidents Hereford, O’Neil, and Casteen; and discusses such topics as coeducation, the capital campaign held during Hereford’s tenure, the evolution of graduation exercises, and Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the University in 1976.

Sandy Gilliam, oral history, Alexander Gilliam, University of Virginia, UVa, UVaOHP, administration
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Source Citation:

Scarborough, Sheree. The University of Virginia Oral History Project: Interviews with Alexander G. Gilliam, Jr.. University of Virginia, 2012.

University of Virginia
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University of Virginia

Conducted on January 19, February 2, and February 3, 2012 by Sheree Scarborough, History Associates Incorporated, Rockville, Maryland.