Who Was Thomas Nelson?

Thomas Nelson, Jr. was born December 26, 1738, into a family of prosperous Virginia merchants. His family had served in the House of Burgesses, Virginia’s representative body, since 1705. From 1770-1771 his father, William Nelson, served as governor of Virginia. At age 14, Thomas was sent to England to pursue his education. He returned to Yorktown in 1761 to work in his father’s mercantile business. He served in the House of Burgesses from 1761 until 1776.

In 1762, at the age of 24, Thomas Nelson married Lucy Grymes, and together they had 11 children.

He played an influential role at the Virginia Convention in an effort to get Virginia to declare independence from Great Britain. He was part of the Virginia delegation to the Second Continental Congress in 1775 and was a proud signer of the Declaration of Independence. Failing health forced him to resign as a delegate and return to Virginia.

Thomas Nelson was appointed by Governor Thomas Jefferson to command the Virginia militia during the Revolutionary War. He used his own wealth and money to pay salaries to the troops and to buy food and supplies.

In 1781, Thomas Nelson became governor, just as the British were laying siege to Virginia. Many patriots, along with the General Assembly, began to flee to Richmond . Thomas Nelson joined the troops in Yorktown. General Cornwallis had established headquarters in Thomas Nelson’s house in Yorktown. When Thomas Nelson was asked to point out a good target towards which the artillerists could direct their fire, he issued orders to fire the artillery at his own house as this was an indication of his of patriotic self-sacrifice.

Thomas Nelson served as governor for less than a year, resigning due to his continued ill health. Thomas Nelson died January 4, 1789, at the age of 51. His tombstone reads:

General Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Patriot Soldier—Christian Gentleman
Born Dec. 26, 1738– Died January 4, 1789
In the Virginia Convention
Instructing her Delegates in Congress
To move that Body to declare the colonies
Free and Independent States
Signer of the Declaration of Independence
War Governor of Virginia
Commander of Virginia’s Forces
He gave all for liberty


Thomas Nelson Community College

Approximately two hundred twenty years ago, Thomas Jefferson dreamed of a service of “direct colleges” spreading across the Commonwealth, providing higher education within commuting distance for every citizen who sought it. He dreamed that this system would create an American society in which aspirations and achievement would be narrowed.

140 years after Thomas Jefferson’s death, the Virginia Legislature created the Virginia Community College System and the State Board of Community Colleges. The year was 1966 when the first two community colleges, Northern Virginia and Western Virginia Community Colleges opened. During 2003-2004, the VCCS served the equivalent of 92,355 full- time students representing 228,936 individuals.

In August 1968, construction began on Thomas Nelson Community College. Thomas Nelson is one of 23 community colleges located on 40 campuses. The 4th largest multi-campus college, Thomas Nelson primarily serves residents in York County, James City County, Williamsburg, Hampton, Newport News and Poquoson.

TNCC opened the first quarter with 1,232 students enrolled.

  • June 1970 – TNCC graduated its first class of students. There were 60 associate degrees conferred.
  • June 1974 – Graduation moved to Hampton Coliseum for the first time – 341 graduates.
  • June 1980 – Hastings Hall opened.
  • 1997 – Expansion to Williamsburg Historic Triangle.
  • March 2001 – Williamsburg Historic Triangle designated as second campus.
  • August 2002 – Robert Templin Hall opened.
  • January 2004 – TNCC’s board and the Virginia Community College Board approved plans to build a campus on the Warhill site near Williamsburg Outlet Mall (Route 199 & Route 60).
  • 2005 – TNCC enrolled 12,334 students.

From its inception in 1968, TNCC has been dedicated to the belief that individuals should be given a continuing opportunity for the development and expansion of their skills and knowledge and an opportunity to increase the awareness of their role and responsibility in society. TNCC is devoted to serving the educational needs of the community and assumes a responsibility for helping meet the requirements for trained manpower.

The TNCC mission statement declares that TNCC provides access to comprehensive instructional programs to students of the Virginia Peninsula.

TNCC strives to be responsive to the education and skill needs of area business, industries and government agencies. TNCC is committed to high academic standards in all curricular offerings and excellence in all support programs and services. Thomas Nelson, both the man and the institution, demonstrates the dedication and selflessness to promote Virginia’s citizens right to freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.