Photograph of Thomas Contee Bowie at a Post Office in Ashe County, North Carolina.
Bowie Hall was named after Thomas Contee Bowie. Bowie was born on July 27th, 1876, in North Carolina to John Ruth Bowie and Carrie Calloway. He died on November 12th, 1947, at 71 years old. Bowie graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1899, went on to study law at UNC as well as Yale, and practiced law in West Jefferson. He was appointed to the original Board of Trustees of Appalachian Training School in 1903, and served as the chairman of the board for many years. Bowie also served as speaker of the House of Representatives of North Carolina in 1915.
After the historic floods of 1916 and 1918, part of the Watauga and Yadkin River Railroad suffered devastating losses, and it was not until 1923 that Bowie joined the fight to rebuild the railroad. In the title of the bill introduced by Bowie, he referred to western North Carolina as the “Lost Provinces of North Carolina,” that lacked necessary railroad transportation. He secured funding for this, however, before the railroad was built, the highway system gained popularity and the state built that instead. During the Great Depression, schools in the mountains were under threat of closing, and Bowie fought to keep them funded and open. These were only some of the ways that Bowie represented the people of Appalachia in North Carolina.
In a pamphlet from Bowie’s funeral on Friday, November 14th, 1947, in Jefferson, NC, Blanford Barnard Dougherty discusses his relationship with his late friend. B.B. Dougherty described Bowie as “eloquent, magnetic, argumentative, convincing,” and “towering above other men.” As close friends from college into old age, Dougherty gave Bowie the nickname “Tam.”
Letters from B.B. Dougherty also attest to Bowie’s character. In 1943, Doughtery wrote of a court hearing when Bowie proudly walked in to represent his client and recalled that he “whispered to lawyer Ballow, of Jefferson, and asked him if Tam has ever been accused of being bashful. Laughingly he replied, “Not in our Country.” In another letter in 1948, following the memorial service for Bowie’s death, Doughtery said that “When the court decided against him and he lost his case, Tam never criticized the court, but went on to the next case. He never wanted to discuss a case he lost. He was ashamed of it.” Clearly, Bowie was a proud man who accepted his defeat but did not want to relive it. After all of his service to the people of North Carolina, Bowie’s contributions were further honored by the naming of Bowie Hall after him.
Bowie hall opened to residents in September 1970, however, the project was authorized in 1967. A reception was held for the new residence halls Bowie, Hoey, Lovill, and White on October 22, 1967, at 1:30 pm. Bowie was a residence hall for men and had the space to house 300 students. An article in the university newspaper, The Appalachian, cites freshman vandalism as a reason for renovation in 1986, the same year the dorm became co-ed. Currently, Bowie is a co-ed dorm and in need of extensive renovations.