Thomas Nelson Conrad of Fairfax Court House, Virginia was the third president of Virginia Tech. He played an active role in influencing Blacksburg as the location of choice for the new college, and was a Confederate spy during the American Civil War.
And fashion saved his life.
A troop of Union cavalry watched him enter a house in Northern Virginia. For weeks they had been hunting him, and if found, Captain Thomas Conrad would be hanged.
The lieutenant knocked on the door, and was greeted by an old colored woman and two Southern belles in the height of fashion. They wore heirloom jewelry, tight bodices, and hoop skirts.
The lieutenant looked everywhere until finally he said, “Unless you tell me where he is hiding, I will have to rip your house apart.” The older woman refused, and they ripped the floorboards, walls and ceilings, only to leave empty-handed.
Years after the Civil War, the lieutenant passed by the same house and was confronted by Conrad. Surprisingly, Conrad greeted him saying, “Thank you for doing me the greatest favor of my life.”
The lieutenant looked perplexed so he explained. Conrad had been courting the lady for a while when his men surprised him. In a fit of panic, the older woman motioned for Conrad to hide under her skirt.
After he came out, they were both embarrassed and Conrad convinced her there was only one thing to do: get married the next day.