In the summer of 1910, Leon Renfroe Meadows joined the faculty, where he remained for thirty-four years, except for occasional leaves for military duty during World War I and doctoral studies during the twenties. Born in Alabama and reared in Louisiana, he studied at Peabody College in Tennessee, and Baylor University, in Texas, before journeying eastward to earn bachelor's and master's degrees at Yale in the field of English literature. He also earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University.
Until 1919 when he married Lida Hill, a colleague on the music faculty, he enjoyed the distinction of being the only eligible bachelor among a faculty and student body of more than three hundred eligible females. The couple had three children, Leon, Jr., Elizabeth and Mae. Mrs. Meadows died in 1925. In 1927, Meadows married Frances Louise Goggin, a member of the East Carolina education faculty and critic teacher.
Beginning in 1922, Robert Wright named Leon Meadows, director of the English Department, as summer school director; Meadows also inherited Claude Wilson's duties as secretary of the faculty and secretary of the board of trustees.
Upon the death of Robert Wright in 1934, the Board of Trustees convened to approve the emergency action of the Executive Committee, they passed the following resolution:
Resolved, pending further action by the Board of Trustees, Dr. L.R. Meadows be authorized to perform all administrative and executive duties heretofore performed by the President of the College.
On October 5, 1934, the fifty-one-year-old Meadows was chosen as president to succeed Robert H. Wright on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the opening of classes. Meadows' system of administration differed significantly from that of his predecessor. Wright had delegated authority to a number of his faculty, who were all answerable directly to him in carrying out specific responsibilities. Meadows, however, preferred to rely more heavily on the committee system, where the channel of authority was diffused.
During Leon Meadows' administration many of Robert Wright's long term goals were reached. Because of the improving New Deal economy, the state was able to gradually increase East Carolina's budget. This permitted the college to initiate the departments of Commerce, Industrial Arts, and Library Science as well as to reorganize and expand the departments of Home Economics, Music and Physical Education. The steady growth in enrollment from a depression era low of 970 in 1933 to 1,340 in 1941 provided an increase of twenty faculty positions, from sixty to eighty.
Meadows was forced to retire in 1944 after a three year investigation into the mishandling of student loan funds which led to the dismissal of several teachers.
Dr. Meadows died March 6, 1953 at his home in Gallipolis, Ohio.