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James M. Milne was born in Scotland on September 29th, 1850. He received his early education in Edinburgh before his family moved to America. Milne graduated from the State Normal School at Geneseo and went on to attend the University of Rochester. He received his Ph.D. from Colgate University in Hamilton, NY. He was a longtime resident of Cortland NY, where he was principal of the academic department at the Cortland Normal School. In 1889, Milne was elected to become the first principal of the Oneonta Normal School. He stayed for nine years before he was forced to resign in 1898 due to a controversy with the board. He went on to study law and was admitted to the bar in 1901. In November of 1903, Milne was at a Masonic group meeting in Waterville where he gave a speech. Soon after finishing his address, he collapsed and died. He was buried in Cortland NY.