A BRIEF HISTORY OF CAMDEN ACADEMY
After the Civil War, Colonel William Henderson, A Union Army Officer and a United Presbyterian settled in Wilcox County. Seeing the plight of the freed slaves, he urged his children to begin schools in the area. He made land available for the first one, Millers Ferry Institute. Several others followed: Arlington Literary and Institute, Canton Bend School, Prairie Institute, Midway School & Camden Academy in 1886.
Camden Academy, like all of the other Mission schools, was established to help continue the educational process of descendants of those wretched ones who streamed from the thickets in a continuous stream so many years before. Located just outside of Camden, the county seat, Camden Academy was the only one of the Alabama schools that was close to a town, all of the others being located in rural district. It sat on a picturesque hill which had the distinction been known as “hangsman’s Hill” because of the number of victims who had been swung into eternity at the noose of a rope attached to a limb of a tree on the summit of a hill…
The first principal was a Mr. Henry M. Green. He was succeeded by the Rev. E. K. Smith in 1887. Rev. W. G. Wilson, a graduate of Lincoln (PA) University and seminary, succeeded him in 1905-1910. After a brief departure, Rev. Wilson returned to Camden Academy in 1911 where he remained until his death in 1935. Rev. Wilson was a thorough educator and continued to strengthen the academic program, raising it from a tenth grade school to a high school, when the first class graduated in 1930. Rev. Wilson was laid to rest on the campus where he had spent many years as an educator and leader. His grave site is a shrine to C.A.
Upon his death in 1935, Mr. A. C. Peoples took the reign. An educator from his heart and assisted by his wife, Mrs. Gladys Peoples, the school reached new heights in academic, athletics and other phases of education. His rapport with faculty, students and community caused the school to grow beyond the facilities. He worked hard for and gained accreditation for Camden Academy – the first black school in Wilcox County to have such a distinction.
Mr. Peoples was at the helm of C. A. from 1935 – 1960. Mr. J. E. Hobbs succeeded him and was the last Principle of C. A. until 1974 which survived the Civil Rights Movement with many of its students and faculty members participating in the marches and demonstrations. And through it all, the religious nature of the school remained intact.
The teachers were dedicated and caring professionals. Even though they earned a meager salary, many of them used their own funds to provide materials and equipments for their students. They encouraged students to develop their mental skills as well as the manual ones, and to work hard to earn scholarships to continue their education.
Most of the staff members of CA are no longer with us; however we are blessed to have the following staff members with us. They Are: Ms Willie Kate Charley (Coy, AL), Dr. Vivian Watts-DeShields (Montgomery, AL), Mr. Jesse Hosea (Birmingham, AL), Mrs. Eloise Primm-Ramsey (Birmingham, AL), Mr. Henry Dees (Detroit, MI), Mrs. Geraldine Pettway-White (New York), Evelyn Thomas, and Mr. James Thomas (Selma, AL).
The principle plant of Camden Academy no longer exist, but C.A. is very much alive and functioning. She lives in the hearts and minds of each of us who was fortunate enough to have had the experience of going to school “on the hill”. Her path is truly “our chosen way.”
Thank you Camden Academy!!!!
Camden Leadership History
- Henry Green 1st Principal - Camden Open in 1886
- R.K Smith – 1887-1905
- W.G. Wilson – 1905-1910
- W.G. Wilson – 1911-1935
- 1930 – Under W.G Wilson Camden School was extended from a 10th grade school to a 12th grade school – Also in 1930 the Camden had it’s first graduating High School Class
- A.C. Peoples – 1935-1960
- James E Hobbes 1960-1974
Camden Academy, may you ever stand
A light to guide us by thy mighty hand,
Be thou our ruler, guardian, guide and
Stay, Thy word our law, Thy paths our
When on the toilsome battlefield of life,
We’ll turn to thee for rest for peace for
life, knowing that though will grasp us by
the hand, And lead us on to victory in