BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
An appreciative audience of approximately 150 people celebrated the legacy of Campbell Elementary School during an August 23 banquet with the theme “A Passion for Preparation,” honoring Campbell’s administration, faculty and staff.
Campbell Elementary began as Daytona Colored School in 1884 on Second Street. That’s the same location on which the John H. Dickerson Center – named Campbell’s longest-serving principal – is now located.
Oldest school for Blacks
The school originally educated Black students of all ages. Thus, Campbell is the oldest school for Black students in Daytona Beach.
Cypress Street Elementary (now Bonner Elementary) opened in 1926. South Street Elementary (now Turie T. Small Elementary) opened in 1943. Both came into existence due to overcrowding at Campbell Elementary.
A local organizing committee of Campbell Elementary alumni who attended the school from 1962 to 1969 organized the banquet.
A proud teacher
“It was something else. They made us feel proud. We are still getting compliments from the community,” Geneva Loper, a former Campbell Elementary teacher shared.
“My kids told me I was walking around like a schoolgirl. I was excited to see the students I hadn’t seen for years. I saw our principal, Lawrence Broxton, whom I hadn’t seen in ages. On Wednesday, I received a postcard from a student on how I had made a difference in her life.
“You really don’t know how you affect kids. It’s been a long time. I tell you, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in a long time. I’m still on cloud nine. I was impressed with what I heard and saw. There was one young man that came up and said ‘thank you for what you did for me. You helped me so much and kept me out of a lot of trouble.’ I’m still grateful and thankful for the time we had together.”
Smiles and tears
Former students Dr. Pamela Jackson-Smith and Charles W. Cherry II emceed the event. After the Rev. Derrick Harris, pastor of Masters Domain Church of God in Christ, rendered an invocation and blessed the food, a “meet and greet” among audience members brought smiles and tears all around, as many students had not seen their former teachers for decades.
“The banquet was magnificent, the committee did a magnificent job,” said Dorothy Moore, who taught for 34 years in the Volusia County school system including a decade at Campbell Elementary. “I had a chance to see a lot of my coworkers and a lot of my students. We had a good time.’’
Images of the past
As lunch catered by the Bethune Grill was served, former physical education teacher Joretha Hayes narrated film images that were shot with an 8-millimeter film camera at Campbell almost 50 years ago.
It showed students doing physical exercises, square dancing, and participating in the school’s May Day activities and a school play.
Lucy Stewart-Desmore set the occasion, Cherry II provided a summary of Campbell’s history as an elementary school, then Stewart-Desmore performed a symbolic “roll call” of Campbell’s students and teachers. As teachers’ names were called, their former students who were in attendance at the banquet stood up.
Jackson-Smith and Cherry II poured a libation to Campbell’s deceased administration, faculty and staff to the sounds of African drums. Former Campbell students Atawa Washington Rollins and Lovell Braswell presented the surviving families with certificates of achievement and appreciation of their loved ones.
Keys to the city
After testimonials from a number of former students, Zone 6 City Commissioner Paula Reed presented each of the participants in attendance a key to the city.
Reed, a former Campbell Elementary student herself, laughed as she showed the audience her actual Campbell report card, then cried as she reminisced about Campbell’s impact on her life as well as the pain she felt as she was transferred to another school just before Campbell was shut down by the Volusia County School Board as a consequence of school desegregation.
The program ended on a high note as honorees and their families gave final remarks.
Honorees who were recognized include former principal Lawrence Broxton; administrative assistants Dorcas Butts Morris, Betty Powers and Barbara Durden Young; cafeteria worker Elmira Surrency; librarian Mary Fears; and teachers Julia T. Cherry, Miriam Davis, Dennis Jackson, Norma Hankerson, Joretha Hayes, Margaret McClairen, Dorothy Moore and Geneva Loper.
Deceased honorees included former principal John Dickerson; administrative assistant Audrey Hamilton; custodians Mr. Madison, Ralph Robinson and Edward Smiley; cafeteria workers Kate Brown, Josephine Fennell, Inez Moss, and Ruby Newkirk; nurse Fannie Welch; and teachers Doris Christian, Eloise Edwards, Daniel Goodman, Eula B. Gray, Constance Kirksey, Chiquita Matthews, Margaret Hayes Mitchell and Edna Barker Washington.
The event was sponsored by Vitas Innovative Hospice Care; Lucy Stewart Desmore, real estate broker/owner of Real Estate Experts of Central Florida, Inc.; Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.; and Herbert Thompson Funeral Home. The Daytona Times was the media sponsor.
The local organizing committee that put the program together included Opal Badie, Pamela Pandy, Sheryl Conage Lewis, Lucy Stewart-Desmore, Dr. Pamela Jackson-Smith, Percy Williamson, Sr. and Charles W. Cherry II.