Noted Educator, Historian: Noted Legacy – It all began with a robbery
For 20 years, Camilla P. Thompson reported on happenings, events, and people of Jacksonville with articles and a column, “Reflections on Black Jacksonville,” published in the Jacksonville Free Press. This “Mother of Black History,” a native of Jacksonville, began her enduring interest after retrieving items stolen in a burglary from the Eartha M.M. White Museum, then located on Moncrief Road. After obtaining a grant from the city, these items were transferred to the second floor of the Clara White Mission and displayed in the Eartha White Memorial Art and Historical Center. Thus began her journey to piece together and unearth not only local Black history but all of Jacksonville.
This devotion to history, a focus after retiring from a very successful 37-year career in education in Duval County Public schools and at FSCJ, led her to research her family history. She discovered that her husband’s grandfather, Capers Michael Vaught, was one of five Black councilmen elected in 1887. She herself was the daughter of Daniel W. Perkins, well-known lawyer and civil rights advocate, and Camilla Bolton Perkins, local elementary school teacher. Her journey had begun!
This journey resulted in her research being pivotal in the establishment of the Black heritage tours in Jacksonville sponsored by her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, in 1979. Numerous historically important locations for the Black community were highlighted.
In addition, her list of volunteer service was varied and numerous. These included: Lifelong member of Bethel Baptist Institutional Baptist Church and History/Archives Chairperson, Member and Board Member of the Jacksonville Historical Society, and Charter Member, James Weldon Johnson Branch, Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
She died January 10, 2022, at 99 years old.
We, at the JHS, salute this pioneer knowing that all of Jacksonville has benefitted from her endeavors. One city, many stories!
By Georgia Pribanic, Librarian