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A Legacy Of Opportunity

Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 1:24 PM CDT
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Camp Fletcher in Jefferson County
Camp Fletcher in Jefferson County(WBRC)

JEFFERSON CO., Ala. (WBRC) - Her name may only be a footnote to many in the history of our state, but Pauline Fletcher was a true pioneer. Her accomplishments were first made in the medical field, but her ongoing legacy is the camp she founded in rural Jefferson county in 1926. It’s ongoing impact on the lives of children continues today. So, this is a story about a very important camp, a camp with a history and an ongoing mission.

It is called Camp Fletcher, the namesake of Pauline Fletcher, a woman of vision and determination.

Camp Fletcher in Jefferson County
Camp Fletcher in Jefferson County(WBRC)

“She was originally from Georgia and moved to Alabama, went to school, and became the first African American RN in the state of Alabama. She was bothered by the fact that a camp that would accept Black children didn’t exist. So, she got the bit between her teeth, and she built one,” says Camp Fletcher’s Nancy Meadows. “She had to have help from a Doctor Windham in Birmingham to finish the construction of that first building which we now call Rosa Windham because he donated the money because his daughter had died from TB, and she was a nurse and had a background in tuberculosis with Jefferson county and understood the importance of fresh air.”

The camp was part of another historic event which led to the state’s anti-masking legislation, “The Klan raided the camp in 1948 and her circle of supporters, diverse circle of supporters, white, black, Christian, Jew, male, female came together and said this will not happen at a camp for kids.”

Camp Fletcher in Jefferson County
Camp Fletcher in Jefferson County(WBRC)

Pauline Fletcher forged ahead, and the results of her vision are still impacting children today.

“I have a 13-year-old daughter, Devin, and she’s been coming here for eight or nine years,” says John Morrison.  “It’s a great local day camp. It’s an old historic, well-established camp. It was the first integrated camp in the South.  I’ve always been a big believer in camping; how it establishes independence and confidence in children.  It’s a camp where kids can go and be kids and enjoy the best part of Alabama which is being outside in the summertime and playing and being kids.”

Which was Pauline Fletcher’s idea all along.

Camp Fletcher in Jefferson County
Camp Fletcher in Jefferson County(WBRC)

“Kids just aren’t political. They’re not red or blue. They’re just kids and I think she would love it, because that’s what she was striving for, attending to the health of kids. Black kids, white kids, rich kids, poor kids all here at the same time and they get along beautifully.”

With a pause, Meadows adds, “And I think she would be proud. I do.”

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