E.J. Campbell came to Nacogdoches in 1910, appointed principal of Nacogdoches Colored School. For the next 27 years, Campbell oversaw a growing school and expanded opportunities in public education offered to Black Nacogdoches students.
Today, 113 years later, an NISD facility still bears his name. The E.J. Campbell Annex located at 420 S. Shawnee St. is still used by the district, including as the location for meetings of the Board of Trustees.
Before it became the district's annex, the facility opened in 1954 as E.J. Campbell High School, to replace an aging structure located across the street and to serve the growing population of students.
At the time, in the 1950s, the district was still segregated – in fact, it would be 1970 before NISD was fully desegregated.
When the new E.J. Campbell High School opened, trustees at the time voted to rename the elementary school – which also bore Campbell’s name – for another influential Nacogdoches Black educator: Emeline Carpenter.
Campbell’s legacy extends today well beyond the name of a facility. And, at the time of his death, Campbell’s loss was keenly felt by the district. Two days after his passing, in March 1937, NISD trustees held their regular board meeting. The superintendent at the time, Rufus Price, laid out plans to cover the work of Campbell, who was 58 at the time of his death.
(A couple of months later, NISD hired W.E. Jones to take over as principal of the Black school. Jones’ tenure in the district lasted until 1955, and his name is on Brooks-Quinn-Jones Elementary School today.)
Campbell and his wife Mary joined the district in 1910 after teaching at County Line in the Upshaw Community, a freedmen’s settlement founded in northern Nacogdoches County during the 19th century. When the couple arrived in Nacogdoches, NISD’s Black school had four rooms and served roughly 150 students, according to an essay published in the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel in 2017.
Campbell left the school in much better condition. The campus located along the east side of Shawnee Street had been expanded to educate more students, and by 1937, the school had extracurricular activities, including fine arts programs and other academic endeavors to go along with sports.