Saturday, July 16, 2016

Moncure Woodson Camper (1846-1923)

 Moncure W. Camper.

    A newspaper publisher based in both Virginia and Alabama, Moncure Woodson Camper was affiliated with journalism and publishing for a good majority of his seventy-six years, and that long lifespan also saw him become politically active, serving as Mayor of Fincastle, Virginia as well as a term in the Virginia House of Delegates. Following his time in the legislature, Camper removed to Alabama to continue his trade and would serve as President of the Alabama Press Association several years after his resettlement.
   The son of Henry and Elizabeth Camper, Moncure Woodson Camper was born in Fincastle, Virginia on August 8, 1846, He attended schools native to Fincastle and shortly after graduating from the Fincastle Academy enlisted in the Confederate Army in May 1864. Joining a contingent of "home guards", Camper would later be transferred to Company D. of the Eleventh Virginia Infantry, serving in the brigade of General (and future Virginia Governor) James Lawson Kemper, who was himself a brigade commander under George Pickett. Camper's tenure in "Pickett's Division" saw him in "all its movements around Richmond and Petersburg" and he served with that unit until being discharged at Lynchburg, Virginia at war's conclusion.
   After reentering civilian life Camper saw a bright future for himself in newspaper publishing, and with a partner established the Fincastle Herald in 1866. He would hold the posts of editor and publisher and later bought out his partner's interest, continuing to run the paper alone until its sale in 1889. Camper married in February 1879 to Amelia "Minnie" Browne (1855-1930), a native of New Orleans. The couple were wed for nearly fifty years and had two children, Julia Hartwell (1879-1963) and Ambrose Brown (1881-1956)
   Camper entered politics in the 1870s when he was elected as Mayor of Fincastle, an office that he would be reelected to twice (his total dates of service being unknown at this time.) In November 1883 Camper was elected as one of Botetourt County's representatives to the Virginia State House of Delegates by "a clean majority of over 900." Serving in the 1884-86 session, Camper sat on the committees on elections, the military, and public printing. 
   In 1889 Moncure Camper sold off his interest in the Fincastle Herald and removed to Florence, Alabama. After a period of gathering funds, Camper purchased the Florence Wave, of which he would serve as editor. Some months later he would sell off his interest in that paper and founded the Florence Times, which issued its first pages in 1890.

Portrait from the Notable Men of Alabama, Vol. II, 1904.

   Camper's prominent reputation and stewardship of the Florence Times led to his being named as President of the Alabama Press Association in 1895. His time in that post concluded in 1897 and in the following year was selected as one of two Lauderdale County delegates to the upcoming state constitutional convention, but due to the repeal "of the law providing for the revision of the constitution", the convention of 1898 never came to fruition. 
   Active in a number of civic groups in Florence, Camper served seven years as president of the Florence Business Men's League, was a director of the Florence Merchant's Bank, and also was a past worshipful master in the local Masonic lodge. In the latter portion of his life Camper served as postmaster of Florence and after eight years in that role died in office on January 14, 1923 at age 76. Camper was subsequently memorialized by his contemporaries as a:
"Unusually attractive man who drew about him a large circle of friends. He gave himself modestly, but untiringly, to the betterment of his community and State, and he will be missed by all those who knew him."
   Camper's widow Minnie survived her husband by seven years, dying on July 7, 1930. Both Camper and his wife were interred at the Florence Cemetery, as are their two children. 

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