WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Growing up during the Civil War in Wilmington wasn’t easy, especially for African Americans.
One man grew up to lead a university that is now a big part of North Carolina.
James Dudley was born into slavery in Wilmington in 1859. He grew up in the household of Edward Dudley, who was governor of the state in the 1830s. His childhood was marked by the Civil War and great change, but as the dust settled James began to go to school.
He attended a local missionary school, then shipped out to Philadelphia, and came back to Raleigh to Shaw University. After graduating he began what would become a long career in education.
He started as a classroom teacher, then served as principal of the peabody school for 15 years. During that time, a new college was in its infancy across the state. North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, it was called. Founded in Greensboro in 1891, the school was established exclusively for blacks. Dudley was appointed to the board of trustees in 1895, and in just one year became the school’s second president.
Through much hard work, he brought great change. In his 29-year tenure the student body grew from just 58 students to 500. The value of the school grew from $50,000 to $1 million.
Today, NC A&T is home to more than 9,000 undergrads of all races and boasts notable alumni, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
James Dudley passed quietly at his home in 1925 at the age of 65.