Chamberlain-Hunt Academy

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Chamberlain-Hunt Academy
124 McComb Ave
Port Gibson, MS, Claiborne 39150
United States
Coordinates 31°56′45″N 90°59′10″W / 31.94583°N 90.98611°W / 31.94583; -90.98611Coordinates: 31°56′45″N 90°59′10″W / 31.94583°N 90.98611°W / 31.94583; -90.98611
School type Private Boarding
Motto Knowledge and Wisdom in Submission to God
Religious affiliation(s) Christian
Established 1879
Status Closed
President Jim Montgomery
Dean Wesley McClure
Headmaster Keith Fraley
Teaching staff 8
Grades 7-12
Gender Male
Enrollment 4 (2014)
Average class size 5
Language English
Campus size 174 acres
Athletics conference MAIS
Sports Soccer, Basketball, Track, Cross-Country, Golf, and Tennis
Team name Wildcats
Accreditation SACS, MAIS
Average ACT scores (2013) 25

Founded in 1830 as Oakland College and closing its doors in 2014, Chamberlain-Hunt Academy was one of the oldest college preparatory schools in the South and, indeed, in the nation. Oakland College was founded in 1830 by the Reverend Jeremiah Chamberlain and the Presbyterian Church in Mississippi. Oakland closed during the Civil War but was reborn nearby as Chamberlain-Hunt Academy in 1879 in historic Port Gibson, Mississippi. Between 1915 and 1971, the Academy was a traditional boys military prep school. What might be termed a regional boarding school, the majority of students have traditionally come from Mississippi, Louisiana, West Tennessee, and Arkansas. In 1971, CHA began (like many Southern military schools such as Baylor School and McCallie in Tennessee) to transition into a less military and more civilian way of life. A Corps of Cadets was maintained but not strictly enforced; females were admitted; and more day students came to the school than had been the case previously. In some ways, the 1970s and 1980s were exciting years for Chamberlain-Hunt. Enrollments were strong; the academic and extracurricular programs were admired; and campus life was happy and productive. By 1990, however, the old school was finding the going tough financially.

In the year 1996, CHA was reorganized under new, mission-driven, and creative ownership. Several millions of dollars were raised to renovate and enhance the historic buildings and campus. While the Academy was very different from what it had been before 1996, and especially before 1990, the dedicated trustees and administrative team did outstanding work for eighteen years. The mission was to give young men everything they needed to grow into Christian gentlemen and then succeed in college and life. The new routine appeared rather traditional to outside observers: Chamberlain-Hunt became an all-male, all military, mostly boarding, and staunchly Christian college preparatory school. In 2013, the group who had purchased the school from the banks in 1996 sold it to another owner, who decided not to begin a 2014-2015 session. The future of this historic college preparatory school is uncertain.

The campus, with its buildings in brick Georgian Revival style, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[2] Chamberlain-Hunt was a member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS), the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), the Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States (AMCSUS),[3] and the Association of Classical Christian Schools.


When the "new" school was founded in Port Gibson in 1879, funds for the new beginning came from both the sale of the Oakland campus and donors. The State of Mississippi paid $40,000 for the campus in order to create Alcorn A&M College, the first land-grant college for African Americans in American history. Alcorn State University thrives in its original location.[4]

The new foundation was named for the Founder of Oakland, the Reverend Jeremiah Chamberlain (1794-1851) and Mr. David Hunt (1779-1861), a prominent plantation owner in the Antebellum South who had been a most generous patron of Oakland over the years.[5] Since he and his family owned 1,700 African-American bondsmen and bondswomen at one time, it is fitting that the fine old Oakland campus David Hunt did so much to adorn became the locus where freedmen and the sons of freedmen were able to gain higher education supported by the State of Mississippi. Alcorn State thrives today as one hugely important legacy of Chamberlain and Hunt.

The new "Chamberlain-Hunt Academy" in Port Gibson had a superior faculty focused on preparation for college. Several of the early faculty hailed from Davidson College in North Carolina. (It is well to remember that the largest percentage of students in most antebellum liberal arts colleges were studying in the "preparatory departments" of those colleges. Successful completion of preparatory course of study would mean a place in the Bachelor of Arts track in the college. Hence many American colleges were simultaneously college preparatory schools, a fact often overlooked by historians.)

The Renovation of '96[edit]

By 1995, the school was in dire straits financially. Less than eighty students were enrolled. In 1996, members of the First Presbyterian Church in Jackson MS (a PCA congregation) and the French Camp Academy organization purchased from a local bank the historic buildings, over two hundred acres of land, and the educational equipment.

The school went into a decline in the 1990s, when enrollment fell to just 22 cadets[6] but in 1996 it was saved from closure by being taken over by French Camp Academy, another Christian (but not military) boarding school in northern Mississippi.[7] However, CHA continues to operate autonomously. CHA has about 40% ethnic minority enrollment.[8]

On its 125th birthday in 2004, CHA held a Founders' Day Convocation at nearby Alcorn State University (whose premises are on the Academy's original pre-1900 site) with special guest, US Senator Trent Lott.[9]

On July 28, 2014, the decision was made to close Chamberlain-Hunt by the new owners/board of trustees. This information was given by the Facebook Group, Chamberlain-Hunt Academy Alumni.


Though always a school on the small side and often facing much bigger schools, Chamberlain-Hunt Academy enjoyed a long and illustrious reputation in inter-scholastic athletics, including equestrian sports in the early days. For 100 years, the great sport was track and field. It can be reasonably asked if any school in Mississippi history won more track meets or track championships than CHA. Archie Manning recently remembered to an Alumnus, "CHA had great track teams the whole time I was growing up." While the mission of the School was always to prepare Christian gentlemen—and between 1971 and 1996 ladies—for college and for life, rather than training Division I athletes, the School produced many outstanding athletes over the years (see "Riley Nelson" and "Don Magruder Scott" in the alumni section below) in football, basketball, cross-country, volleyball, basketball, track-and-field, field hockey, soccer, baseball, tennis, and golf. Lum Wright, one of the winningest football coaches in Mississippi high school history, ended his coaching career at CHA between 1993-1999. Running-back Joseph Ellis '98 broke most school rushing records, while '99 linebacker Thomas Johnston broke most school and state tackling records during these thrilling football years.

The school's sports colors were maroon and white. The teams were known as the Wildcats for most of the history. In 1996, when the French Camp group began running an ailing School to very good effect, the focus became the "life sports" boys may continue to pursue in adulthood. Sports included Cross Country in the fall, Soccer and Basketball in the winter, Tennis, Golf, and Track & Field in the spring. The school also required intramural / fitness participation daily.

Notable alumni[edit]

  • George Henry Clinton (Class of 1885), member of both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature in first quarter of the 20th century; chemist and lawyer in St. Joseph, Louisiana
  • Major General Martha Trim Rainville, Class of 1975, is a former Vermont National Guard Adjutant General, and retired Air Force Major General. Rainville is the first woman in the history of the National Guard to serve as a state Adjutant General. In 2006 she ran as the Republican candidate for Vermont's at-large congressional district. She was defeated by Democratic candidate Peter Welch. Currently, Rainville is Chief Operating Officer of Civil Support International LLC, a consulting firm which advises private contractors and government agencies in matters related to disaster preparedness, crisis response, and homeland defense and security.
  • Ken Kercheval (b. 1935), actor best known for playing Cliff Barnes in the CBS television drama Dallas
  • Riley Nelson (Class of 1963, died 2013), prep track and field star whose silhouette was used for years on the brochure of the Jackson Daily News Relays.
  • John M. Parker, governor of Louisiana from 1920 to 1924
  • Don Magruder Scott (1894-1980), a career United States Army officer, matriculated at CHA from Woodville in Wilkinson County, Mississippi, and participated in the 1920 and 1924 Olympic games (in the 800 meter run and modern pentathlon, respectively). A multi-sport athlete at Mississippi State University (Mississippi A&M in his day), Don Scott was the National Collegiate Champion in the 880 run in 1916. This was the first National Champion MSU had produced in any sport. Scott Field at Mississippi State was named for him.


  1. ^ "Chamberlain-Hunt Academy". Board School Review. Retrieved 2012-02-02. 
  2. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  3. ^ "Chamberlain-Hunt Military Academy". Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States. Retrieved 2012-10-03. 
  4. ^ Samuel J. Rogal, The American Pre-College Military School: A History and Comprehensive Catalog of Institutions, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009, p. 63
  5. ^ Mary Carol Miller, Must See Mississippi: 50 Favorite Places, Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2007, p. 135
  6. ^ Susan Olasky, "Back-to-basics training: By renewing its Christian vision, Mississippi's Chamberlain-Hunt Academy stemmed a decline common to military schools", WORLD magazine, March 13, 2004.
  7. ^ "Small Schools That Work" Archived November 29, 2008, at the Wayback Machine., Capital Research Center, March 2004.
  8. ^ National Center for Educational Statistics.
  9. ^ "Lott speaks to CHA students during anniversary celebration at Alcorn", The Natchez Democrat, October 31, 2004.

External links[edit]