Huntsville, Ala. ---- A key facility on the Alabama A&M University will be named in tribute to two prominent and longtime servants of public education in the Birmingham vicinity.
Ella Byrd McCain and her late husband, Dr. John McCain, will have a major facility named in their honor on the 140-year-old campus on Friday, May 2, at
2 p.m. The Board of Trustees approved the naming of the John and Ella Byrd McCain Health and Counseling Center to recognize the couple’s longstanding support of the institution. The McCains are also part of the coveted Normal Legacy Society, a philanthropic group whose distinguished members have each contributed more than $100,000 to AAMU.
Mrs. McCain first met her husband John at a gathering when she was nine years old and he was just 12. She says he had “the audacity” to assert that he would become her husband. He returned following the gathering to his native Montgomery, and she went on with her young life. The course of events led her to Alabama A&M and led John to Tuskegee University.
After graduating from AAMU in 1945, Mrs. McCain started her career as a teacher in Opelika, Ala. Within two years, she was wed to John, who had graduated from Tuskegee in 1943 and was completing graduate studies at the University of Michigan. The bold 12-year-old, later Dr. John McCain, would become a prominent educator and administrator in Birmingham, where he taught at public schools and even at universities during summer sessions. Dr. McCain set up an AAMU education extension program in Birmingham, served as deputy superintendent of Jefferson County Schools, and was affiliated with Protective Industrial Life Insurance Company.
Mrs. McCain embarked upon a more than 40-year career with the Jefferson County School System, primarily teaching library science and serving as “the” accrediting agent for all black schools. The AAMU Alumni Hall of Fame member also headed the state’s organization for black library personnel and later as secretary for the statewide and later merged organization following segregation.
Organizers view the May 2 naming ceremony as a fitting tie-in to a series of activities planned in conjunction with AAMU’s 139th Founder’s Day and Class Reunion celebration. Another prominent Birmingham-area administrator and AAMU alumnus, Dr. Fred Primm, superintendent of Bessemer City Schools, will deliver the Founder’s Day address at 10 a.m. Friday, May 2, at the T.M. Elmore Building.
- Jerome Saintjones
Caption: Mrs. Ella Byrd McCain and her late husband, Dr. John McCain.