At its Oct. 26, 2015 meeting, Jefferson County Public Schools voted to name its newest early childhood education center after Ernest "Camp" Edwards, a long-time educator, youth mentor and leader at Grace Hope Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Community Center. He died in 2005.
The Ernest "Camp" Edwards Education Complex, housed in the former Presbyterian Community Center, is in Louisville’s Smoketown neighborhood. The Complex will offer Early Head Start programming for 56 students in addition to other programming. The district purchased the Presbyterian Community Center for $1.5 million following its closure in 2013 due to financial troubles.
The Presbyterian Community Center had been a feature of Smoketown neighborhood for over 115 years when it shut its doors. Edwards grew up in Smoketown and was nurtured as a child at the Center. Thousands of families utilized the facility for recreation, performances, holiday and community gatherings, and education. It’s also the community center where a young Cassius Clay began his boxing training before changing his name to Muhammad Ali.
Praise for Edwards, who many simply called ‘Camp’, and recommendations on the renaming of the center to honor him, came from many who were influenced by him:
“Camp Edwards was a great contributor to the Smoketown community. As a Smoketown native, Camp received his master’s degree in social work from the University of Louisville. He later became the first African American Associate Executive Presbyter of the Mid-Kentucky Presbytery [at the time called the Presbytery of Louisville] and was instrumental in getting the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to relocate to Louisville.
As you can see from the life work and legacy Camp Edwards left in the Smoketown neighborhood, I believe the renaming JCPS Center would be a fitting tribute.”
-- David W. Tandy, President, Louisville Metro Council, 4th District Metro Councilman
“Camp was loved and respected by many in Smoketown. In addition to his Smoketown connection, he was my first college professor. He was a kind, encouraging and joyful teacher. His love for education ran deep. Numerous scholarships have been given in his name and I think I am correct in saying that he began the All Stars college scholarship program in Smoketown.”
-- Lynn Rippy, Executive Director, YouthBuild Louisville
“During his lifetime Camp Edwards was one of the most notable figures associated with the Smoketown neighborhood. He was known for instilling great values into the young people of the community. He dedicated his life to the development of Smoketown through many leadership roles at his church, Grace Hope Presbyterian Church, and the Presbyterian Community Center.
I personally benefitted from Camp’s influence as someone who grew up in Smoketown. When I was a toddler I attended the Presbyterian Child Development Center. My childhood consisted of participation in the programs at P.C.C. I even received support during my college years from the Center. Camp was instrumental in making sure those programs and support was available. When I graduated from college and moved back home to Louisville, he saw to it that I serve on the P.C.C.’s Board of Directors. He also became one of my closest mentors. There are so many people who can say he touched their lives in similar ways.”
-- Delquan Dorsey, Executive Director, KY Governor’s Office of Minority Empowerment