“Not all great leaders in history live in far away places,” Coppinville Training-Coppinville High School Alumni Association President Dorothy Richardson said about the late James Evans Nance, who was a leading farmer, store owner and pioneer of the predominately African American Coppinville Community in Enterprise.
Richardson, also a member of the Enterprise Board of Education, was among those participating in the first Black History Month program celebrated in the new Coppinville Junior High School building Feb. 26.
Keynote speaker Rodrick Caldwell, the Enterprise Expressions Show Choir and the CJHS Band were among those on the program that began with a welcome by CJHS student Hayden Hudson.
CJHS students Antony Thomas and Aryana Tillis outlined the origins of Black History Month and the history of Coppinville Junior High School, respectively.
Known originally as the Coffee County Training School with an all-African American population, the school in 1959 became Coppinville High School and remained so until after integration when it became Coppinville Junior High School, educating all the city’s seventh graders.
In 2015 CJHS became a seventh and eighth grade school and in 2018, opened for the first time at its present location on Boll Weevil Circle.
In a presentation by Jamie Edwards Rogers, Class of 1956, made to the graduating class of Coppinville High School in May 1968, the history of the school, compiled by Vernetta Deramus, Rev. Eloise Jackson, Mary Paramore, Z.I. Fleming Jr, Doris Pitts, Myra Riley, Lucille Scott and B.F.
Garth, it was reported that school for
the African American community in Enterprise was first held on the first floor of a two story frame structure named the Odd Fellows Hall between 1903 and 1905. The school was known as the Old Edwards School.
The 18-acre area became known as Coppinville in 1907 in honor of the then-Presiding African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Levi Jenkins Coppin.
A second school building, built on the north side what is now called Coppinville Road, was built in 1908 and was called the Southeast Alabama Industrial School.
In 1918, Coffee County Training School opened and in 1929 the school became a senior high school and 14 students were the first graduates.
The school building burned in 1938 and was rebuilt on land donated by Nance. The Coffee County Training School became Coppinville High School in 1959 and graduation for the Class of 1960 was held in the newly constructed Copppinville High School on Ouida Street.
The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, in 1969 the last Coppinville High School Class graduated and in 1969 the school became Coppinville Junior High School.
Nance, who died in 1979, came to Enterprise in 1912 and was one of the community’s leading farmers and store owners. Though uneducated himself, he educated all of his six children from the proceeds of his 100-acre farm, Richardson said.