James L. “Winky” Camphor, a retired educator and, along with his wife, faithful supporter and benefactor of Coppin State University, died Jan. 7 from complications from cancer at Summit Park Rehabilitation Center in Catonsville. The longtime Windsor Mill resident was 94. Both he and his wife graduated from Coppin.
“Winky has been a staple — a pillar — of the Coppin family, since he was admitted as a student, graduating with the Class of 1951,” said Anthony L. Jenkins, Coppin State University president, in a statement.
“Anyone who spent time with Winky experienced his jovial spirit, compassion, and genuine humanity,” Dr. Jenkins said. “He was Coppin’s champion and ambassador, in every space he occupied, and the impact that he made, in service, giving, and love for his alma mater, will remain a treasured part of our university.”
James Leroy Camphor, son of James Camphor and Emma Camphor, was born in Baltimore and grew up near Hollins Market in Southwest Baltimore. Raised by a single mother, he learned early the value of hard work and as a child shined shoes.
“Money didn’t come easy,” Mr. Camphor told The Baltimore Sun in 2019. “My mother always taught me, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and only what you do for Christ will last.”
A 1948 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School, Mr. Camphor began his studies at what was then the Coppin Teachers College, and where he became an outstanding basketball star — playing all four years — and was captain of the college’s first men’s basketball team.
Mr. Camphor, a member of the Coppin Hall of Fame, still holds an unofficial school record for scoring 50 points in a single game against Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1951 from Coppin and also obtained a master’s degree from there in 1957.
“He earned an undergraduate degree in 1951 and pledged to teach school in Maryland for three years after graduation,” according to The Sun story “He ended up spending 43 years as an educator, earning a peak salary of $89,000 as a principal.”
He began teaching in Baltimore Public Schools and ended his career as superintendent of the Cheltenham Youth Detention Center, also known as the Cheltenham School for Boys, in Prince George’s County.
Mr. Camphor met his wife, the former Florine “Peaches” Harrison, a city public school educator who graduated from Coppin in 1958, at a meeting of Coppin’s alumni association.
“They did not get married until 1980, after Mr. Camphor’s three children from an earlier marriage were grown,” reported The Sun.
Philanthropy and their shared love of Coppin came naturally to the couple “who spent their careers inside Maryland schools and their lifetimes scrimping and saving,” according to the newspaper.
In 2019, the Camphors donated $200,000 to the university to provide scholarships for some 200 students. They also established a “benevolent fund” to help homeless students purchase books, food or transit fares.
Dr. Mary E. Wanza is the university librarian and a close friend of the couple.
“I first met the Camphors in 1984 and for Winky, Coppin has always been his baby,” Dr. Wanza said. “I recall we were doing a fundraiser and he got five members of the Class of ‘51 to come and help out with it. He always thought about Coppin first.”
Dr. Wanza recalled a conversation five years ago about homeless students she had with Mr. Camphor.
“I was telling him about a young lady, a Coppin student, who slept in her car and Winky being Winky, created a special emergency fund for students to buy food who had food insecurities,” Dr. Wanza said.
When a daughter, Yvonne, tested positive for sickle cell anemia, Mr. Camphor became interested in fundraising to fight the disease. He later became board chairman of the organization.
“Helping others is just a way of life for James L. Camphor, chairman of the walk-a-thon for the Sickle Cell Anemia Committee,” reported The Evening Sun in 1988.
Mr. Camphor was an active member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity and was president of the Zeta Sigma chapter.
The Morning Sun
Mr. Camphor’s life brought him many well-deserved honors and recognition.
He earned the National Association for Equal Opportunity in High Education Distinguished Alumni Award, State of Maryland Faithful Citizen Award, National Association for Sickle Cell Outstanding Member Award, Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene Service Award, City of Baltimore Citizen’s Award, National Federation of the Blind Service Award , Children’s Cancer Center Volunteer Award, Heart of Love Award and the Harlow Fullwood Award.
“I was taught early: The more you give, the more that comes back to you,” he told The Sun in 2019.
Mr. Camphor was an inveterate boxing fan and enjoyed attending local and national matches. He was a world traveler and he enjoyed sponsoring bus trips to the Hampton Jazz Festival, Atlantic City excursions and trips to Sight and Sound Theatres in Pennsylvania.
He had been a former longtime active member of Emmanuel Community Church where he was presented its Living Legends Award, and was a member of Wayland Baptist Church.
Funeral services for Mr. Camphor will be held at noon Feb. 5 at Coppin State University Arena, 2500 W. North Ave., Baltimore.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Michael Camphor of Baltimore; and another daughter, Yolanda Camphor of Baltimore. Yvonne Camphor Taylor died some years ago. His first marriage ended in divorce.