Biography of Luther L. James

Prominent Educator

Luther L. James, superintendent of the public schools at Roanoke, Alabama, is one of the most universally popular teachers that Franklin County has ever produced. He possess an unusually winning personality.

Mr. James was born May 26, 1887, about five miles northwest of Russellville, and was reared on the farm. He is said to have been a very hard working boy. He is one of four children born to Aaron A. and Ollie Virginia (Bendall) James, both of whom were born and reared in Franklin County. His paternal grand-father, Thomas James, was one of Franklin’s most substantial citizens in pre-Civil War days, while his maternal grand-father, B. F. Bendall, was of fine character. Another ancestor of Mr. James was Margaret Cook Barrett, a woman of great bravery and strength of character, who was related to some of the South’s leading families.

He attended the rural schools at Byrd or Vinson school house and at Ebenezer. The first school he attended was taught by Osgood Pace, now deceased, at the Byrd school house; the last rural school that he attended was taught by William A. Berry. Mr. Berry, who is now a prominent capitalist of Birmingham, was a teacher far above the average and wielded quite an influence over young James. This school was taught in the summer of 1904.

In the fall of the same year Mr. James entered the Russellville grammar and high school which in those days was called “the college.” Prof. W. L. Yarbrough was principal of the school at that time. But on account of illness Mr. James was forced to quit school, after attending a few weeks.

In the summer of 1905 he found employment in helping to cut stave timber for a large mill in Colbert County. He saved his earnings, and in September of that year he entered the State Normal College at Jacksonville, Alabama. This was his first experience in being away from home. He was a very earnest student, and in 1906 he secured teacher’s license and began his career as a teacher. He taught his first school at Centerview, on Tollison’s Creek, near where old Sweet Gum Thicket once stood. He later taught at Mt. Olive, Colbert County. Both Centerview and Mt. Olive have since been absorbed by the Crooked Oak Junior High School.

Other rural schools at which he taught were Good Springs, Jonesboro, Ebenezer and Duncan Creek in Franklin County and County Line School in Lawrence County. During the vacation of the rural schools he was either at work or studying.

In May, 1913, he graduated from the State Normal College at Florence, Alabama. He also had the honor of winning a medal for having delivered the best oration at the annual commencement of that year.

While attending school at Florence, Mr. James became involved in a romance which led him and Miss Mattie Mae Petree of Belgreen to the altar, August 26, 1915. She is a daughter of Capt. W. R. and Mary (Hall) Petree, deceased, and a sister of J. D. Petree, Probate Judge of Franklin County. Mrs. James is a graduate of the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute of Montevallo. Three children, one daughter and two sons, have been born to this marriage.

Since graduating from Florence, Mr. James has taken special work at the State University and at Peabody College. All of his time since completing his course has been devoted either to teaching or to supervising schools. He was principal of the Mt. Hope High School for one year, 1913-14; principal of the Haleyville High School for five years, 1914-1919; he also taught and studied in the Haleyville High School 1910-1911, under Prof. J. M. Crowell; taught in the State Normal College at Florence, summer of 1919, and has been at the head of Roanoke City, or public schools, since 1919, having been re-elected for the year 1927-28. All his educational work has been done in Alabama.

Prof. James had devoted more than a score of years to the cause of education. He had instructed a large number of students, and has been successful in exercising quite an influence over many of them. He is a member of the Christian Church, a Democrat and a Mason.


Source: Source: James, R. L. Distinguished Men, Women and Families of Franklin County, Alabama. Russellville, Ala., Private Publication, 1928. 111 p.

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