Napier passes the gavel: Cameron Freeman Napier steps down as fifth First White House Regent after nine years of service

Published 1:43 am Sunday, May 3, 2009

On Tuesday, April 14 at 11 a.m. on the steps of the First White House of the Confederacy in downtown Montgomery, Ala., State Officials, First White House Staff, White House Association members and others gathered to watch the “changing of the guard” as Cameron Freeman Napier (Mrs. John H. Napier) stepped down after twenty nine years as Regent, and passed the gavel to Anne Henry Tidmore (Mrs. Wallace) who has now become only the sixth Regent since 1900.

Cameron not only served tirelessly as the fifth Regent, she has been active on the White House Board for 36 years and it was only fitting that she be publicly honored since the House was given to the State of Alabama by the White House Association in 1921. Those in attendance were awed by her summary report of the struggle through the years to keep the 170+ year old house from further deterioration due to the ravages of time.

The story of the FWH is an interesting one, three fold in nature: First, it tells the story of what went on in the spring of 1861 during which time Jefferson Davis was sworn in as the first and only President of the Confederate States of America and while he and his family lived in the House; second, the story of the collection and artifacts in the house including many of his personal effects; third, the story of the preservation of the House itself.

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Because Napier has given so generously of her time and energies in each of these endeavors it was with grateful remembrance that she was honored at her retirement ceremonies on Tuesday. Among the many accolades that she received was a proclamation presented by Jim Main, Director of Finance, signed by Governor Bob Riley who had met with Cameron earlier during the morning privately in his office. For Main to make this presentation was most appropriate as the FWH is directly under the auspices of the Finance Department.

Patsy Riley, First Lady, who is also a member of the First White House Association, was on the platform as was the Mayor of Montgomery, Todd Strange who brought greetings. General John Napier, Cameron’s husband, read a letter of congratulations to her from Betram Hayes-Davis, great great grandson of Jefferson Davis. John surprised Cameron with a lovely pewter water pitcher with the outline of the FWH engraved on the side.

Lee Sentell, Director of Tourism and Travel, presented her with a miniature statue of Jefferson Davis. Statues like this will be sold at the FWH gift shop.

Later at the White House Association luncheon Cameron was given a beautiful painting of the House by David Brawly, a world renown artist and resident of Montgomery, and a friend of Cameron’s and of the FWH. She was also elected “Honorary Regent for Life” by the Association. Her fellow members saluted her most affectionately for her determination, inspiration, energy and zeal in keeping our beloved historic site alive.

Anne Tidmore, newly installed Regent commented on how much she was looking forward to continuing the work of her predecessor with the help of Main and the Service Division of the Finance Department, and the dedicated staff at the First White House, Evelyn England, full time Receptionist, Eva Newman, Supervisor of Capitol Receptionists, and Robert McCray. This dedicated staff is invaluable.

In addition, Tidmore said she will be depending on the help of the 61 members of the White House Association.