Gratitude, a century later

Campbell grad dedicates business scholarship to honor father, a 1924 graduate of Buies Creek Academy

The year 1924 was a big one for Buies Creek Academy. While electricity had been available in some buildings since 1918, it wasn’t until six years later when the campus was finally connected to a power line from nearby Erwin (then known as the town of “Duke”).

It was the year a young teacher named Mabel Powell arrived to teach English and Latin, starting a 43-year career that would see her become one of the most influential women in Campbell University’s history. .

An influential donor named D. Rich died in 1924, leaving the school $160,000 from his estate to construct the building that would bear his name. Born that year was the man who would go on to become the school’s third president, Norman Adrian Wiggins.

Robert Lee Britt was a 1924 graduate of Buies Creek Academy. In the above photo, Britt is pictured with his son, Preston H. Britt (also a Campbell graduate) in 1967.

Robert Lee Britt was a member of one of the Academy’s final graduating classes before it became Campbell Junior College in 1926. Britt came from a family of modest farmers in Lumberton — his grandfather was a Civil War veteran — and he arrived in Buies Creek with little means to pay his tuition. He earned money by picking cotton and working other jobs at nearby farms, and upon earning his two-year degree, he went on to earn his bachelor’s from Bowling Green School of Business (now Western Kentucky University).

His education would lead to a long career in the business industry, first as a bank clerk then a business manager and administrator for hospitals in the southeastern part of the state. Throughout his life, Britt credited his success to his education and advocated for higher education to his family and friends. When his son Preston H. Britt graduated from high school in 1964, he encouraged him to follow in his footsteps and attend Campbell College.

Preston admits his grades weren’t the best and it might have taken a few favors from his fathers’ friends in Lumberton to get him enrolled. But Preston made the most of his opportunity and enjoyed a career first in public education then in trust management before spending the last 20 years owning and running a nursery and garden center.

He’s giving back to Campbell University and honoring his father by creating the Robert Lee Britt School of Business Endowed Scholarship Fund. On the 100th anniversary of his father’s graduation from Buies Creek Academy, Preston Britt gifted $25,000 to establish an endowed fund to provide scholarships to full-time undergraduate business majors who demonstrate a financial need and come from unincorporated parts of rural Robeson, Bladen, Columbus, Hoke or Scotland counties.

“We’re looking for students with similar backgrounds to my father,” he says. “He realized that education opened a lot of doors for him and can open doors to students 100 years later. That’s what this scholarship is all about.”

Robert Lee Britt’s career

  • 1925-1939: Coal Mine Payroll Clerk, West Virginia
  • 1939-1941: Bank Teller, National Bank of Lumberton, North Carolina
  • 1941-1953: Hospital Administrator, Lumberton, North Carolina
  • 1953-1971: Business Manager, Old Baker Hospital, Lumberton, North Carolina

Preston H. Britt’s career

  • 1969-1974: North Carolina Public Education
  • 1973-2000: Farming and Farm Management
  • 1977-1988: Southern National Bank Trust Officer
  • 1988-2008: Owner, Manager of Nursery and Garden Center in Lumberton, North Carolina