Interview 17: Camay Calloway Murphy

Interviews, The Arts

Camay is a beautiful addition to ‘newcomers’ in Havre de Grace. Warm and witty, a superb life in education, and a gifted storyteller, she also shares her love of the arts. She adds a beautiful thread to the tapestry of our community.

A Beautiful Life of Zigs…Zags…and Jazz

Camay Calloway Brooks Murphy

Camay is a beautiful lady inside and out. In her full-length interview, she shares part of her life story from her auspicious beginnings as the love-child of famed jazzman Cab Calloway and Zelma Proctor, to an esteemed educator, and an avid citizen of the communities lucky enough to have her living within their boundaries.

Camay Calloway Murphy (born January 15, 1927) is a retired American educator. The daughter of Jazz bandleader and singer Cab Calloway, Murphy was one of the first African-Americans to teach in white schools in Virginia. As an educator, Murphy emphasized music and multiculturalism. She founded the Cab Calloway Jazz Institute and Museum at Coppin State University. She was also the chairman of Baltimore’s Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center and commissioner of Baltimore City Public Schools‘ Board of Education.


In this podcast excerpt, I share snippets of her life, rich with experiences from the days of the Harlem Renaissance in NYC to her early years in Baltimore.

She shares stories of living in Baltimore under the guidance of her grandmother and spending wonderful times being pampered by the lady customers at Poindexter’s Beauty Salon.

Camay shares the attitudes of her mother’s and father’s families towards their relationship. We hear a funny story about the ‘alien’ praying mantis! And she shares her love and not-so-loving relationship with technology.

She gives us a few simple words to live by in closing, while easily admitting that it’s difficult to tell anyone how to live their life.

In Havre de Grace, those who have met her enjoy the easy laugh, twinkling eyes, and always enthusiastic energy of this amazing 96-year-old woman. She may have slowed a tiny bit, but you would never notice as she enjoys jazz, talks about her play created for Havre de Grace of the fictional tale of a black jockey during our race track days, or shares her desire to see a statue built to celebrate the life of a local legend, Ernest Burke – speaker, humanitarian, and superb athlete of the Negro League. She is a remarkable addition to our community.

Camay Calloway Murphy at the Lock House Museum where she presents a display of memorabilia to begin the effort to have a statue built for Ernest Burke, Negro League Baseball Player
Camay Calloway Murphy at the Lock House Museum where she presents a display of memorabilia to begin the effort to have a statue built for Ernest Burke, Negro League Baseball Player



Did you see the ‘young’ Camay” around 2:13 in the video? Awesome, don’t you think?

A Few of Camay’s Projects and Activities
Since Coming to Havre de Grace

Excerpt from The Baltimore Sun, July 13, 2016

Ernest Burke Memorial

The council also agreed to move forward with a memorial recognizing Burke, in response to a request from resident Camay Murphy in partnership with Bill Watson of the city’s Public Art Committee.

Burke was born in Havre de Grace in 1924 and served in the first African-American U.S. Marine unit in World War II, according to a resolution the council approved.

After returning home, he played third base and pitcher for the Baltimore Elite Giants, a professional baseball team in the former African-American League in 1946.

“We know it’s an important thing to do as we look at the diversity in our community, but we also want to look at the man whose statue or memorial is going to be erected,” Murphy told the council.

Martin said the memorial is just part of many public art projects he hopes the city will undertake, as Watson noted plans are underway for a maritime heritage sculpture at Concord Point Park.

“We are hoping the whole city is going to blossom with public art,” Martin said. “We are really hoping that the maritime sculpture at Concord Point Park is going to take off.”

excerpted from The Baltimore Sun, Oct. 14, 2013

Rain holds off for 6th Annual Graw Days Festival in Havre de Grace​

‘Born to Ride’

Havre de Grace’s history as a horse racing center was the main attraction of Saturday’s event. The name Graw Days came from the nickname of the city’s horse track, “The Graw.” The track, officially known as the Havre de Grace Racetrack, turned 101 years old this year. It was active from 1912 until the early 1950s.

The track and its supporting buildings off Old Bay Lane are still in existence, on property used by the Maryland National Guard.

Visitors to Graw Days got a glimpse into that life, however, through the production “Born to Ride,” a short play put on at St. John’s Episcopal Church that told the story of black jockeys in the early 1900s.

The play was written by Havre de Grace resident Camay Calloway Murphy, directed by Randolph Smith and brought to life by the members of the Arena Players of Baltimore.

“As you can see, I’m a very Christian and God-fearing lady, but today, honey, I’m off to the races,” Murphy said while introducing the play.

Harford Community College is hosting an exhibit this month on the black jockeys, who like their counterparts of other races, were small, yet athletic men who could ride the large horses to victory.

Black men also worked as grooms, caring for the horses who were housed at Harford County’s many horse farms.

The late Joshua Eugene Fischer Jr. was known for working with Saggy, who was born at Country Life Farm in Bel Air and defeated Citation at the Graw in 1948. Citation won the Triple Crown that year.

“Born to Ride” took place in 1915, and was the story of a fictional teenage Harford County farm boy, Tyke Barnes, played by Jabari Adeleye.

Tyke works on the farm owned by his parents Sadie (Sandra Meekins) and Abraham Barnes (James A. Brown).

They are approached by Matthew Wilford (Richard Peck), who thinks young Tyke has what it takes to be a jockey and offers to teach him to care for and ride horses.

His parents agree and the audience sees footage of a horse race from New York’s Sheepshead Bay Race Track in 1904, meant to double for The Graw. Wilford and the Barneses sit and watch the race, which takes place off-stage.

Peter Brooks, who also helped research the jockeys, played a race announcer, leading the crowd through Tyke’s victory.

“Who would have thought a horse with a Negro jockey and 30-to-1 odds would be in this race?” Brooks cried out.

The exhibit on black jockeys, “Beauty in Sport: Celebrating Black Jockeys in Harford County, Maryland and Beyond” is open through Nov. 8 at the Hays-Heighe House at Harford Community College. The exhibit is open Tuesdays from 1 to 3 p.m., Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon and Saturday, Nov. 2, from 10 a.m. to noon. Call 443-412-2495 for more information.

“Black jockeys were the first professional athletes in the United States of America,” Brooks said after the play.

Excerpt from The Baltimore Sun, July 8, 2021

In Havre de Grace, a tribute to a baseball legend – and the woman behind the statue | READER COMMENTARY

The dedicated Ernest Burke Sculpture by Artist Austen Brantley at Concord Point Park in Havre de Grace thanks to the determined effort of Camay Calloway Murphy

I wasn’t surprised that the town would turn out to learn and relive the life, legend and legacy of native son and Negro Leagues baseball player Ernest Burke of the Baltimore Elite Giants. But just as important, to awe in the life, legend, and legacy of Camay Murphy and her uncanny ability to make things happen that seem so remote or undoable.

At 94, Ms. Murphy’s quiet smile was evidence enough of a sense of accomplishment and that she could move on to her next challenge. She’s still a teacher at heart and enjoys teaching and watching folks learn. She has a talent for identifying strengths, as all good teachers do, and gives a gentle nudge to keep you going at whatever you’re doing and sometimes even helps you find where it is that you should be.

A lifelong avid reader, Ms. Murphy has often uncovered little-known, but important historical facts that somehow got lost in time and everyday life. And once she finds them, she leaves them like a little memento in your path so they do not get lost again. One day, a child will Google Camay Calloway Murphy and get 15,000 references to almost any subject — art, music or sport — and her teaching will forever continue. Her name is synonymous with excellence.

Leslie A. Imes, Baltimore

READ MORE HERE on the City of Havre de Grace website about the community effort behind the Statue of Ernest T. Burke.

This is merely an eyedropper-full of the wonderful, colorful, and successful life of this amazing woman, Camay Calloway Brooks Murphy. We are truly blessed to have her living in our community.

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