Camille Waggaman Brown ’17: A Flair for the Dramatic

Adele and Camille Waggaman were among the earliest women students at Rice. Adele graduated in the first class in 1916 and Camille followed a year later. There are pictures of both girls all over the scrapbooks of that era. Spirited young women, they were very active socially and we have glimpses of them playing tennis, going on trips to Sylvan Beach and, of course, at those strange “Kid Parties.” (There’s not a shred of evidence of them studying but they must have or they’d never have managed to graduate.) Here’s Adele at the far right:

kid party

As I looked through another student’s scrapbook I was captivated by this image of Camille. She definitely had a flair for the dramatic:

gladys-patterson-wilkins-scrapbook-camille-waggaman-1917-049

That door, by the way, comes out of the north end of the second floor of what was then the Administration Building. At the time this was set up as the girl’s lounge. Also, just to be clear, she’s buried in the Hollywood Cemetery up in the Heights not in Hollywood, California.

We have the Camille Waggaman/Waggaman Family papers in the Woodson, which include quite bit about her radio program, which was called “Around the Town with Camille Brown.” The show ran for 31 years in Montgomery, Alabama. Her whole story is fun and wildly improbable and the family records are frankly some of the most interesting I’ve encountered. The collection description from the Woodson suggests something of how colorful the family was:

Camille Waggaman was born in Houston, Texas in 1895 and was the youngest of five children. Along with her sister, Adele, she attended and was one of the first graduates of Rice Institute (est. 1912) in 1917. Two years after completing her education, she married Major Roy Stuart Brown of the U.S. Army Air Force who immediately took her off to the Phillippines where he had been posted on a two-year tour of duty. Camille was content to follow the major on his military wanderings until his retirement at the height of the depression (1932) forced her to seek additional income in the work-a-day world.

She reported the news for the Alabama Journal for a brief time until she successfully competed for a job as the hostess of a local radio talk show. “Around the Town with Camille Brown” became the longest running sponsored program of its day lasting exactly thirty-one years. By virtue of her radio popularity and active social life, she was regarded as among the most respected citizens of Montgomery.

That same respect was accorded her in Houston, where her family had been long time residents. Originating in Louisiana of French-Canadian and Spanish stock, the Waggamans were wealthy plantation owners. The family home, Avondale, was built in 1840, thirty years after Camille’s great great-grandfather had arrived in New Orleans. Her great-grandfather came to Texas with the army. He was decorated for gallantry and meritorious conduct at the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma in 1846 and retired from active service in 1861. Camille Brown died in 1974.

 

The Camille Waggaman/Waggaman Family Collection consists largely of photographs and newspaper articles but also includes some personal correspondence and memorabilia. The bulk of the material regards Camille Waggaman and focuses upon her radio career (1932-1963) and upon the years after her retirement.

The collection also includes a number of family photographs and portrait reproductions dating from the seventeenth century. Regional or local historians may find these of interest since the Waggamans were among the most prominent plantation families of Louisiana.

One of the photographs in this collection I’ve kept on my laptop where I can peek at it whenever I need a boost. This is Camille sometime later—I wouldn’t dare hazard a guess at her age—and all I can say is that in my dreams this is what I’ll look like when I grow up:

camille-waggaman-2046

Bonus:

img_5941

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7 Responses to Camille Waggaman Brown ’17: A Flair for the Dramatic

  1. Bill Peebles, Hanszen '70 says:

    Thank you for bringing these wonderful stories to us. I’m jealous.

  2. f.e.'gene' pratt, Rice Inst. '1956 says:

    Thanks for these memories, Melissa.
    I believe Rice Institute must have been a funner place in the early years than it was in 1952-56.

    The picture of Camille in her dining room (I suppose) consumed many of my minutes. I thought the furniture interesting: Camille’s leaning on and pushing a chair sideways. The two non matching chair backs. The large table that does NOT seem to extend to a shorter table. The picutre under the larger table that is … what?… a picture on the floor, a picture on a chair seat, a what? Someone please enlighten me.

  3. Ann Pound Hopkins says:

    Is that maybe my grandmother, Ruth Robinson on the far left? I can’t really tell but it looks like her hair.

  4. sumowl says:

    Class of ’17, so was she part of the second graduating class ever?

    I presume the students who matriculated in 1912 graduated in 1916.

    Assuming that’s the case, it had missed my notice that last year we officially passed the point where two-digit years are sufficient to uniquely identify our graduating classes.

    From now, I’m calling myself class of ‘995.

  5. sumowl says:

    Ugh, that was meant to be ‘999.

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