When each home basketball game begins with the announcement "Welcome to Cameron Indoor Stadium" those assembled are enjoying a game in the building named after Edmund McCullough Cameron and they are reminded of one of the university's most revered coach-administrators. Cameron called the naming of the building on January 22, 1972 "his most cherished honor." An added bonus was a Duke upset of the nationally third ranked University of North Carolina Tar Heels, 76 to 74, in the first game in the renamed arena. That Eddie Cameron would so highly value the renaming of the Indoor Stadium demonstrates his affection for the university. It also apparently eclipses a lifetime of superlative accomplishments as a player, coach and administrator that earned him induction into five Halls of Fame. Altogether he was inducted into the National Football, Atlantic Coast Conference Sports Writers, Duke University and North Carolina and Virginia Halls of Fame.
Cameron's active participation in Duke athletics spanned forty-six years from 1926 to 1972, the second longest tenure in the school's history. However, his unofficial contribution continued sixteen more years after retirement until his death in 1988 at age 86. He held more different positions and exercised greater responsibility in athletics on and off campus than any other Duke administrator.
Born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1902, Cameron won honors in several sports at Culver Military Academy in Indiana and Washington and Lee University in Virginia. At Washington and Lee he was captain of both the basketball and football teams and he tied for national scoring honors in football. When Duke hired the W and L football coach, Jimmy DeHart, Cameron followed him to Durham to coach the freshman team. He proved to be an excellent coach and popular member of the university community and when Wallace Wade was enticed to Duke from Alabama, administrators urged him to retain Cameron. Cameron became backfield coach, scout and recruiter for Wade with the added responsibility of head basketball coach from 1929 to 1942.
While Cap Card is credited with introducing basketball in 1905, Eddie Cameron's success built the popularity for the sport as we know it today. Cameron's first two teams surprised many by making it to the finals of the Southern Conference tournament as a new member of the league. Duke also had its first All-American basketball player in Bill Werber. Cameron had a fourteen year record of 226-99 with conference championships in 1938, 1941 and 1942. The team also reached the championship game four other times. In an astonishing move Duke built the largest basketball arena south of the Palestra in Philadelphia in 1940. Ironically Cameron's contribution in football contributed to the basketball arena as well because Duke used money earned in the school's first Rose Bowl appearance in 1939 to partially finance the construction of the dramatic new indoor stadium. Cameron coached the dedicatory game and first victory in the stadium on January 6, 1940 when Duke defeated Princeton University 36 to 27.
Cameron's record was equally impressive when he became head football coach in 1942 when Wallace Wade entered military service in World War II. In four years Cameron's teams won three conference championships while compiling a record of 25-11-1. Eight of the losses were to service teams which were more like professional teams in the war years. Cameron's teams lost only one game to the Big Four in the state and he never lost to North Carolina even defeating them twice in the 1943 season. The 1943 team led the nation in scoring with 335 points and in defense giving up just 34 points in nine games. However, the climax of Cameron's football career came with Duke's first post season victory when Duke defeated Alabama, 29 to 26, in the 1945 Sugar Bowl. Cameron became permanent Director of Physical Education and Athletics in 1946 when Wade returned and resumed coaching football.
Cameron was one of the nations most influential athletic administrators. He was a founder of the Atlantic Coast Conference. He chaired the basketball committee of the Southern and ACC conferences for decades where he steadfastly supported the crowning of a champion by an end-of-the-year tournament. He also served on the selection committee for the national Football Hall of Fame and the governing committee of the Olympics.
However, he took the greatest pride in the changing face of Duke athletics. He was most excited at opening new facilities such as the move from Hanes Football Field on East Campus to the new 35,000 seat stadium on West, or the move from Card Gym to the new indoor stadium for basketball. But he was equally pleased with the planning and opening of a long awaited 18 hole golf course, expanded baseball and track facilities, and the construction of a new indoor swimming pool.
Eddie Cameron's funeral filled the Duke Chapel. Even though former players, coaches, administrators, colleagues and family traveled from around the nation to pay respect, he had requested that the service be simple and brief. He wanted no eulogy. The starting five of the then number one ranked Duke basketball team carried his casket from the chapel. Nevertheless, there were individual reminiscences aplenty. Vic Bubas, a former Duke basketball coach whom Cameron hired, noted that Cameron seldom was around the locker room when the team won. However, when the losses were tough, he always showed up. Said Bubas, "He was a very compassionate man. That set him apart from many others." Cameron's tenure began at the time of transition from Trinity College to Duke University. His leadership and personality marked the institution's athletic program for over fifty years contributing as no other to the success and respect enjoyed by the university.
© 1996. William E. King, University Archivist, 1972-2002
This article is reprinted from If Gargoyles Could Talk: Sketches of Duke University by William E. King. Carolina Academic Press, 1997.
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