I would like to share with your readers the very sad news of the tragic death of former Mountain Xpress contributing writer Cameron Huntley, who was killed June 1 on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya, while protecting his girlfriend during an armed robbery [see the online post “Remembering Cameron Huntley,” June 3, Xpress].
He was a 2008 graduate of Erwin High School and a 2011 magna cum laude graduate of Clemson University. He had attended a mission trip to Africa in 2013 through his church, and he fell in love with the country and the people. He subsequently [stopped writing] for Xpress and moved to Kenya to tell the story of the people and to continue his career as a journalist, perhaps becoming a foreign correspondent. He also taught English. He was a very gifted writer and passionate about people and helping the underdog.
I first got to know Cameron Huntley when he contacted me regarding his writing an article for Mountain Xpress about an exhibition at the Rural Heritage Museum at Mars Hill University. Called Interwoven: Coverlets, Ballads and America’s Discovery of Madison County Folklife, his very well-written article about the exhibition became the cover story in the June 3, 2014, edition of the Xpress. It was titled “O Sister Where Art Thou?”
He subsequently wrote another article about one of our exhibitions, which was printed on Jan. 21, 2015, again as the cover story. The [cover] headline was “We Remember: Saving Madison County’s Rosenwald School.” The exhibition about which it was based was titled Our Story – This Place, The History of African American Education in Madison County, North Carolina: The Mars Hill Anderson Rosenwald School.
Cameron carried out incredibly extensive research for this article. He visited the museum several times and conducted interviews with all the principal people, including alumni of the Rosenwald School. He attended the panel discussions and all the programming related to the exhibition.
He also met with the Friends of the Rosenwald School Committee. He went above and beyond what most would think was necessary for a single newspaper article. He demonstrated a deep commitment, a profound sensitivity, incredible patience and a real passion for accuracy. I told him I thought this was the most important exhibition I had ever done. He indicated it might be the best piece of writing he had ever done, being inspired by the importance of the subject. Although he was writing prose, it really seemed more like poetry.
We became friends after that. We emailed from time to time and visited over lunch when he came home to visit. We had planned to get together again this summer. I was impressed with the willingness of this very kind and gifted man to quit everything and move to Kenya to teach, to write and to help people. His death is a great loss for all of us. Cameron was only 26.
— Les Reker
The Rural Heritage Museum
Mars Hill University