James A. Welton, class of 1904, was Albion College's first African American alumnus.
James A. Welton came to Albion in 1900 from Mt. Meigs, Ala., where he was born and raised by his parents, Clara and Richard, former slaves and sharecroppers.
Before arriving in Michigan, Welton attended the Normal School for Colored Children in Montgomery, Alabama, and then served as the assistant principal of the public school for black children in Mt. Meigs.
During his tenure at Albion, Welton received his teaching certificate and became well known for his exceptional oratorical abilities. He was elected class treasurer during his junior year and periodically wrote articles for the Pleiad and the yearbook. After Albion, Welton returned to the Normal School in Montgomery. He taught math and Latin and served for one year as the school's football coach. He also worked as the superintendent of the religious school at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (later to become famous when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became the church's pastor). He married in 1906 and later moved in with his wife and children to Birmingham, Ala., where he worked as the principal of an elementary school until his death in 1929.
Welton posthumously received Albion College's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2002, the first and only alumnus/a to be so honored.
The home of the Black Student Allicance is named after Welton as The James Welton House, located at 1109 Jackson St.