Saving Choctaw Academy, telling its story

Dr. Richardson discovered an important piece of American history while looking for land to build a home on.
WATCH | A Scott Co. Doctor Rediscovers a piece of American History
Published: Dec. 4, 2022 at 4:05 PM EST
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GEORGETOWN, Ky. (WKYT) - Dr. William “Chip” Richardson is an ophthalmologist in Georgetown. He was looking for land to build a home on when he found a mostly undiscovered piece of American history. Now, he’s working to save the building and share its story but the clock is ticking.

“This is a story that I think people have largely forgotten,” said Dr. Richardson.

A dormitory is now the last standing piece of Choctaw Academy, a school opened in 1825 for boys in the Choctaw Nation.

“You know, you always hear about conflict, right? It’s about the conflict with the Indians. That kind of typifies that epoch in time but this is so different because this was not, this was a place where we were embracing unity,” said Dr. Richardson.

The academy was built on land owned by Richard Mentor Johnson, a U.S. senator from Kentucky, later becoming the ninth vice-president of the United States.

“Something I believe that Richard Mentor Johnson really truly believed, that people’s abilities weren’t based on the color of their skin, ya know, it was based on what was in here,” said Dr. Richardson, pointing to his head.

The Choctaw Academy was unlike other missionary schools. It was secular and was built on request of and largely funded by Native Americans.

“The education that was received at the Choctaw Academy likely led to the survival of nations. Some went on to go to Transylvania University. I mean there’s good records of a doctor, a lawyer, an educator, that went to Transy but they also went on to become chiefs of the nation,” said Dr. Richardson.

Dr. Richardson says that the dormitory has experienced some wear and tear through the years but as the academy’s bicentennial quickly approaches he says his goal is to have the dormitory restored.

“As you can see, I mean, the building’s in trouble. Just months after I bought it, the roof collapsed and at that point we were scrambling,” said Dr. Richardson.

With some help from the Choctaw Nation, Dr. Richardson was able to put a temporary structure over the fallen roof. However, there is still more work to be done. Fully restoring the dormitory will cost several hundred thousand dollars.

“We have a very limited amount of time to do something to save that and I can’t do it by myself. I mean, it’s a daunting task. I know that a community can come together and find a way to save it,” said Dr. Richardson.

For more information on how you can help save Choctaw Academy, click here.