Former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, addressed alumni, faculty and boosters of Southern Preparatory Academy at the school’s First Annual Scholarship Banquet at the Grand National Marriott outside of Auburn on Friday.
Sessions lamented the border crisis and what he called the growing lawlessness that the country has experienced in the last year, which he says have been made worse by the administration of President Joe Biden.
Southern Preparatory Academy is an all-boys military academy on a 300-acre campus near Camp Hill, Alabama. The boys live in dorms where they develop friendships as strong as the ties between actual brothers. The school was formerly known as Lyman Ward Military Academy.
The school was founded in 1898 by Lyman Ward, a Universalist Minister from New York and an admirer of Booker T. Washington, who founded Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). Ward was born in 1868 and died in 1948.
Sessions applauded the school, especially its focus on boys.
“Boys are more likely to drop out,” Sessions said. “Boys are more likely to get into trouble.”
Sessions said that the school’s emphasis on discipline and teamwork will benefit the graduates in their future endeavors.
“Companies values people who can work hard and get things done as a team,” Sessions said.
Southern Preparatory Academy has an enrollment of just 204, but Sessions said that small can be good.
“My graduating class at Camden had just 30,” Sessions said. “My classmate, Judy Bonner, went on to be provost and then president of the University of Alabama and her brother Jo served in Congress and is now the governor’s chief of staff.”
“A school like Hoover where there is 6,000 students, I think teachers can’t keep up with their students,” Sessions said.
Sessions praised the culture at Southern Prep.
“They say the Pledge of Allegiance and pray to God every day,” Sessions said.
More than 90 percent of Southern Prep graduates go on to higher education. Those that don’t, enlist in the armed forces. 100 percent of Southern Preparatory Academy graduates leave the school with a post-graduation plan.
Sessions said that “tough on crime” laws in the 1990s led to substantial drops in violent crimes in this country. That trend reversed itself during the Barack Obama administration, Sessions claimed. Sessions said that murder rates dropped and even opioid death rates began falling after he had been attorney general for two years. Unfortunately, this past year has seen both the murder and the overdose death rates spike. Sessions criticized the Biden administration for the increase in illegal immigration, which has heightened the flow of drugs across the border.
Southern Prep is a private school, but due to its contribution to the overall state of Alabama, the Legislature budgets an appropriation to the school. The school received $367,290 in this year’s education budget package. That is expected to increase to $389,327 in fiscal year 2022.
“Southern Preparatory Academy has been developing young men of outstanding character in Alabama for over a century,” said state Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn. “Now more than ever America needs institutions like Southern Preparatory Academy to teach the next generation of leaders of hard work discipline, and service to others.”
Whatley, an attorney, is also a colonel in the Alabama National Guard.
Friday’s scholarship banquet was a fundraiser to pay for scholarships for the students. Community support is essential to helping families cover some of the cost of attending the boarding school.
Sessions served as U.S. senator representing Alabama from 1997 to 2017. From 2017 to 2018 he served as U.S. attorney general. Sessions is a former Alabama attorney general, former chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, and a former U.S. attorney under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Sessions served in the U.S. Army Reserves where he reached the rank of captain.
Sessions is a graduate of Huntingdon College in Montgomery and the University of Alabama School of Law. He and his wife, Mary, live in Mobile.
In the 1960s, there were hundreds of military academies across the country. Today, Southern Preparatory Academy is one of just 11 that remain.