Melba Bolton Richardson grew up in Crestview, Florida, attending Okaloosa County Public Schools. A 1964 graduate of Crestview High School, she was a class and SGA officer, played first chair clarinet, was head majorette, and was voted most talented her senior year. She attended Huntingdon College before transferring to The University of Alabama, where she received her B.S. in Secondary Education English with a minor in history. She later received her M.Ed. and Certification in Administration from Auburn University, Montgomery, 1989 and 1997, respectively. Melba knew she wanted to be a teacher from the time she was twelve years old.
Melba began her teaching career at Tuscaloosa Junior High School, where she had also done her student teaching. When she and her husband, Bill, moved to East Tennessee, she taught at Maryville Junior High School, where she was named Teacher of the Year. She began her teaching career at Saint James School in Montgomery in 1983, teaching English and serving as department chair. She became middle school principal in 1989, transforming the middle school into a nationally acclaimed model. Melba served as Academic Dean in 1998 before becoming Head of School in 2008. During her tenure as Head, Saint James became the innovative educational model for the state and nation and earned the number one ranking of independent schools in Montgomery.
Melba has received numerous awards and honors through the years. She represented Alabama at The National Middle School Association Network and made presentations throughout the country on educational topics. She has worked tirelessly for both public and independent schools around the country, often providing inservice for faculty and staff. Melba was the only independent school representative the State Superintendent’s Advisory Board. She also represented Alabama at the Getty Museum opening in Los Angeles. She was the first independent school administrator to serve on the board of CLAS, the
Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools. She also served as President of The Alabama Association of Middle Level Administrators. Melba serves on UA’s College of Education Advisory Board and served as chair. She also serves on The Alabama Network of Family Resource Centers, and chairs The Alabama Institute for Education in the Arts. She also serves on Mary Ellen’s Hearth Board, a facility for homeless women. She was recently inducted into the prestigious Women of the Capstone. Melba was honored in 2015 by the Alabama Senate as well as the city of Montgomery with resolutions honoring her contributions to education. The Alabama Association of Independent Schools awarded her a Lifetime Leadership Award in 2015 and she was instrumental in the merger of AAIS and AISA. The Saint James Board of Directors created the Melba Richardson Leadership Award in 2015, given at graduation each year. The board also named The Melba Richardson Middle School in her honor for her dedicated service to Saint James and her contributions to middle level education throughout the country. In 2017, she was inducted into the AISA Hall of Fame.
Melba’s innovation became a hallmark of her leadership. She has never believed in status quo and always strived to the be the pacesetter for excellence. National recognition came to the school with their partnership with Selma City Schools through arts innovation. Melba still teaches administrators around the state how to implement the arts in their schools. She implemented the middle school concepts at Saint James and created the first true middle school in Montgomery. The middle school earned national recognition for their advisory program. She began the all-day pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs beginning with three year olds. Her impact in the high school was profound, creating 13 pre-college major electives for students. The school earned the Apple Distinguished Award for innovation in technology. She firmly believed professional development was the key for faculty to take the school to a higher level. She often sent them or traveled with them around the country to become skilled in their areas. Melba was instrumental in bringing the Nuts and Bolts Conference for Middle Level Education to Destin, Florida, so that more teachers from the South could attend. More importantly, however, was her ability to interact with students daily, attending their activities, sitting in class or lunch with them, or merely passing them in the halls for encouragement.
Melba serves in numerous volunteer and civic roles and is active at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery. She spends her leisure time traveling, reading, writing, gardening, and sewing smocked and French hand sewn dresses. She also still marches as a majorette when her high school alumni band celebrates an anniversary every five years. She promotes kindness and has what she calls a “note writing ministry” to congratulate and encourage others. It is pure joy for her to keep up with her former students. Melba believes our children are this country’s greatest treasure and we have an obligation to properly educate them.