Selma City Council President Corey Bowie thanks Annie Laurie Williams for her past work on the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum.--Josh Bergeron
Selma City Council President Corey Bowie thanks Annie Laurie Williams for her past work on the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum.-- Josh Bergeron

Museum matriarch thanked

Published 11:36pm Monday, October 21, 2013

Without one Selma resident, the third floor of the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum may still be an abandoned, dilapidated mess.

Friends, family and city officials gathered at the museum Thursday to honor Annie Laurie Williams who, with the help of John Blakely Scales, helped create a medical museum on the third floor. Selma Mayor George Evans and the Selma City Council even drafted a proclamation to honor Williams.

“She is a special lady and we are here to honor her for her dedication to preserving the history of Selma and the Vaughan-Smitherman building,” Evans said.

The building was erected in 1847 as a school. It also served as the Dallas County Courthouse and the Selma Military Institute for a short time. Its longest tenant was the Vaughan Memorial Hospital, which occupied the building from 1911 to 1960, when a new hospital building was constructed on Dallas Avenue.

The building sat vacant and neglected from 1960 to 1969, when former Selma Mayor Joseph T. Smitherman led an effort to purchase and preserve the building.

Williams seized the opportunity to help restore the building.

“It was really in terrible shape and in great disarray,” Williams said. “Age had taken a toll on the building. There was very little medical equipment left.”

She and Scales went to various storage facilities and gathered medical equipment to help turn the third floor into a museum. It took the pair approximately 10 years to fully restore the third floor.

“We got a great deal of equipment that the new hospital didn’t need,” Scales said. “We even found a mannequin and turned it into a nurse.”

The building means more to Williams than simply a restoration project, she said. Williams spent nearly her whole life inside of the Vaughan-Smitherman Museum.

Her husband was a doctor at the building when it was a hospital. Williams’ brother, Jay Williams Sr., said he remembered eating lunch in the building and tending to chickens in the yard as a child.

Williams said she is most closely tied to the building as a hospital, not only because her husband worked there, but also because she spent time at the hospital as a patient. Both of Williams’ parents also died at the building when it was a hospital.

“The building really has so many meanings to me,” she said. “It’s been a part of my life really since I moved to Selma.”

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