Windham left mark in Selma

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The SELMA Times-Journal

Kitti Windham, director of the Striplin Performing Arts Centre, died Sunday, August 28, at the peak of her chosen career in theatre, a career that began when she was an honor student at Albert G. Parrish High School, where she graduated with the Class of 1965.

During those high school years, if the music or arts department produced a play or musical, Kitti Windham had a leading role in it, and the audience could be certain that she also had a hand in directing and choreographing it.

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There are those who still remember her performance in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and marvel at a high school production achieving such perfection. Through the years, Kitti Windham’s

productions maintained that standard. And she passed her talent, knowledge of theatre and technique onto her students in the theatre classes she taught at Wallace Community College – Selma.

“There is no way to replace her,” commented WCCS President James Mitchell on learning of her death.

Windham was a graduate of the University of Montevallo, where she received a BS degree in theatre, later earning a Master’s of Fine Arts in Theatre. Returning to Selma in 1971 she was one of the first Head Start teachers, a position she occupied until entering Auburn University at Montgomery, where she received an RN degree in psychiatric nursing and began her second career.

However, she retained an active interest in theatre and the arts, often assuming a role in the Selma Charity League Follies and staging plays and musicals.

Through appointment by then City Council President Carl Moran she headed the Council on the Arts, organizing Encore!, Selma’s premier little theatre group and strongly supporting community theatre.

After the death of PAC Director Arden McKenzie almost a decade later, Windham was appointed by Mayor Joe Smitherman to replace her as head of the Striplin PAC, where, under her leadership, the former Walton Theatre has become a widely-known center for drama, arts and theatre.

Learning of her death, Smitherman said “She was talented, hard-working,knowledgeable and did a fine job as head of the Performing Arts Center. Her death leaves a real void in Selma and the Black Belt.”

Windham also devoted countless hours to the Selma Public Library and its Children’s Puppet Theatre, writing “25 years of scripts and recording voices for many of the leading characters, including Madame Bookcover, a legacy that will last at least another 25 years,” said Director Becky Nichols.”Her voice will never be stilled.”

That voice was also heard three times weekly on radio station WHBB, which broadcast the popular “Miss Kitty” show. Her radio career began in Key West, where she was the first female disc jockey.

Those who knew her well comment on her friendly approach and warm treatment of people, all people, especially those who participated in Encore! productions. “She made us do things we didn’t know we could,” commented Jane Driggers, a cast member in numerous plays.

And friends also knew her as an avid collector of pigs, all kinds of pigs – except live ones – including stuffed, ceramic, wooden and paintings of them.

All who knew her agree that through her civic and community activities, as well as her love of people, she touched many lives.

She is survived by her mother, Kathryn Tucker Windham of Selma, her brother, Amasa Benjamin Windham Jr. (Susan) of Tuscaloosa, her sister, Dilcy Windham Hilley of Birmingham,

two nephews, David Windham and Ben Hilley; and her best friend, Liz Taylor of Selma.

She was predeceased by her father, Amasa Benjamin Windham.

Graveside services for Miss Kitti are at 10 a.m. today, August 30, in New Live Oak Cemetery with The Revs. Joseph Knight and Tom Rimmer officiating, Lawrence Funeral Home directing.

Pallbearers will be Charlie Lucas, Aubrey Vick, Tommy Treese, Eddie Ward, Vaughan Russell and Wayne McKenzie.

The family requests memorial donations to the Selma Public Library or to a charity of choice.