U.S. Rep. Artur Davis presents $1M check for Interpretive Center

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., presented a $1 million check to local officials on Thursday for the development of the Selma Interpretive Center, an estimated $20 million project that will chronicle the city’s role in the voting rights movement.

The federal appropriation is part of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations bill, and is one of the bill’s largest earmark amounts, Davis said amid applause.

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Davis said the interpretive center is a “point of economic development,” and an investment in the city’s past for the city’s future.

“I look forward to the day that we do all we plan to do and expand this area,” Davis said.

Davis believes Selma has turned a corner politically, economically and in terms of faith in community, allowing the community to receive its many blessings. Davis went on to credit Selma’s leadership for advocating the city’s interests in Washington, D.C., and said the appropriation is “a tribute to federal and city working together.”

“Thank God for allowing us to get this close to this vision,” said Mayor James Perkins Jr., crediting Davis for never giving up on Selma and his “second to none” staff.

Also on hand were Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard, Commissioners Curtis Williams, Connell Towns

and Clifford Hunter and the Rev. F.D. Reese.

“We’ve been looking forward to a day such as this for a long time,” said Reese, who served as chair of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail Advisory Committee. “I’m just as happy as a peacock in the summertime.”

On Davis, Reese said, “He has been supportive from the very beginning and I hope that he will still be supportive and enlist the help of other congressmen.

Catherine Light, National Park Service superintendent of the Selma to Montgomery NHT, also applauded the efforts of the local officials and Davis.

“It’s been an amazing road and journey to celebrate the future opening of the Selma Interpretive Center,” Light said.

With its completion slated for 2010, the interpretive center is located on the corner of Broad Street and Water Avenue. The city has hired the engineering firm McKee and Associates to assist in the building’s stabilization phase, which entails work on the faade, interior and exterior, window replacement and the installation of a new roof.

The interpretive center is expected to house an interactive education and research center, a children’s interactive center, an oral history center, a social justice and civil rights library, an auditorium, classrooms, a gift shop and a dining area.

Davis said the center is a victory for all of the Selma and the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 wasn’t solely an African-American victory. NPS Park Guide Tina Smiley couldn’t agree more.

“For our community I’m extremely happy. This is just the beginning of a big transformation of the community,” she said. “What happened in 1965 in Selma is what made America free.”