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Gov. Riley appoints Smothers to Cahawba advisory committee

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley has appointed B.J. Smothers of Selma to the Old Cahawba Advisory Committee.

Smothers is one of 15 members of the advisory committee appointed by the governor and one of five from Dallas County. The advisory committee works to maintain preservation of Old Cahawba, Alabama’s first capital.

“I want to do whatever I can to help achieve those goals,” she said.

Smothers said she has a two-fold interest, coming from a preservationist background and a historical perspective.

Smothers worked in urban renewal in New York before coming down South to Selma. A portion of that job included historical preservation, she said.

Smothers is a historian. She is president of the board of directors of the Black Belt African American Genealogical & Historical Society. The society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and exchange of information and ideas among people interested in African-American genealogy, family history and historic preservation in the 12 counties of the state’s Black Belt.

Old Cahawba became a ghost town shortly after the Civil War. Today, it’s an important archeological site and natural habitat. One of the key projects at Old Cahawba is the preservation and restoration of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which was built and consecrated in 1854 at Cahawba.

Every year, the site attracts thousands of visitors nationwide, including archaeologists and historians. That’s a benefit to Dallas County and Selma, said Candace Johnson, director of tourism for the Selma-Dallas County Tourism & Convention Bureau, adding that traffic there means more people staying in Selma’s hotels and seeing other attractions.

Johnson said Smothers’ appointment is a good one because of her background. “B.J. is very familiar with Dallas County and the history here.”