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Historic Society honors Cecil Gayle’s handiwork

SELMA — Cecil Gayle was born in a hospital in Selma’s historic district. That building is now Vaughan-Smitherman Museum, and was the site of the Tim Bjelke Award presentation honoring Gayle’s contributions to the community.

Gayle has had at least five houses on the annual pilgrimage tour, mostly recently Nettie’s Cottage, which was featured this year.

“It’s very nice to know people appreciate what we do,” Gayle said. “Ken Parker deserves as much recognition as I. I love the area of Selma and love the people so much.”

The honor, a long with a crystal vase from Butler Truax Jewelers, was presented to Gayle at the annual meeting of the Selma-Dallas County Historic Preservation Society.

Nancy Smith, the organization’s president, said Gayle has given of his time and energy when it wasn’t required or expected.

“Cecil has worked to preserve houses when other people had given up on them as wrecks,” Smith said. “He’s made a huge difference and risk in time and money on three houses within two blocks. His architectural knowledge allowed him to see things other people couldn’t.”

Richard Burk, chairman of the committee that selected the winner, said Gayle’s ongoing support of the community made his selection obvious.

“A member of the board brought Cecil to light,” Burk said. “He spent his time and intelligence on several houses, not just in Selma, but his personal house in Sardis and Marion made him an easy choice.”

Other business at the meeting revealed this year’s pilgrimage brought in $17,000 to the organization against expenditures of $8,400.

Smith said the balance of that money will likely go toward next year’s pilgrimage and possibly some upgrades to the group’s Web site.

“We’ll be able to advertise next year’s pilgrimage even better,” Smith said. “We may have to pay someone to come in and design our Web site. We need a site for the historic society that’s different from the pilgrimage site.”

Good weather was cited as the reason for the success. This year’s numbers, with warm and sunny weather, were compared to those of 2008 when it was cold and rainy and $5,000 was lost on the pilgrimage.

We have some reluctance from the home owners to open their houses, and we might have to pay them more,” Smith said. “There’s no set amount of money that makes it work.”