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City of St. Jude Interpretive Center and Garden

Peter R. Thomas Jr., Auburn University
The City of St. Jude Interpretive Center and Garden in Montgomery, Montgomery County, commemorates the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March and the Roman Catholic City of St. Jude social service organization's role in it. The march was the culminating event of the Selma voting rights demonstrations and led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Center is a stop on the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.
City of St. Jude Interpretive Center and Garden
The Interpretive Center opened in March 2015, during the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March. It is housed in the original St. Jude social center that was built in 1939. The interpretive center displays a collection of more than 100 photos and other items documenting the Selma to Montgomery March, and every wall has its own theme. For instance, one wall is dedicated to Bloody Sunday. Another focuses on the marchers and demonstrators who stayed at the City of St. Jude property, which was the site of the "Stars for Freedom Rally" on March 24, 1965, the night before the final leg of the march to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery. Some 2,000 marchers camped on the grounds for the event. The property at the time contained a church, a high school, and a hospital; March supporter Viola Gregg Liuzzo was taken there after being shot by members of the Ku Klux Klan.
The interpretive garden consists of walkways made-up of commemorative pavers that were purchased by donors and churches and other organizations throughout the country. The focal point of the garden is the distinctive Homeless Jesus Sculpture, which is a visual translation of the Biblical passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew, 25:35-40, and represents St. Jude's Christian mission to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for the ill. The sculpture, which depicts a shrouded Jesus laying on a park bench, was donated by a supporter who was moved by St. Jude's mission. It was lauded by national news outlets. Additionally, the garden is the resting place of Father Harold Purcell, the founder of the City of St. Jude. Douglas Watson was the executive director of the St. Jude Parish during the creation and establishment of the interpretive center and was instrumental in its founding. He helped the church raise more than $200,000 that was used to renovate the social center where the interpretive site now sits and also acquire the archive of photos on display. He more recently helped the City of St. Jude raise more than $10 million in order to establish the interpretive center.
City of St. Jude Church
The City of St. Jude is located at 2048 W. Fairview Avenue along and near the end of the 54-mile Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. The trail was created by Congress in 1996 to preserve and interpret the events surrounding the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with the support of the Alabama Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. The trail begins at Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma and passes the Selma Interpretive Center, the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, the Lowndes County Interpretive Center, three other campsites, the Viola Liuzzo Memorial, and ends at the Alabama State Capitol just up the street from Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. The City of St. Jude Historic District was created by the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. The district highlights the organization's commitment to providing integrated medical and social services during the Jim Crow-era and its landscape and architecture, including Romanesque elements. People who wish to visit the center are encouraged to contact the center with questions about a tour. The site is open Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m.to 3:00 p.m. There is a small fee for adults and children.
Published:  December 14, 2018   |   Last updated:  December 14, 2018