This picture above was taken from the rear balcony of the State Capitol. What you see is the left half of the envisioned structure, with the big glass bow-front section as the center element. This half was built in the late 1980s on land purchased by Fob James and Dr Bronner a few years earlier to replace the basin parking lot in the foreground, on which the pair intended to construct a connecting link between the Folsom Building and the State House (the Highway Bldg back then), and call it “The Capitol Annex”. Pursuant to a Legislative Resolution, the ground in front of the Annex was to be called “The Earl Speight Plaza”.
The structural design concept of the Persons Building included placement of concrete columns down the center of its main corridors, which created a most disconcerting effect, which, when combined with a complex corridor layout, completely disoriented visitors. Ergo, shortly after it opened, the wags dubbed this “The Missing Persons Building”. The small pagodas in the foreground house stair exits from the pedestrian tunnel which runs under Union Street and connects the Capitol to the State House. I suppose the pagodas are now the centerpieces of the Earl Speight Plaza.
Gov. Persons had just taken office when I moved to Montgomery in 1951, and he was the last hometown boy to win the office. Persons was an Auburn electrical engineer graduate, and he was responsible for much of the rural electrification that benefitted Alabama in the 1930s. At age 28 he was co-founder of Montgomery’s first radio station, WSFA. The staid, business-like Persons was a welcome relief from the flamboyant Big Jim Folsom, who preceded him. Persons’ quiet term ended in Jan of 1955, the year of the Bus Boycott, and life in Monkey Town was never the same again. At right is an architect’s rendering of the Persons Building.