The Archives and History Building

This view is from an upper balcony of the new RSA Headquarters.

The first of the six white concrete buildings that surround the State Capitol. You should ask how Archives ever got the first building. Well, it was like this: Marie Bankhead Owen 1869-1954 was instrumental in forming Alabama’s Archives Department in 1901, the first of its kind in the nation. She was its second Director (her husband was its first). During the Depression, Marie asked President Roosevelt’s chief-of-staff, Harry Hopkins, for WPA money to build “a memorial building”. At first Hopkins laughed and refused; then he found out that Marie’s father was former Ala Senator John Bankhead; her brother John was a sitting US Senator; and her brother William Bankhead was current Speaker of the US House. The funds were forthcoming, and by 1939 Marie had a grand building in which to house her collection. The Bankheads were mostly from Jasper Alabama; my nephew moved up there and married one.

This is what it looked like when Marie Bankhead built it. Not quite as imposing as it appears today, what with large wings added to each end over the seventy years of its existence. I think Marie would be proud.

-Charles Humphries

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