Today’s Alabama Audubon was organized in 1927 by Birmingham Mayor George Ward who was influenced by birdhouse salesman, Joseph Dodson. After purchasing a collection of his products for his private residence in Vestavia, Ward became an avid bird enthusiast. He solicited the help of Dr. H.E. Wheeler, who was a curator of the natural history museum at the University of Alabama, to present an illustrated ‘bird talk’ and the Birmingham Audubon Society was born with 49 members, and George Ward as President.
Thanks to his efforts and those of his neighbor, E.J. Smyer, who had an interest in preserving wildflowers, a law was passed to preserve wildflowers in 1927 and wild birds in 1929 which exists to this day. Of the 800 recorded species in the United States, 327 were documented by the National Audubon Society to reside in Alabama.
Birmingham Historical Society’s November 2021 newsletter elaborates on the history of this organization and lists the 49 charter members. Interested in birding trails nearby? Here’s a map and list of popular areas to explore in Jefferson County. This guide or this list might be helpful as well. Finally, the Alabama Audubon’s quarterly guide lists upcoming events through the end of the 2021 year.
Many thanks to the Alabama NewsCenter division of Alabama Power for sharing the story of George Ward’s contributions to the City of Birmingham with their customers. In their interest of highlighting ”…entrepreneurs doing innovative things, communities that make our quality of life so much better, and people doing things both great and small that make all the difference”, Alabama NewsCenter is helping the Birmingham Historical Society spread the word about a soon to be released book on Birmingham Mayor George Ward’s contributions, entitled Birmingham: The City Beautiful, compliments of G. Ward.
The NewsCenter article includes several photos of parks (courtesy of the City of Birmingham Parks & Recreation Board) envisioned by Ward in the early 19th century that are still being used today. However, his best known park was his residence on Shades Crest Mountain in Vestavia which no longer exists, but is now memorialized by the Temple of Sibyl.
Birmingham Historical Society invites you to An Evening in Honor of George B. Ward Monday, November 1, 2021 7:00 p.m. Strange Auditorium at Birmingham Botanical Gardens PROGRAM By Marjorie White SIGNING OF THE NEWLY RELEASED Birmingham: The City Beautiful, Compliments of G. Ward Published by the Society with the financial support of The Sterne-Agee Foundation Members paid for 2021 may pick up their copy of the new release. Books not picked up will be mailed following the meeting. Additional copies will be available for purchase for $30 (cash or check), both at the meeting and from Birmingham Historical Society, One Sloss Quarters, Birmingham, AL 35222.
“George Ward was a most unusual and an unusually accomplished man with a significant legacy. Ward was alderman, mayor, and city commission president, an investment banker, a civic and community leader, a student and a reader, a writer, a lover of classics, a gentleman farmer, an idealist, sentimentalist, natu- ralist, conservationist, birder, and floriculturist, in short, a many-sided man of extraordinary ability.” — Marjorie L. White, Author, Birmingham: The City Beautiful, Compliments of G. Ward
“Birmingham: The City Beautiful, Compliments of G. Ward is a fundamentally important contribution to the material available on our community. It places Birmingham in the City Beautiful Movement in the context of urban America. The document can also serve as a guide for citizens interested in becoming en- gaged in their community. It is a manual of civic participation. Three cheers.” — Edward S. Lamonte, Retired Professor of History, Birmingham-Southern College, Former Chief of Staff to Birmingham Mayor Richard Arrington Jr.
“Every man, woman, and child in Birmingham seems to be imbued with the city beautiful idea. I have never observed in any other city universal interest as is being manifested by the people in this city.” — Warren Manning in “Manning Tells of Progress of Work-Talks to Commission of City Beautiful Plan,” Birmingham Ledger, November 19, 1914