By FRED MARSHALL
I have always felt that one of the prettiest sights in Alabama is the south lawn on the State Capitol grounds in Montgomery, especially on a sunny, breezy day! To those of us who live in Montgomery, it’s easy to take it all for granted, much like those who live in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach may take the beach for granted. It’s easy to fall into that trap. Visitors from afar, however, may see things differently. Travelers naturally take photos of the front of our historic State Capitol building, but just as many are drawn to the south side, and the beautiful, Avenue of Flags.
The Avenue of Flags Complex consists of the circular driveway approaching the Capitol, the flags of the 50 states lining the driveway. But let’s slow-down a second. What we see today as the Avenue of Flags had its genesis many years ago. After World War One ended, a Memorial to Alabama soldiers killed in the war was dedicated on April 6, 1918, after a parade through downtown Montgomery by 30,000 predominately Ohio troops stationed at nearby Camp Sheridan. The original, single flag pole that was erected on the south lawn was purchased with the contributions from the school children of Alabama.
A half-century later, it was decided to add the flags of all 50 states, and a rock or stone native to each state that would form the base of each state’s flag pole. Those flags today comprise the Avenue of Flags. These various flags give added significance to the original single flag pole memorial to the heroes from Alabama who, along with patriots from other states, have paid the supreme sacrifice in defense of our country. Incidentally, these flag poles are made of aluminum produced in Sheffield, Alabama, where the first Reynolds Aluminum was made, May 18, 1941. The Avenue of Flags was erected in February and March and dedicated in May of 1969 during the celebration of Alabama’s 150th Birthday.
Visitors to the Avenue Complex will find other subjects of interest. Among them a bust of Senator Joseph Lister Hill (1894-1984), longtime U.S. Senator from Alabama. Senator Hill was named after Joseph Lister, the British scientist who originated antiseptic surgery. Hill always championed the field of health science, and the Lister Hill Library of Health Sciences is named for him at the University of Alabama (Birmingham). It is said that the Senator did more for public health than any American in history.
Also in the Avenue Complex is Alabama’s reproduction Liberty Bell. The bronze bell was manufactured by the Paccard Bell Foundry in France in 1950. It was one of 50 such bells produced by Paccard in an order placed by the U.S. Treasury in a 1950’s Savings Bond drive. Each state received a bell, and Alabama’s bell is number 38 of 50. It is an exact reproduction of the original Liberty Bell produced by Pass and Stow in Philadelphia and bears the inscription: “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All The Land Unto All The Inhabitants Thereof. Lev. XXV X.”
Located out on the lawn is the “Duty Called” Law Enforcement Memorial sculpted by German-born, Birmingham sculptor Branko Medenica. One of his latest works is “A Celebration of Reading” located on Courthouse Square in Monroeville, Alabama. “Duty Called” bears the inscription: Greater Love Hath No Man Than This: “That He Gives His Life To Save A Friend.” Law Enforcement Officers Do Even More. Sometimes They Give Their Lives To Save A Stranger. “Duty Called” was erected by the Alabama State Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police on May 9, 1986.
So don’t take these things for granted anymore. Stop-by, and take your children and grand children. Tell ’em what you know about the Avenue of Flags Complex. If you are new to Montgomery or just passing-through, visit the Avenue of Flags Complex, and take your camera. Montgomery is proud of what you’ll see there.