UWA to host Black Belt Hall of Fame induction of Fitts, Huffman, Thurn

LIVINGSTON image001— The induction ceremony and luncheon honoring three prominent figures in the region’s history will be held on Friday, Jan. 30, from noon-2 p.m. at the University of West Alabama’s Bell Conference Center.
Dr. Alston Fitts, III, the late Judge Rufus C. Huffman, Sr. and the late Richard L. Thurn will be honored at the ceremony.  All three inductees have devoted their life’s work to the Black Belt region, both for its advancement and preservation.

The Black Belt Hall of Fame seeks to recognize and honor those associated with the Black Belt who have had a positive impact on the region, the state, the nation, and the world through contributions in art, business, education, industry, medicine, politics, and science.

Center for the Study of the Black Belt Executive Director Tina Jones said, “It is fitting during this historic 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that the Black Belt Hall of Fames inducts Dr. Alston Fitts, III, the late Judge Rufus C. Huffman, Sr. and the late Richard L Thurn. The dedicated work of these recipients has made life better for the citizens of the Black Belt, and we bestow this honor upon them to celebrate their achievements.”

Dr. Alston Fitts III November 29, 1939 Known as the “unofficial historian” of Selma, Dr. Fitts strives to bring the city’s black and white history together under one roof as well as to inspire communication between the races in the Black Belt. A native of Tuscaloosa, Ala., Dr. Fitts moved to Selma and Dallas County in 1978 when he was appointed the Director of Information to the Edmundite Southern Missions, a Catholic missionary organization founded in 1937 to serve and lift up the African American community in the Deep South. He began his career as an amateur historian when researching Benjamin Sterling Turner and the Old Live Oak Cemetery. In 1989, the Selma City Council commissioned his book “Selma, Queen City of the Black Belt” as a modern history of the city. He was instrumental in the renaming of East End Elementary to Sophia P. Kingston, an early leader in African American education. Dr. Fitts is a member of One Selma, Selma Rotary Club, Queen of Peace Catholic Church, Old Depot Museum, the Alabama Bench and Bar Historical Society, and is involved with the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

Judge Rufus C. Huffman, Sr. February 5, 1927 – March 27, 2009 A political activist who fought for racial equality by breaking down barriers, Judge Huffman was one of Bullock County’s most active civil rights advocates since the 1950s. Born in Fitzpatrick, Ala. and a graduate from Alabama State University, Huffman was elected the first African American Probate Judge of Bullock County in 1976, the second African American elected in Alabama, and the third in the United States. He was also the first African American elected chairman of the Bullock County Commission. As a lifetime member of the NAACP and board member of the Southern Law Poverty Center for 25 years, Judge Huffman sought to help African Americans become elected and appointed to political and administrative positions. He worked tirelessly to ensure fair elections. Huffman was also a deacon at Mount Silla Missionary Baptist Church. Bullock County, and Alabama’s Black Belt, is a better place because of Judge Huffman’s labors, and his legacy will be that others who follow can continue the positive change.

Richard L. Thurn April 15, 1937 – April 15, 2010 A native of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Mr. Thurn moved to the Black Belt region in 1980 and joined the faculty of the University of West Alabama as a professor of geology, physical science, and environmental science. During his tenure, he engineered the expansion of the geology curriculum, developed courses in environmental geology, geological mapping and structures, hydrogeology and petroleum geology. He participated in regional clubs and local groups such as the Birmingham Paleontological Society, the Sumter County Nature Trust, the Livingston Beautification Board, and the Livingston Community Services Society, Inc., a member of the Livingston Presbyterian Church, and the Sumter County Community Chorus. Upon his retirement in 2002, UWA recognized his distinguished service by naming him Emeritus Professor of Physical Sciences, giving him the Service Award for 22 years, and inducting him into the Society of the Golden Key. His students benefitted from his dedication to the field and his impact continues to be felt in their hands. He always stated, “My main effort has always been, and will continue to be, teaching.”

For ticket information, please contact Amy Christiansen, Archivist for the Center for the Study of the Black Belt at (205) 652-3655 or achristiansen@uwa.edu. Tickets for the ceremony and luncheon are $15 and please make reservations by Jan. 23, 2015.