AutoSport Bodyworks recognized as Chamber’s Business of the Quarter

By Natalie Salvatore
For the Opelika

Steve Murray, director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, spoke at the Opelika Chamber of Commerce’s Business over Breakfast last Thursday morning.
After Pam Powers-Smith, president of the Opelika Chamber of Commerce, introduced the event, and Lee County Youth Development Center board member Laura Cooper led an invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance, Murray began discussing Alabama’s rich history ahead of the state’s 200th birthday.
He thanked the residents of Opelika for their efforts to preserve Alabama’s story.
“You all deserve a round of applause for making sure that our past is part of our future here,” Murray said.
The director discussed how around this time back in 1819, 44 delegates met in Huntsville to write a state constitution to establish Alabama as a part of the United States of America. As people flocked into the state from Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas, Alabama was gaining both residents and attention.
Several maps demonstrate how the state’s current shape required a continued process of revision. During this era of change, debates over where the state’s capital should lie broke out. Moreover, Murray said that other state governments in the South influenced how Alabama’s own government developed.
Murray mentioned that a key political issue of the economy throughout all of this was infrastructure, a problem that is still relevant today.
“It’s a perpetual concern from our very beginning. This has been a point of contention about who is going to build that infrastructure and how we are going to pay for it,” Murray said.
The director moved on from the history to explain how the upcoming bicentennial provides a chance for a brighter future.
“This process is about reflecting on our past and understanding how we got here. It’s very much thinking about who we are as Alabamians today and what our values are,” Murray said.
Several events and movements have come out of the bicentennial. Murray discussed that in 2017, to set the celebratory tone, a traveling exhibit called Making Alabama gave citizens a chance to learn more about the past. After beginning in Montgomery, it made its way to Opelika and to all 67 counties statewide. Other events include the Alabama Passport Project, Alabama Legacy Moments and the We The People exhibition for observing digital archives.
“The part that I am really excited about the most is what we have been doing in the K-12 outreach during the bicentennial, which I think has the potential to have the longest lasting impact of anything that we have done during this commemoration period,” Murray said.
Murray helped launch the Alabama History Institutes, a series of professional development opportunities for educators. These history boot camps expose teachers to social studies content and show them ways to teach actively. Educators are provided with resources to incorporate social studies into school curriculums, where history is being pushed aside as the focus is directed more towards other classes, such as math.
“The end result is that your children aren’t reading about history in a textbook. How much more engaging is it to read letters of a soldier in World War II back to his sweetheart, talking about what is happening on the warfront? Or, to read a journal of a girl in the early 20th century who is talking about women’s suffrage and how important it is for women to attain the right to vote in this country?” Murray said.
He believes those resources, along with teachers extending their classrooms to local historic sites and museums, can help students learn and grow. The teachers have shown great reception to the movement, many saying how these workshops have been the best ones they have ever experienced. Murray said he is really pushing history in schools to develop these skills in students.
“You can’t love what you don’t know. If our young people don’t really understand their state, we can’t expect them to grow up and become dedicated members of our community,” Murray said.
The 200 Alabama Bicentennial celebration is scheduled for Dec. 14, 2019 in Montgomery. The day is jam-packed with festivities, from a morning parade to an afternoon festival filled with family activities. A laser light show and concert will conclude the event as Alabamians come together to celebrate their state. For more information about the bicentennial, contact or visit their social media accounts.
Lastly, the Small Business of the Quarter Award was presented to Autosport Bodyworks. Glynn Smith Chevrolet, Buick-GMC was the presenting sponsor of the breakfast.