By Fred Woods
Newly-elected chair of the State Arts Council, Dora Hanson James has served the council in various leadership positions before being elected as its chairman in December. She will conduct her first meeting in Eufaula on March 10-11. The Council meetings will be held at Lakepoint Resort State Park in Eufaula. Doug C. Purcell, arts council member from Eufaula will serve as host.
Long-time Opelika resident Dora James graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia with a BA degree in English and a minor in Education. Mrs. James was appointed in 2005 to the Alabama State Council on the Arts Board by Governor Bob Riley. Most recently she served as Vice-Chair of the Council. She has previously served on the Council’s Grants Review Committee and on the Long Range Planning Committee.
Mrs. James serves on the boards of The East Alabama Medical Center Foundation, the Women’s Philanthropy Board of the College of Human Sciences at Auburn University, is past president of The Auburn Woman’s Club, and is past chair of Envision Opelika Foundation and The Community Foundation of East Alabama.
Other boards she has served on in the past include the Alabama Department of Mental Health, the J. W. Darden House Foundation, the Lee County Habitat for Humanity, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Lee County and the Achievement Center for Easter Seals in Lee County. She is a founding member of the East Alabama Arts Association (formerly the Opelika Arts Association) where she held many positions, including board member and association president.
Other community activities include her work on the advisory board of the Jule Collins Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University, and service as president of the Alabama Legislative Club from 2003-2005. Mrs. James remains active on the Founders Board of Lee-Scott Academy in Auburn where her involvement has been felt in many areas of this educational facility. She has published two books of children’s stories and a volume of poetry written by her late father, Dr. James Fletcher Hanson of Macon, Georgia.
Mrs. James is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and currently serves as Chair of the Auburn-Opelika Town Committee of the Colonial Dames of America.
Honors include being named a “Woman of Distinction” in 2009 by the Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama; in 2009 she was named the recipient of The National Medallion by the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County, and in 2012 she was named as recipient of the Community Champion Award by the Boys and Girls Club. She also received the Distinguished Service Award in 2012 from the Opelika Chamber of Commerce.
Mrs. James was married to the late Calvin Ellington James, Sr. of Opelika. She has three children, Sidney James Nakhjavan (Behzad) of Auburn, Calvin Ellington James, Jr. (Ashley) of Auburn, and Kathryn-Aimee Rebecca James of San Francisco, California and four grandchildren in Auburn. Her hobbies include gardening and outside activities on her farm in Lee County and traveling and playing and spending time with grandchildren, family and friends.
The State Arts Council makes grants to non-profit organizations, schools, universities, cities, and a wide range of community groups. ASCA funds are matched by contributions from businesses, individuals, local government and earned income by the grantee. Arts programs, assisted by Council grants, have a track record of enhancing community development, education, cultural tourism and overall quality of life in virtually all regions of the state.
Other members of the Council include Joel Daves IV (vice-chair, Mobile), Rachel Fowler (Columbiana), Julie Friedman (Fairhope), Kim Mitchell (Decatur), Henry Panion III (Birmingham), Mary White (Florence) and Ceil Snow (Birmingham). Al Head serves as Executive Director of the Council.
The Alabama State Council on the Arts is the official state arts agency of Alabama. The staff of the Council, directed by Al Head, administers grant programs and provides technical assistance in arts planning and programming. The Council receives its support through an annual appropriation from the Alabama Legislature and funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.