As Athens embarks on its 200th birthday in 2018, local artists have examined ways to express the theme “Old Roots, New Beginnings” for a quarterly art contest that high school students conduct.
The Athens Mayor’s Youth Commission oversees the Share the Art Contest, which includes developing themes, deciding which artwork will be on display at Athens City Hall and choosing a grand prizewinner. The Youth Commission utilizes funds from Dekko Foundation to create the Share the Art Contest.
The students have chosen themes such as favorite iconic places and events in Athens and incorporating words associated with New Year’s into art submissions. Since Athens joined Limestone County and the State of Alabama in the three-year bicentennial celebration, the students chose a history-related theme of “Old Roots, New Beginnings” for display from April through July. The Youth Commission told art students the focus is on the story of Judge James Horton and the Scottsboro Boys Case, and art submissions that included references to the story would score highest.
Horton’s home once was the site of City Hall. He oversaw the retrial of Scottsboro Boys defendant Haywood Patterson, one of a group of black boys falsely accused of rape by two white women in the 1930s. He received threatening letters and letters of support during the trial. Horton valued justice more than his political career and on June 22, 1933, and set aside the jury’s guilty verdict and death sentence of Mr. Patterson. He lost his re-election bid to the bench in 1934 and retired from politics. The Horton family moved the Maclin-Hobbs-Horton home from Athens to Greenbrier in 1939 and gifted the City of Athens the land at the corner of Hobbs and Marion streets for public use. Horton lived by a phrase often repeated in his family, “Let justice be done though the heavens may fall.”
In addition, a group of citizens created the Judge Horton Monument Committee to raise awareness about the significance of Horton’s actions, and to raise funds to commission a bronze statue of Horton for the Courthouse entrance on Jefferson Street. A sculptor is working on the statue.
“The Youth Commission learned the story of Judge Horton and encouraged the art students to learn the story in order to be inspired to create artwork to reflect that history,” Youth Commission mentor Holly Hollman said.
The grand prizewinner is Allison Lovell of Athens High, who created a rendering of the Limestone County Courthouse where Horton overturned the verdict. Lovell included a tree showing its deep roots. Lovell will receive $15 from the Youth Commission.
The other art students whose artwork is on display at City Hall are:
• Breann Shelton, Athens High, Courthouse
• Kolton Romine, Athens High, Courthouse during fire
• Wyesha Bolding, Athens High, collage of Courthouse and icons
• John Hooker, Athens High, map with Judge Horton, and Courthouse
• Hayley Malone, Athens High, hands interlocking over Scottsboro Boys headlines
• Ashlee Roberts, Athens High, Judge Horton’s home
• Rachael Autrey, Athens High, tree with roots and Horton family’s motto “Let justice be done though the heavens fall; and the lard bucket Horton’s family kept trial correspondence in.
• Chastity Shores, Athens High, tree with roots
The public can view the Art Corner during City Hall hours from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Article from from the Athens Mayor's Youth Commission