Reflections on a Year in Demopolis are Highlighted by its Schools

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 9, 2005

This is an anniversary of sorts – you see, with this column I begin my second year of a weekly writing venture for the Demopolis Times and I feel humbled by the fact that there are some loyal, if not bored, readers who take time to let me know their reflections on the efforts in which I have been allowed to effuse here.

It was just last August that I had been here in Demopolis for one month working with many people to get our Demopolis Campus of Alabama Southern College under way.

A great deal has happened in those short 365 days, and I cannot think of a single negative event during that time.

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But here today, I beg you to indulge my reminiscences, and beg your patience if I have omitted any events which any of you feel should have been included.

The Times continues to be kind enough to allow me to extend my blathering on a weekly basis.

We have a new Mayor and new composition of the City Council, both of which are exhibiting an enthusiasm and energy necessary to keep Demopolis on pace with its destiny as the leader of the Black Belt.

We have won lass 4A High School State Championships in both football and baseball.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has evaluated our school system and has declared it outstanding.

The 2004 edition of Christmas on the River was a resounding success – AGAIN!

Good friend and President of the Chamber of Commerce, Jay Shows, is now writing a column for the Demopolis Times – WITH the permission, if not the imprimatur, of his lovely wife, Rosemary.

My “type-A” wife is writing her column for the weekly paper and continues to intrigue all of us with her keen observations on the culinary arts, along with epithets regarding the hoard of Ogden spawn which keeps us young, but running.

The Super Wal-Mart is moving along quite nicely and its projected opening in early 2006 seems to be on target.

Two new motels are opening.

Our unemployment rate is well below the national average.

The Demopolis Rotary Club is growing in leaps and bounds.

The Bryan Whitfield Hospital is ever-improving under the able tutelage of Mike Marshall and Arthur Evans.

The Arch Street Project is taking a new tack in an effort to be more accommodating to all citizens.

Mayor Williamson is leading the way in the Black Belt and proving that Demopolis is, indeed, the “Diamond of the Black Belt.”

Our local artists continue to impress us with shows at the Hospital and elsewhere and we now have a new gallery opened on Walnut Avenue.

The River City Rumble was again a smashing success.

The Southern Women’s League has been formed and hosted an Expo at the Civic Center in May to raise a sizeable contribution for the Harriet House.

Our most recent addition to the Ogden clan, Nathan, arrived shortly after Hurricane Ivan in September and is presently causing at least as much, if not more, havoc around the house.

Demopolis native, Dr. Lester Crawford, has been confirmed as head of the Federal Food and Drug Administration.

Another Demopolis native, Jim Rogers, continues to tell the business folks on Fox News just how the stock market will perform, while keeping his roots back in the Black Belt well cultivated.

The use of our new Demopolis University Center by many civic and service organizations has kept us busy, as over thirty-seven different meetings or colloquia have been held here since we moved in during early October.

Enrollments at Alabama Southern’s Demopolis Campus continue to exceed expectations.

The University of West Alabama, one of our partners at the Demopolis University Center, has been offering graduate courses in education, along with many varied continuing education courses under the supervision of UWA Campus Director Beverly Youngblood.

We have a new priest at St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Reverend Michael Wrigley, who has his Ph.D. in sociology and taught at UAB for eight years before entering the priesthood.

And just as Will Rogers declared that he never met someone he did not like, we have not met anyone in Demopolis whom we do not like.

With it all, the most impressive function in Demopolis is its public school system.

Under the able leadership of Superintendent Dr. Wesley Hill, our schools keep trudging along amidst the trials of inadequate funding from Montgomery, the general social fluctuations, and increasing student populations.

The attitudes of the teachers and their respective administrations are obviously positive.

There is little violence in our schools, and that which does take place is dealt with swiftly and fairly.

While some of the equipment in our schools may not be the most recent, it is well maintained and judiciously used by the individual building principals.

The unity and consistency of the administration and application of its policies is truly exemplary.

Our individual classroom teachers have an enthusiasm and dedication which is reminiscent of the 1950’s and our children love them for their caring attitudes and actions.

Student performance on standardized tests continues to defy the national averages and our high school graduates continue to amass huge scholarships when gauged on a collective basis.

Add to this our new high school principal, Dr. Isaac Espy, and we have a formula which not only works, but promises to continue this genre of success.

Mayor Williamson cites the generosity of the Demopolis citizenry as its most endearing quality, and this is extended to the schools with the Demopolis City Schools Foundation, whose Executive Director, Jan McDonald, does a yeoman job on a regular basis to keep the mechanics of its operation well functioning.

With it all, Demopolis consistently reaffirms the decision Elizabeth and I made a little more than a year ago to take the position with Alabama Southern and move here – a move we have vowed will be the last.

This is home!

With its white bluffs, its magnificent historical structures, its river basin, its generous people, its practicality in present ventures, its enduring hope for its future, and its belief in America.

But above all, it is Demopolis and its city schools laying the foundation for being the “Diamond of the Blackbelt” which, for me, serves as the hallmark of its continued success.

And there’s just no place like home!

Dr. Arthur Ogden is the Campus Director for Alabama Southern’s Demopolis Campus and holds all his degrees in philosophy.

He can be reached at