Professor to address Lunch at the Library

Published 2:07 pm Monday, May 17, 2010

Author Julie Hedgepeth Williams will discuss her new book, “Wings of Opportunity: The Wright Brothers in Montgomery, Alabama” on Friday, May 21, at noon at the Demopolis Public Library. The publication was timed to coincide with the centennial anniversary of the founding of the first-ever civilian flight school in the United States.

In 1910, Orrville and Wilbur Wright opened this school in Montgomery. The Wright brothers hoped to find a climate warmer and more hospitable to flying than their company base of snowy Dayton, Ohio, even as the forward-thinking citizens of Montgomery heralded the school as a way to rise above the shadow of the Civil War.

Williams chronicles the short life of this flight school as seen mainly through the eyes of the Alabama press, whose reporting and sometimes misreporting “reflected the misconceptions, hopes, dreams and fears about aviation in 1910, painting a picture of a time when flight was untested, unsteady, and unavailable to most people.”

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To the amazement of local observers, the first flight in Montgomery took place on March 26, 1910, just a month after Wilbur arrived in the city, followed by his brother and their crew.

The book delivers a portrait not just of airplanes, but of a city in flight, staring over the horizon at the shape of its potential destiny. Numerous period newspaper articles, photographs and editorial cartoons contribute to making this special work of American history.

Williams is a journalism professor at Samford University in Birmingham. She received bachelor of arts degrees in English and history from Principia College in Elsah, Ill., a master’s degree in journalism and a doctorate in mass communications from the University of Alabama.

This discussion is part of the monthly “Lunch at the Library” program. Lunch plates will be available for $7 or participants may bring their own lunch. Copies of the book will be available for $19.95.

“Wings of Opportunity” is available from local bookstores, chain or online retailers or from NewSouth Books at