Alabama People: Jay Lamar
Directing Alabama’s Bicentennial
Jay Lamar is the executive director of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, which was set up in 2013 to plan and coordinate events and activities celebrating the 200th anniversary of Alabama’s statehood. Appointed in early 2014, she previously worked at Auburn University in a variety of capacities. A native of Alabama, Lamar is also co-editor (with Jeanie Thompson) of The Remembered Gate: Memoirs by Alabama Writers. Of special interest to our readers is that Jay is the sister of Katie Lamar Jackson, our garden columnist. She is a very busy lady, but she managed to take some time to answer a few questions about this three-year long celebration of our state. — Lenore Vickrey
How did you get involved with the Alabama 200 project?
By sheer luck and good fortune!
Why is Alabama’s bicentennial spread over three years?
The Alabama Bicentennial Commission leadership took its cue from Dr. Ed Bridges, director emeritus of the Alabama Department of Archives and History. He pointed out that the state’s territorial period was relatively brief, beginning in 1817 and concluding with statehood in 1819. A three-year window for creating and making significant projects happen was just irresistible. One example of why this was a genius idea: Almost a thousand teachers and administrators in Alabama’s public, private, and home schools have been able to benefit from new curriculum, primary source materials, and high-level professional development to prepare them for making the most of a once-in-a-lifetime “teaching moment.”
It must take a lot of people to pull off a three-year celebration. How many folks are involved and how did it all come together?
The sheer number of agencies and organizations involved is astounding! The Alabama Department of Archives & History, the Alabama Tourism Department, Alabama Historical Commission, Alabama Public Television, Alabama Humanities Foundation…these are agencies that are deeply involved and have been from the beginning. The bicentennial really happens because of the staff and resources committed from them and other partners.
Why is celebrating the state’s bicentennial important to the average Alabamian?
Celebrating this anniversary is important for our state because it is a chance to learn about our history and the places and people and events that shaped it. We have so much to be proud of and so much to build on and I believe that at the end of the day the bicentennial is really about our future. The bicentennial will be enriching and inspiring—and FUN!
What are some of the big events planned for 2019?
All of our events are on our website at alabama200.org. They include events all over the state, from the State Camellia Show in Mobile Feb. 15-19, to the opening of the restored Alabama Constitution Village in Huntsville March 2, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing July 15-20 in Huntsville, and the Poarch Creek Annual Thanksgiving Pow Wow Nov. 28-Dec. 1. There are events literally every week of this year!n