Archie F. Stewart Day held

Archie F. Stewart was a passionate and innovative civil rights leader who served as president of the regional NAACP for over ten years. In 1981, Mayor Roy Owen proclaimed “Archie F. Stewart Day” in Scottsboro.
The Scottsboro Boys Museum recently hosted Archie F. Stewart Day with a program for Jackson County residents.

The program consisted of special guests including Mayor Jim McCamy, former Mayor Dan Deason, Judge John Graham, Judge Brent Benson and Scottsboro City Council woman Donna Fredrick.

Dr. Karnie Smith spoke during the event. He served as the pastor at Greater St. Paul in Scottsboro in his 20s and Stewart served as his mentor. Since that time, Smith has founded and is the senior pastor at Water Christian Church in Birmingham. Prior to establishing his church, he served as senior pastor for the AME Church in Birmingham and Troy. Over Smith’s tenure, he delivered sermons, provided Bible study lessons, and helped grow the AME membership base and increase donations. Further, Karnie Smith furnished counseling for couples and young people. Beyond his commitment to Walking On Water Christian Church, Smith gives back to his community as member of the Operation New Birmingham Board of Directors. The organization brings together the City of Birmingham and businesses for the purpose of developing the local economy. In the past, Smith chaired the Birmingham Housing Authority Board of Directors and supported Greater Birmingham Ministries as board member.

Smith earned his BS from Alabama A&M University as well as his doctor of ministry from United Theological Seminary and his master of divinity from Vanderbilt Divinity School, while being mentored by Stewart.

Stewart’s daughter, Tiajuana Cotton and very special guest, 6th grader Shiloh Fonjia also spoke during the program. Fonjia gave an amazing speech titled, “How to Change the World with Optimism.”

Zhantiarra Cotton, Granville Cotton, Tiajuana Cotton and Attorney George Hartline provided music throughout the program.

To conclude the program, many community members were awarded the “Archie F. Stewart Award”.

Known by many in Scottsboro as the city’s “Black leader,” Stewart’s roots in activism ran deep. As a thirteen-year-old boy, Archie traveled by horse and buggy to attend the first set of Scottsboro Boys trials in April 1931. Archie continued advocating for the Scottsboro Boys throughout his life.

Stewart worked tirelessly with famous Civil Rights Leaders Jesse Jackson, Dr. Joe L. Reed, Chris McNair, and Joseph Lowery, who famously participated in the Montgomery County Courthouse Lunch Counter Sit-in on February 25, 1960. The sit-in resulted in a landmark Federal ruling regarding segregation.

The community is proud that Stewart, one of the great Civil Rights leaders and a great man, was a Scottsboro native.

Stewart’s civil rights activism continued until the end of his life. He often spoke about the need to commemorate rather than run away from the Scottsboro Boys case. He inspired many to bring this injustice to light. Stewart’s work was activated by a strong faith in God, and he was supported along the way by his wife Leola.

Stewart’s distinguished career included 36 years in the classroom, over 30 years in service of the Alabama Democratic Conference, and countless years of leadership with the Jackson County Voters League.

He was the first and to date is the only African American elected president of the Jackson County Teachers Association. He served as a Boy Scout Director for 17 years. After retiring from the school system, Mr. Stewart opened the Equal Education Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the Jackson County Courthouse.

Stewart’s daughter and her family still live in the same community and continue his work to this day.

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