A Project for Students and Citizens

Living Democracy in Marion: Week Five

In Marion on July 18, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Judson College is one of few remaining all female colleges in the U.S. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

By Catherine Tabor

“Wisdom sits in places.” ~ Apache proverb

Every community has a special place it regards as sacred. It doesn’t have to possess a religious affiliation or hundreds of years of history. It can be the local library, the courthouse, a favorite restaurant or a cherished schoolyard.

Marion is able to claim ownership to all of these special spaces. There is the much loved Marion-Perry County Library, where people come to visit with friends, participate in arts and crafts days, use the library computers and check out books and movies. Then there is the historic Perry County Courthouse, where much official business takes place. The Kalico Kitchen is a favorite eatery of the community, especially Sundays after church. And the historic Lincoln Normal School is a cherished piece of history where members of Marion still gather to quilt, to host social functions and to pay respect to the past.

Marion sacred 1

Plaque pays tribute to Ann Hasseltine Judson. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

Yet Marion has two other larger places it holds sacred. Judson College and Marion Military Institute are both well-respected and well-known entities in the West Alabama community. And the two schools are well known outside of the community as well.  A chapel designated a national landmark stands tall at MMI. And, the Judson College website boasts: “The woman who directs the smart weapons lab for the US Military…a renowned opera singer…the Mississippi Educator of the Year…the Georgia Science Teacher of the Year…the woman who made the highest score in the nation on the OBGYN written exam…the woman who established the first shelter for battered women in Alabama…the first woman ever to sit on the Alabama State Supreme Court…All JUDSON women.”

People travel near and far to attend these educational facilities. Judson College is one of the few remaining all female colleges in the nation, and Marion Military Institute was ranked #16 in the United States among community colleges, according to TheBestSchools.org.

Located virtually across the street from each other, Judson and MMI have a long standing tradition of working together. The two schools have a rich history.   With a great working relationship, it is no wonder that Judson College and Marion Military Institute share the title of “sacred space” in Marion. Every fresh-faced individual is automatically asked about any association with either of the two colleges. Each new tourist is pointed in the direction of each historic school.


Historic landmark stands tall at Marion Military Institute. (Photo by Nathan Simone)

Not only do the two schools possess a great connection within the Marion community, but they each also hold a special honor within the state. Judson College is the home of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame. And Marion Military Institute houses the Alabama Military Hall of Honor.  Some notable members of the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame are Helen Keller, Coretta Scott King and Zelda Fitzgerald. And the Alabama Military Hall of Honor continuously honors members of the military.

So “Wisdom sits in places” as the Apache proverb noted above, and Judson and MMI certainly fit the bill. Each place possesses hundreds of years’ worth of interesting history. Judson dates its origin to 1838, and MMI claims 1842 as the year of its founding. Both World Wars and the Civil Rights Movement are just some of the major historical events of the United States that both of the colleges witnessed.

The colleges hold wisdom that has been gained from each student who journeys through the campuses. Both school libraries are full of books written by the greatest playwrights, philosophers and scientists. But Judson and MMI also owe their wisdom to Marion. Marion is a small, rural community. And while much has changed since the founding of each of these colleges, other things have remained the same. There is still an air of the past that lingers in the town. You can still buy a piece of candy at College City Drugs for 5 cents if you’d like. People still smile and say hello as you walk down the street even if you have never met them before.

Marion pic 4Aldous Huxley once said, “Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.” A lot has happened in Marion over the years. Most of the residents, however, are not bitter about the bad things that have occurred. Neither are they haughty about the good things. There is something wise about the humility that can be found in Marion. And that wisdom is also demonstrated by Judson College and Marion Military Institute. A quote attributed to the philosopher Socrates is, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Marion, its citizens, its colleges all know something, but they are all more than happy to step back, observe and learn.


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