Former AU Press researcher nurtures local history
Dr. Richard Bailey, who retired recently after 31 years as a research and writing specialist at Air University Press, talks with Cathy Parker, who works as a doctrine editor at the LeMay Center. Bailey does his part to keep local and state history alive through his books and volunteer work. (Air Force photo/Melanie Rodgers Cox)
by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs
2/24/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE< Ala. -- Keeping the rich history of Alabama alive has been the life mission of Dr. Richard Bailey.
"I didn't choose history. History chose me," he said.
Bailey is the author of two books on African-American history and aims to protect Montgomery's past through the Montgomery Historic Preservation Commission and restoration efforts at Lincoln Cemetery.
He also served as an adjunct professor of history. Until last year, he was a research and writing specialist at Air University Press, retiring after 31 years at Maxwell-Gunter.
"His outlook on the importance of African-American history and his continued belief in telling the story can make a difference for all races," said Cathy Parker, his friend and former co-worker from the LeMay Center. "He is a true historian who shares artifacts about American's past that can have wide-range impact on its future."
Bailey wrote two books on African-American history. "Neither Carpetbaggers Nor Scalawags," tells the story of African-Americans who held office during the reconstruction period in Alabama. "They Too Call Alabama Home: African-American Profiles 1800-1999," features accounts of significant members of Alabama's history.
The profile of Horace King is one of his favorite stories from the Reconstruction period. As a slave, King built bridges in the 1830s and 1840s, including the one connecting Phenix City and Columbus, Ga. After he was freed, he served in the Alabama legislature.
"One mark of a civilized society is how that society cares for its dead," Bailey said.
He and the Lincoln Cemetery Rehabilitation Authority are restoring the grounds, mowing the grass and repairing deteriorated graves at the cemetery, which was established in 1907, and the first burial was conducted in 1908.
In the 1970s, many people moved north to find jobs and did not return, Bailey said. Once there were no family members to maintain the graves, the cemetery began to fall into disrepair.
"I think many families assume that the funeral home has included upkeep in the cost," Bailey said. But this is not the reality.
As the years passed, lack of oversight led to neglect. "We're trying to determine who is buried there," Bailey said.
As the chairman of the Montgomery Historic Preservation Commission, Bailey aims to preserve and protect Montgomery's historic homes.
"(Many people) don't take an interest in older homes," he said. "If people only knew the history of these buildings and homes, people would be less likely to demolish."
These older homes have architectural details and attention to craftsmanship not seen in modern homes, and add value to the community.
He also raises awareness through community tours, telling the stories of prominent people from Montgomery, Selma and Tuscaloosa.
During his tours, he makes a point of pointing out where historic homes used to be and continuing to tell their stories. "You can feel the pain of a tourist knowing the house isn't there anymore," he said.
Through his books and renovation efforts, Bailey seeks to preserve history for future generations. "I encourage everyone to pause and enjoy some of the rich history we have here in Montgomery and Alabama," he said.