Tribute to land trust founders set Dec. 11
Date: Tuesday, December 07, 2010
By Judy Truesdell
Frank and Hattie Birmingham, founders of the F.O. Birmingham Memorial Land Trust and benefactors of the Wylie school district for generations, will be honored at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11. A statue of the couple will be unveiled as part of a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the trust.
“There’s so much else going on, it won’t be a big elaborate event,” said Mayor Eric Hogue, chairman of the trust’s board. “But we didn’t want the 70th anniversary to pass by without acknowledging the Birminghams and what they did for the city and the school district.”
A statue, three years in the making, was created by Jack Bryant Sr., an artist in Springtown whose bronze statue of Nolan Ryan is in front of city hall in Ryan’s birthplace Alvin. Bryant’s son Jack Bryant Jr., also a successful sculptor, contributed to the piece, according to Birmingham Land Trust Executive Director Jon Lewis.
The Birmingham statue is a life-size depiction of the couple, set on a 4-foot-high pedestal, and it will be unveiled at the celebration. It will be located in its permanent location at the northwest corner intersection of Ballard Jefferson, but it will not be uncovered until Dec. 11.
In addition to Hogue, Wylie ISD Superintendent Dr. John Fuller will speak at the unveiling. Also, ministers from First Baptist Church Wylie, First Christian Church, First United Methodist Church of Wylie and St. Anthony Catholic Church have been invited to give a brief speech and/or lead a prayer.
When Frank Birmingham set up the trust, he stipulated that representatives from the four churches would make up the board of trustees, because, Hogue said, he wanted “people of faith making the decisions.” The Wylie mayor was appointed as chairman but with no voting power “unless there’s a tie,” Hogue said.
Hogue received an honor recently: at the last meeting of the trust board, two members voted for approval of the previous meeting’s minutes, and two voted against, setting up a tie that Hogue broke with his affirmative vote. “It was the first time in the history of the trust that had happened,” he said.
Hogue noted that the trust has given more than $10 million to the school district through the years, and a check for $285,000 will be forthcoming in January. “The fund pays for 20 different classes at the high school level,” he said.
The trust was founded in 1940, in honor of the Birminghams’ son Ovid, who died of cholera at a young age. In memorializing their son Ovid, his parents said they hoped they would be of assistance to others “whose lives were yet to be enjoyed in offering to them advantages which might not otherwise be available,” Hogue said.
Ovid is buried in the Wylie Cemetery, and students from both high schools visit his gravesite yearly, placing flowers there and hearing the story of the family told by Hogue.
Though its scope has broadened through the years, the land trust was initially dedicated to enhancing programs within Wylie schools that taught students trades, work they could do with their hands, like farming, welding, woodworking and sewing. Programs such as agriculture and culinary arts have continued to receive support, but American history and science have also added. Students take trips in the spring and summer months to destinations such as Washington, D.C. to expand their education; the Birmingham Land Trust continues to support the students of Wylie by making these trips possible.
The public is invited to the statue unveiling; there will be refreshments served inside the Birmingham House, located at 301 N. Ballard Ave.
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