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The Leighton Museum: Preserving Local History in a New Home


If you find yourself in Leighton, Alabama, stop by the Bank Independent Sales Office to visit the renovated Leighton Museum. This museum has been reimagined and relocated to engage the public with inspired storytelling and displays that preserve the rich history of Leighton and the surrounding area.

The Leighton Museum originated in 1954, founded to provide public access to a curated collection of local historical artifacts. For over 60 years, the museum was housed in the Leighton Library, with artifacts primarily from the collections of local historians Frank King and Horace Holland.

In 2019, the museum underwent a major renovation and relocated to its current home inside the Bank Independent Sales Office at 8720 Main Street in Leighton. This move was made possible through the generous support of community members like Jimmy and Polly King, the King Family, the Bettie Madding Preuit Evans Family, and others.

The reimagined museum space allows visitors to explore diverse stories and themes from Leighton's past, including Native American history, the railroad, agriculture, military, sports and education, and daily life. The exhibits feature a variety of fascinating artifacts like Native American pieces, memorabilia from LaGrange College and the Civil and World Wars, and numerous photographs and items depicting early life in Leighton.

Leighton has a rich history interwoven with the contributions and achievements of its Black American citizens. From pioneering broadcasters to community leaders, entertainers, entrepreneurs, and trailblazers, their impact on Leighton has been profound and enduring.

The Leighton Training School stands as a testament to the resilience and determination of the African American community in the face of segregation and inequality. Built in 1929 through funds raised by the local community, the school provided a beacon of educational opportunity at a time when such chances were limited for Black Americans. Over the decades, Leighton Training School produced generations of successful alumni who went on to make their mark across various fields.

leighton-musuem3-blogPercy Sledge was an influential American R&B and soul singer-songwriter, best known for his 1966 hit song "When a Man Loves a Woman." He was born in Leighton in 1941 and worked as a hospital orderly before pursuing his musical career. Sledge's soaring vocals and powerful delivery made "When a Man Loves a Woman" an iconic song that showcased the deep soul sound coming out of Muscle Shoals in the 1960s.

Jimmy Hughes was another acclaimed soul singer from the Leighton area. Though he never achieved the mainstream success of Percy Sledge, Hughes was an integral part of the Muscle Shoals music scene in the 1960s and 1970s. His gritty, emotional vocals can be heard on Southern soul classics like "Steal Away" and "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing." The Leighton Museum recognizes Hughes' contributions by highlighting his career, collaborations with legendary producers and musicians, and role in shaping the "Muscle Shoals sound." Both Percy Sledge and Jimmy Hughes left an indelible mark on American soul music that continues to inspire artists today.

One of the most notable figures in Leighton's history is Bob Carl Baily, who became the Shoals' first Black American radio announcer. His voice resonated throughout the region, paving the way for greater representation and diversity in the media landscape. Baily's passion for broadcasting led him to establish his own radio station, WZZA, in 1972, a groundbreaking endeavor that amplified Black voices and fostered a sense of community. Today, his daughter, Tori, carries on his legacy as the General Manager of WZZA.

Renita Jimmar's tenure as Mayor of Leighton from 1983 to 1991 marked a significant milestone in the town's history. Her leadership and vision paved the way for greater representation and inclusivity in local governance, ensuring that the voices and concerns of all residents were heard and addressed.

The museum honors Ozzie Newsome, a former Alabama Crimson Tide and NFL tight end who was elected into the College Football Hall ofleighton-musuem2-blog Fame in 1994 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. He also served as an executive who played a pivotal role in the success of the Baltimore Ravens franchise, cementing his legacy as one of the most influential figures in modern professional football. Former Auburn Tiger Ed West is also spotlighted. He earned the nickname “the Toolbox” because of his versatility to play multiple positions. He was never drafted by an NFL team but went on to play over 200 games in 14 seasons from 1984-1997.

Leighton also produced two outstanding professional basketball talents brothers John and Leon Douglas. John, the older of the two, stood 6'8" and played power forward. He was drafted 18th overall by the Seattle SuperSonics in 1986 after a stellar career at Auburn University. Leon, at 6'11", was a dominant center who played at the University of Alabama before being selected 4th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1990 NBA draft. Both Douglas brothers enjoyed long and successful careers in the NBA, overcoming humble beginnings in their tiny hometown to reach the pinnacle of the sport through their immense skill, athleticism, and determination on the hardwood.

These individuals, and countless others, have left an indelible mark on Leighton, shaping its narrative and embodying the spirit of resilience, determination, and community that defines the town's citizens. Their accomplishments serve as a source of inspiration and pride, reminding us of their invaluable contributions to Leighton's history and culture.

With its new location and updated displays, the Leighton Museum aims to inspire community connection by making local history more accessible. Stop by during regular banking hours Monday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm to take a step back in time and experience Leighton's storied past for yourself.

For more information visit the Leighton Museum Facebook Page.

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