The film industry honors stellar acting performances with Oscars. The music industry’s most significant award is a Grammy. The Birmingham City Council’s most important honor is induction into the Gallery of Distinguished Citizens. Consider it a citizen’s Hall of Fame.
The idea for the Gallery of Distinguished Citizens was conceived in 1975 by the City Council that was comprised of Councilors Richard Arrington, Jr., Bessie Sears Estell, Don Hawkins, Samuel David Herring, Nina Miglionico, E. C. Overton, Angie Grooms Proctor, Arthur D. Shores and Russell Yarbrough.
The first event was presented in 1977 honoring Dr. A.G. Gaston and Mrs. Minnie Gardner Gaston.
The 2002-2005 City Council posthumously inducted the Four Little Girls killed in the 1963 church bombing. Memorializing these murdered angels was history making. The guest speaker at that induction ceremony, which occurred on October 22, 2005, was U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a Birmingham native daughter who was a peer of the Four Little Girls.
Induction into the Gallery of Distinguished Citizens is an honor that only the Birmingham City Council can bestow. The Council selects one individual per year to represent the years of that Council’s term in office. With an unprecedented decision, the 2005-2009 City Council, created a special classification for one individual. Judge J. Richmond Pearson was the first person to represent an aggregate four years.
The Gallery of Distinguished Citizens is located on the second floor of Birmingham City Hall, 710 North 20th Street.