MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Outgoing Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange held a rededication ceremony for a historic Bible display Thursday morning. For nearly 75 years, the stand with its open Bible, placed by resident Ben Davis, has been viewed by thousands of people in the city’s Court Square. That’s not far from where Rosa Parks would have waited for a bus and her place in history.
It was in 1945 that Montgomery’s City Commission made an oral agreement with Davis, which allowed him to erect a pedestal on Court Square. For decades, those waiting on a bus or just passing by had something to read, albeit through a heavy glass cover, as they passed the time.
Davis, who passed away in 1973, never wanted any recognition from the placement. He just wanted people to read the Bible, even if just out of boredom. Following his death, Davis’ daughter carried on the practice of changing the pages. Now, that duty falls to his grandson.
A lot of rumors have swirled over the years about the display, but one thing is clear. It hasn’t always been holding a Bible. According to Scott Miller, now-Director of Montgomery Leisure Services, the book was covered with a purple cloth for many years. It was during the administration of then-Mayor Bobby Bright that he was asked to open the display and change the page to the Christmas story in the Book of Luke. When he found the key and pulled off the cover, he found an old telephone book. He quickly replaced it with an actual Bible and opened to Luke as the mayor directed.
Davis’ grandson, Lawrence Glass, who is originally from Montgomery but now calls North Alabama home, made the trip to the state capital to be on hand for Thursday’s rededication of his grandfather’s Bible display.
“Granddaddy and I would go to church on Sunday morning. We would walk, he didn’t like driving a car, even to come downtown," Glass recalled. “He just walked cause he lived on Washington Avenue. And we would go to church and we would walk down here and change the page on the Bible, and we would walk around on Lee Street to Morrison’s Cafeteria and eat lunch," he added. He said those were some of the best memories of his life.
The Bible stand was moved during the construction of Montgomery Plaza and is now on back display in a glass case there.
The display isn’t Davis’ only contribution to Montgomery. He founded Davis Printing Company, later renamed Davis Direct, and owned several apartments in the city. And as the first salesman for Aronov Realty, it was he who developed the Normandale Shopping Center.
Glass holds the key to the box and has assured Mayor Strange he’ll visit monthly to change the page.