Blue skies float over the Albany Municipal Auditorium Tuesday afternoon. City Commissioners are researching the feasibility of naming the structure for civil rights leader Johnnie Johnson.
ALBANY ALBANY — City officials tasked the city manager and city attorney Tuesday with researching the feasibility of naming the Albany Municipal Auditorium for a local civil rights leader.
After years of debate among city leaders and the family of Johnnie Johnson, the former city employee who stood against segregated facilities for municipal employees, Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike said it appeared that the auditorium had emerged as the best candidate.
“We’ve taken a look at a few places, and it appears as if the municipal auditorium is a possibility,” Pike said.
City leaders offered to name the plaza in front of the government center for Johnson, but his family balked at the idea, suggesting instead that they name the new Broad Avenue Bridge for him instead.
When it was determined that the bridge not only belongs to the state and is dedicated to veterans of World War I, city leaders offered to research possible properties that were absent a name and found the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, the Law Enforcement Center and the auditorium.
The current-day auditorium is one of the most iconic images of downtown Albany.
Built in 1915, the auditorium was built as an extension of the Chautauqua Meeting Hall, a place where thousands from around the Southeast would come to celebrate literature, religion, music and the arts.
While the Chatauqua Meeting Hall has long since been renovated and expanded, its earliest establishments are still impacting the facility today, according to some digging done by city officials.
City Attorney Nathan Davis, following a title examination Tuesday of the handwritten deeds, said the Chataugua Association deeded the former hall to the city of Albany in 1912 with a revert clause that says if the city doesn’t follow a series of guidelines, the property will revert back to the Chautaugua Association.
“As it turned out, the Chatauqua Association deeded it to the city way back in 1912 with the provision that (the city) would repair and maintain it,” Davis said. “By 1998, the city conveyed it to the (Albany Dougherty Inner City Authority), and, in the deed, ADICA is in effect the owner and is responsible for doing the necessary repairs and upkeep on it.
“There is a revert clause, so if it’s not kept in good repair and used for a public purpose, it goes back to the association.”
Some of the more notable guests of the Chautaugua Association were presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan and former confederate general James Longstreet.