Remembering Mary Ann Neeley

Well-known Montgomery historian Mary Ann Neeley died earlier this week.

For many people in Montgomery, Neeley was the go-to historian for decades. Those who worked alongside her tell me that she leaves behind a great legacy. She is remembered as a woman who has a half a dozen books to her name, highlighting Montgomery’s history.

“When I think of Mary Ann, I think of her in the research room working through old newspapers and records and finding these amazing stories that she helped bring to life through all of the projects that she worked on,” says Steve Murray, Alabama Department of Archives and History Director.

Neeley spent decades working in the Alabama Department of Archives as a researcher, supporter and mentor.

“She was a walking history book, any question that you had about the history of Montgomery, she could tell you the answer in a heartbeat. She knew everything and she loved it,” says Tunisia Thomas, Alabama Department of Archives and History Executive Assistant.

Her passion for connecting people with the past was also her drive in fighting to keep some parts of history alive.

Neeley shared this statement with Alabama News Network during an interview in December 2007:

“Very positive move toward bringing back and revitalizing what is really the heart of the city of Montgomery. 

“We used her for a resource for any information as we were doing development of downtown buildings-a great example is that we had a building down there that no one even knew existed and Mary Ann knew it was “Tools Bakery,” from the 1880’s so she was just a great resource,” says Mac McCleod, City of Montgomery Chief of Staff.

Neeley also spent much of her time at Montgomery’s Old Alabama Town from 1979 to 2003.

“Mary Ann worked with the staff here, the city of Montgomery to raise money to restore these buildings that would’ve been destroyed by neglect if not for her efforts,” says Michael Panhorst, Landmarks Foundation of Montgomery Executive Director.

Among Neeley’s many downtown walking tours, city leaders say Neeley’s knowledge was the key to changing the face of downtown Montgomery.

“You can’t replace the institutional knowledge of someone like a Mary Ann Neeley,” says McCleod.

If you want to share your memories of Mary Ann Neeley. You can do so by visiting Montgomery’s Landmarks Foundation, where officials have invited people to sign a book, sharing memories. The book will be given to Neeley’s family.

Mary Ann Neeley was 85.

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