Founded during the mid-1930s by Catholic priest Father Harold Purcell
when segregation was the norm in the Southeast, the City of St. Jude Hospital
pioneered nondiscriminatory health, education, and social services. In
the 1950s, St. Jude's Church hosted an integrated prayer group, and in
1965, Martin Luther King, Jr., and 2,000 participants of the Selma-to-Montgomery
March found shelter there. The night before the final march to the Capitol,
City of St. Jude offered its 36 acres to the marchers, who slept on the
athletic field and held a "Stars of Freedom Rally" featuring such celebrities
as Odetta, Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, Leonard Bernstein, and Joan Baez.
St. Jude's Catholic Hospital, which opened in 1951 as the first integrated
hospital in the Southeast, offered help again when tragedy struck at the
end of the march. Hospital staff tried to save the life of Viola Liuzzo,
the Detroit homemaker who was fatally shot by Klansmen while driving marchers
back to Selma. The hospital closed in 1985. In March 1990, City of St.
Jude was the site of the 25th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March.
Former Governor George Wallace appeared in the doorway of the St. Jude
Educational Institute as he had done years before at the University of
Alabama, this time not to prevent students from entering the building
but to greet civil rights supporters.
City of St. Jude Historic District
St. Jude Catholic Hospital
Photographs courtesy of the Alabama Historical Commission
The City of St. Jude is located at 2048 West Fairview Avenue in Montgomery. Most of the hospital has been converted to apartments for low-income families. The unused section of the hospital will be converted to a National Park Service interpretive center and re-enactment site.