In 1844, the YMCA movement began in London, England. In 1858 C. W. Buck and others met at the Methodist Church in Selma to discuss forming a Young Men’s Christian Association in Selma. This was the first YMCA in the state of Alabama. In 1875, the YMCA library was founded in Selma. In 1876 the YMCA library had 600 Volumes. In 1887 (or before) the building in danger was constructed for the YMCA. According to the Historic Survey of Selma the YMCA building is one of the most important buildings in Selma and is pivotal to the streetscape of downtown Selma. Below are architectural renditions of its original facade and of how it appeared a few years ago. Many of the architectural features that existed in 1887 can still be seen today.
The YMCA of Selma, AL is an integral part of the Dallas County community. The organization has served the area since 1858 and is one of the first YMCAs in the United States. The YMCA of Selma-Dallas County has evolved from a focused organization serving young men in need of boarding and recreation to a strong, community-based organization that provides recreation, fitness, health, leadership, and spiritual development programs. In Dallas County, the YMCA is a safe place for people of all ages, races, incomes, and origins. The YMCA of Selma-Dallas County has stood the test of turbulent times. The non-profit led the way in diversity with an organized program for African Americans in 1945 while the entire area suffered and continues to suffer from the ramifications of racial turbulence. The YMCA has been a leading force in unifying the community by focusing on families working together through recreational, wellness, and spiritual development components. The YMCA of Selma continues to be common ground for a diverse membership.
Highlights in the History of the Selma
Young Men’s Christian Association
1858 – In the summer of 1858, a few men gathered in the First Methodist Church (now Church Street Methodist) and organized The Selma Young Men’s Christian Association. They later moved to rooms over the “Bank of Selma”, formerly the City National Bank, now Amsouth Bank.
A short time later, three men (names unknown) met in The First Presbyterian Church and drew up a constitution and by-laws. These were adopted on November 22, 1858. They elected Judge William M. Byrd, president, J.W. Starr, vice-president, and James K. Lapsley, vice-president.
1879 – S.C. Riddle was employed as the first paid executive secretary. J.W. Stillwell was president.
1885 – The YMCA was chartered.
1887 – Selma builds one of the first buildings in the South to be used as a Y.M.C.A. at 223 Broad St. H.B. Kincey was president.
1923 – Selma builds Camp Mcgee for boys and girls. Camp destroyed by high water in 1938.
1925 – Selma builds new modern Y.M.C.A. building at 532 Broad St. They include work for women and girls, being among the first “Y” in the country to do so. New building occupied October 1925.
1940 – Selma “Y” opens its facilities to all men and women in the Armed Services without charge.
1946 – Y.M.C.A. Camp Grist opens. Started in 1941, work was stopped due to World War II. Y.M.C.A. Camp Grist, located in the beautiful Valley Creek State Park, is now considered one of the finest camps for boys and girls in the South.
1951 – Selma, along with other Y.M.C.A.’s over the country, observes the first official “National YMCA Week”.
1956 – The George Washington Carver Branch Y.M.C.A. for Negroes was organized – Rev. C.C. Brown president – R.J. Smith, executive secretary – located at 802 First Ave.