Smyrna lands on first choice artist for Fanny Williams memorial

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May 12—Smyrna's Committee to Honor Fanny Williams landed on the North Carolina-based team of David Wilson, Stephen Hayes and Michael Gonzalez to construct a memorial to Williams.

Williams, a cook and maid for Smyrna's Campbell family in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, has been credited as an early civil rights icon in Cobb County who took on the Ku Klux Klan and helped found the Cobb Cooperative in Marietta, the state's first all-Black hospital.

She was a cook in the restaurant that came to be known for its mouthwatering home cooking and glorification of the Old South, Aunt Fanny's Cabin.

Smyrna Mayor Pro Tem Tim Gould chaired the city committee, which budgeted $125,000 for the memorial.

He said the committee received around 25 responses from the public as the four finalists for the project were on display in Smyrna City Hall and the Smyrna Library.

In a presentation to the council at its work session Thursday, Gould and Penny Moceri, Smyrna's deputy city administrator and another member of the committee, presented specifics of the artists' plan for the memorial.

The project involves a 5-foot-7-inch "life-size" concrete, metal and bronze statue of Williams holding a shovel against an 8-foot-9-inch perforated metal backdrop showing Wheat Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Williams was an involved community member.

Council members Charles "Corkey" Welch and Susan Wilkinson questioned the artists' decision to include Atlanta's Wheat Street Baptist Church in a memorial located in Smyrna, though Moceri and Gould noted the focus was on Williams, not just her connection to Smyrna.

Moceri also discussed some of the details of the memorial, such as a hymn on the backdrop's rear and the shovel Williams would be grasping in the statue.

She said the shovel ties to an image the city has of Williams breaking ground at the Cobb Cooperative, though it also holds a broader meaning.

"We see her as someone who broke ground for people," Moceri said. "She laid foundations for people who came behind her and did things in the role of advocacy."

The artists set a timeline of 24 weeks for the memorial to be completed.

If, for some reason, the committee's first choice falls through, its second choice is the design from Yonkers, New York-based artist Vinnie Bagwell.

The council will vote on the committee's recommendation at its June 5 meeting.