State recognizes 50 years of the camellia

Published 4:34 pm Monday, January 5, 2009

A historic marker commemorating Camellia Day in Alabama will be unveiled January 7, 2009 at 10 a.m. at the north side of the State Capitol. The marker celebrates the camellia becoming the official state flower in 1959 when Governor John Patterson signed legislation changing the flower from the goldenrod to the camellia.

The push to make the camellia the state flower has roots in Greenville, known as the “Camellia City” for 71 years. Gene Hardin, a former editor of the Greenville Advocate newspaper and member of the Men’s Camellia Society in Greenville has a direct connection to the story behind the state flower. Hardin’s father-in-law, Glenn Stanley, was owner and editor of the Advocate and a major proponent of the Camellia legislation.

“Mr. Stanley was always writing news stories about the camellia and photographing pretty girls wearing the flower so it received a lot of publicity,” said Hardin. “Mr. Stanley really loved the camellia and eventually talked Alabama State Representative Lamont Glass into introducing legislation to make it the state flower,” Hardin explained. After the law was enacted in 1959, several members of Greenville’s Men’s Camellia Society brought the flowers to Montgomery and planted them at the Governor’s Mansion.

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Greenville will also celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Camellia January 25 at 2 p.m.   The celebration will include a tribute to local camellia growers. Newly produced “Camellia Trail” driving tour brochures will also be available at the celebration.

Butler County Historical and Genealogical Society President Barbara Middleton is planning the event in Greenville. Middleton said her organization is concerned about keeping the tradition alive for years to come. “Younger generations don’t know much about camellias so we are trying to educate them and get the younger generation to grow camellias and preserve the gardens that have existed for generations,” said Middleton.