James Hatcher

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James Hatcher

James Franklin Hatcher Jr (born August 9, 1921 in Enterprise, Coffee County; died March 19, 1993 in Birmingham) was the founding director of the Town & Gown Theater under the sponsorship of the University of Alabama Birmingham Extension Center (later UAB). He also directed the annual Miss Alabama pageant beginning in 1947, and the 1960 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Hatcher, the son of James and Urcer Chambers Hatcher of Enterprise, was the valedictorian of his class at Enterprise High School. He graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 1943 and served for three years in the U.S. Navy before returning to BSC as an instructor. He completed a master of arts at the University of Alabama and founded Town & Gown in 1950 as the extension center's first full-time speech and theater professor.

The company debuted on stage at Loew's Temple Theater on December 6, 1950 with a production of "Born Yesterday" starring Tommy Dix. Hatcher resided in the 1960s in the Sheraton Apartments on Highland Avenue.

Governor George Wallace appointed Hatcher to the Alabama State Council of the Arts in the 1960s, and he directed Wallace's 1971 inauguration and served as Director of Protocol for the Governor's office from 1983 to 1987.

Hatcher helped found the Alabama Ballet and Alabama School of Fine Arts, and was active in the Birmingham Festival of Arts. He and Mayor David Vann launched the popular Summerfest musical theater series in 1979.

Hatcher was inducted into the Birmingham Gallery of Distinguished Citizens in 1990. He suffered a heart attack in March 1993 and died at University Hospital hours before the opening of his last production, "Tallu". He is buried in a family plot at Meadowlawn Cemetery in Enterprise.

A tribute to Hatcher's 43-year career was staged at the Alabama Theater on May 7. Afterward his star on the Alabama Walk of Fame was unveiled outside the theater.


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