Mural is a focus point in Clio

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 19, 2003

Cruising along Highway 10, staring at the rolling green fields, the glassy ponds that segment the spaces between cows and rusty trucks left in front yards and the tall trees that don't have to compete with billboards: It can be hypnotic.

It's easy to pass right over the Pea River and into Barbour County if you're not careful.

Once you're 12 short miles east of Brundidge, however, a captivating sight commands your eye.

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There, in Clio, right on Highway 10, is an 80-foot-wide mural that covers the outer wall of a hardware store. The scowling face of George Wallace towers over the mural, just as Clio's most famous native towered over Alabama politics for decades.

The mural, painted by Debora Baxter Jackson, is less than a year old, formally dedicated on the first day of last June. It commands the attention of all who enter Clio from the Pike County side and marks the officials starting point of &uot;The Governor's Trail,&uot; a scenic byway that traces through rural southeast Alabama like a vein carrying history's blood.

&uot;It's been nice to have it,&uot; said City Clerk Vivian Hagler. &uot;It shows everything from farming to trains to cars and paved roads all the way up to computers.&uot;

She gestures down the length of the mural, which is both a montage and a continuous landscape. At one end is cotton, a horse pulling a buggy and a batch of peanuts. A train chugging down the tracks becomes a 1931 Studebaker Roadster and, as your eye goes from left to right, passing over Wallace standing on the campaign bandstand, the road wraps around a baseball displaying the signature of another Clio native, Hall of Fame baseball player Don Sutton. At the corner of the building, towards the front of the hardware store, an inter-racial couple sit at a computer, with the road spiraling off into the depths of unknowable outer space.

Jackson's landscapes, which stretch across the background of the mural, are beautiful renditions of the farms, gently sloping green hills and pine trees that are inherently familiar to natives of Pike and Barbour Counties.

Jackson's artistic statement, distributed at the dedication program of Barbour County's first historical mural, said she was inspired by Lee Hunt's book, A Town Called Clio.