Scotty Kennedy enjoys looking back and then moving forward. It is his love of looking back at local history that resulted in the establishment of the Red Bay Museum.
“Since becoming aware of the interesting history of Red Bay, I have had a desire to share it – the home life, the economic conditions, and all aspects of life in our rural railroad town since its founding in 1907,” Kennedy said.
He credits his mother, the late Gwen Kennedy, for his ambition to give back to the town he calls home.
“My mother was involved in community, school and church work,” he said. “I grew up with that example and I greatly enjoy working for the betterment of my hometown and surrounding area.”
Kennedy has lived in Red Bay since he was six years old, having come when his dad, the late Bill Kennedy, accepted a job with the Sunshine Wholesale Company. The family began attending Red Bay First Baptist Church, where Scotty sang in the youth choir.
At Red Bay School he was a member of Future Farmers of America, the Beta Club, the annual staff, the school newspaper staff and he was elected to Boy’s State. He was drum major, leading the Red Bay High School Tiger Marching Band for three years. After high school he attended Northwest Alabama Junior College and then Ole Miss, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Design with an emphasis in graphics.
It was during his college years that his interest in photography began and he bought his first Nikon 35mm camera. After graduation he opened a photography studio in Red Bay and through the years has won numerous awards for his work. He traveled with Congressman Carl Elliott as his photographer when the congressman traveled to Boston, Mass., to accept the first Profile in Courage Award from the Kennedy family at the Kennedy Library in Boston. Scotty had become a close friend of the congressman while working with him on the book “One Hundred Years of Memories: An Oral History of Red Bay” in the mid-1980s.
A few years later, Scotty was president of the Red Bay Civitans when he purchased one of the oldest buildings on Main Street in Red Bay. At his urging, the Civitans immediately began planning to preserve the history of Red Bay in that building. The Red Bay Museum opened in 2005. Since that time new items have continued to be added, it has expanded, and even has its own gift shop, where items are sold to help pay the museum’s operating expenses. Numerous visitors have marveled at the displays. They comment about the outstanding variety of items and the authentic presentations.
It was the work on the Red Bay History Book that planted the seed in Scotty Kennedy’s mind for a museum.
“As I worked on the book with Mr. Elliott, I was amazed at the number of items we were shown from Red Bay’s past,” Scotty said. “We needed a place for them to be displayed. I am happy to say that many of those items are now on display in the museum for all to see.”
Kennedy says a lot of people have donated items, but so many have also donated their time to getting everything set up so it will do justice to the donated items and what they represent.
“Those who work in the museum and Red Bay Depot Thrift Shop donate their time,” Scotty said. “It is truly the people who have freely given their time and talent, and those who have allowed us to display their historical treasures that is the real story here. It is literally from the work on the Oral History of Red Bay book that the museum grew.”
Kennedy’s activities are many and his accomplishments are without equal. But it is his interest in the history of Red Bay, his work to preserve it, and his desire to inspire others to do the same that leaves an indelible mark not only on Red Bay, but the entire region of North Alabama.