Louise Witherspoon Williams was born and raised in Alberta, AL. She graduated from Pine Hill High School in 1977 and moved to Mobile, AL to further her education. She graduated from 20th Century Business College in 1979.
Her mother, Estelle Witherspoon, was the voice and heartbeat of the Freedom Quilting Bee, which Ms. Witherspoon co-founded in 1966. Louise learned the value of family and community from her parents (Estelle and Eugene), grandmother, aunts, uncles, and elder cousins at an early age. They made sure Louise knew the importance of voting, the value of standing up for what is right, the importance of doing the right thing.
Louise has traveled domestically and internationally with her husband of 42 years, Eugene, who is a U.S. veteran and her twin daughters, Tamika and Jamika, but she will always calls Alberta home. She was delighted when asked to become a board member and then later to be asked to serve as President of the newly formed Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy, where she will follow in her mother’s footsteps to continue to enrich the lives of the people in Alberta and surrounding communities and to share the wonderful gifts the people of these communities bring to the world.
Taylor was born in Alberta in 1944, one of 13 children born to Mariah and Kenny Irby, Sr. Like many of his generation, he left rural Alabama to move north for greater opportunities. On his 20th birthday he moved to Detroit and made a life for himself there, landing a job at Chrysler within two weeks, eventually marrying and having four children. He retired from Chrysler in 1994, “loaded up my truck and headed back home.” It was always his dream to return to Alabama. On his visits back, he would go to “The Bee” to sit with this mother and watch the women “sewing them big quilts. They would have three quilts up at a time. They’d sit around quilting and telling stories that I loved to hear.” His dad passed in 1977 and he committed to buying his mother, Ms. Marie, some land and building a house. Ms. Marie, moved into that house on nine acres of land and lived there until her death
in 2010 at the age of 101. Mr. Taylor still lives in that home.
Taylor wanted to join the FQB Legacy Board because he shares the vision that FQB will be re-vitalized to become a positive community influence and provide a place for today’s and future generations to learn about the women who made a way when there was no way. “There’s so much history here” he says, and it’s important to appreciate what the women of The Bee were able to accomplish for themselves, their families and the community.
Louise Hall was born and raised in Alberta/Rehoboth in 1961, the fifth of seven children born to Nell Williams and Roosevelt Spencer. She became a seamstress like her mother and the other women of The Bee. Following in her mother’s footsteps is a goal for Louise.
According to Louise, the Bee gave her mom a chance to socialize and to learn so many things through her exposure to quilting. She was able to “travel and spread that love everywhere she went.” Her mother worked at The Bee Day Care Center and has vivid memories of the women participating in the Voting Rights marches in the area. In particular, she remembers Ms. Sue Willie Seltzer who she says would “go to all the marches in Selma and even got thrown in jail at the march in Camden.” FQB and the women of The Bee have been a part of her life since she can remember–and it continues to this day. She is a member of the Pine Grove Baptist Church in Alberta, AL.
Her mother is 87 years old now, and is lovingly cared for by Louise and her brother and sisters who live on the same land as their mother, where they pass on the deep love they were surrounded with by their mother.
Louise is a member of the Board because she believes that the goodness and fortitude from The Bee should be shared with the new generation of people. “There are so many people who come here to see the quilts and where it all started. We can provide them with a history of this place and these women, so that energy and love isn’t lost, but goes on into future generations.”
Patty Irby is the Recording Secretary for Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy, and has been involved in the organization for many years, in many roles. She’s always been a go-getter, working for the Bee during the summers while going to school. After graduation, she moved to South Carolina, then on to New York, and back to Alabama to help her ailing mother. She worked as a community builder with Americorps Vista, and then got involved with FQB again, filling many positions until she was named Assistant Manager. She says she is proud that “Freedom Quilting Bee has been an inspiration for not only Wilcox County and surrounding counties, but all over the world.”
Born in February 1954, the seventh of ten children, Patty is married with four children, eight grandchildren and one great grandson.
Evangeline, or Elaine, Williams’ family has a long history of commitment to Freedom Quilting Bee—her mother, Maggie Mae Square, and three of her sisters were FQB employees, and her mother and five other family members were seamstresses and quilters for the original organization, while her sister Ollie Beatrice Square was the very first daycare director.
Williams was born in June 1966 in Alberta, AL. After working out of state for 32 years, Williams came back to Wilcox County to find the Bee was no longer in operation. Wanting to rectify this, she searched for the owner only to find it didn’t belong to any one person or group. As she puts it, she was able to “start with a blank canvas to revive the Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy and serve a greater need in my community. To be a place of history and learning…to create jobs for the community and to drive a tourism industry.” Her drive and desire to see the Bee come alive is the spark that drives Freedom Quilting Bee Legacy today.