A Memorial to Salem: Sports Town

Salem has been known as the premier sports town of Western Virginia since long before I moved here in 1971 and that’s finally going to get its own slice of the Salem Museum.

According to a press release from the Salem Museum, there are plans for a new gallery focusing on team and individual champions in many fields: athletics, academics, the arts, and civic and professional life. “This permanent installation will feature both traditional exhibits and a hands-on, interactive kiosk that will preserve the stories of Salem’s champions for years to come. Opening Day is planned for September 21, 2019.”

I’m happy to see this because I was editor of the Salem newspaper for several years and I know how important sports teams are to the natives. When I was a sportswriter for The Roanoke Times, I covered the Andrew Lewis High School football team that played T.C. Williams (“Remember the Titans”) in Roanoke’s Victory Stadium for the state championship, drawing about 20,000 people. Lewis was not represented in the movie and actually had a better story of integration than did T.C. Williams.

Mark O’Connell wrote a book about that team called The Team the Titans Remember (available here.)

In addition to the permanent exhibit, a traveling exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution called “Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America” will be in Salem Sept. 21 through Jan. 4. The Museum’s Fran Ferguson is “reaching out to what is for us a whole new audience.”

The release says, “The gallery will permanently showcase Salem’s champions, those who have been recognized with a first-place win at the state level or above. The Champions Celebration Gallery will include both traditional exhibits and a touch-screen kiosk that will enable visitors to search a rich database of stories about Salem’s many champions. The gallery will include the student state champions from Carver School, Andrew Lewis High School, Salem High School, Glenvar High School, and Roanoke College. The winners of national championships held in Salem will be recognized, as well as Salem’s high achieving professional athletes.”

The museum is looking for individuals, teams and stories to feature and it is 2/3 of the way toward its financial goal of funding the gallery. Donations can be mailed to the Salem Museum at 801 E. Main St., Salem, VA 24153, or made securely online at salemmuseum.org.

Contact Fran Ferguson (frances@salemmuseum.org) or Alex Burke (alex@salemmuseum.org) at the Salem Museum if you have questions or information, or call 540-389-6760. More information is also available on the museum’s website, salemmuseum.org.

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