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County archives director receives state award

During a luncheon last week, Franklin County Archives Director Chris Ozbirn received another plaque to add to a growing collection of awards and recognitions: she won the Alabama Historic Preservation Recognition Award through the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Ozbirn was nominated by Jeanie B. McNees, Historic Preservation Chairman and Registrar for the Chief Colbert Chapter of the NSDAR. Ozbirn and McNees have interacted in various capacities, and McNees is a member of the Seekers of the Past, an organization of the Archives that meets quarterly.

“She’s so dedicated. She’s not paid, but she works a full-time job,” McNees said. “She’s done so much to preserve the history of Franklin County. McNees said anybody who works as hard as Ozbirn “deserves some kind of recognition.”

McNees’ eloquent nomination letter detailed many of Ozbirn’s accomplishments and explain why she deserved the award.

“Ms. Ozbirn envisioned a place where the historic records of Franklin County could be housed and preserved for future generations; where the people of Franklin and Colbert Counties and researchers from all over the country would be able to trace their family history and could learn how to research their heritage. Colbert County was at one time a part of Franklin,” the letter explains.

“On Dec. 2, 2002, the Franklin County Archives and Research was established as a department of the Franklin County Government, and Ms. Ozbirn was appointed archivist for the future Archives and Research Center. She spearheaded a team of 25 volunteers in the renovation and remodeling of the former Franklin County Health Department and aided in writing grants and proposals, then met with banking and political leaders to secure backing for the project.

Ozbirn, accompanied by daughter Buffy, was in awe of the awards ceremony and banquet at The Auburn Hotel and Dixon Conference Center, which included an elaborate, formal meal. She said she was also surprised by the number of people who came up afterward to congratulate her.

“I don’t do what I do for awards and plaques and all that hoopla,” Ozbirn said. “But to have somebody do something like this for me – I was overwhelmed. I really was.”

Even being an Alabama fan in the City of Auburn, home of Auburn University, couldn’t sour the experience for Ozbirn, who complimented Toomer’s Corner and Samford Hall.

“I got to see the stadium,” Ozbirn said. “I wanted to see Duncan Hall. Duncan Hall is built with Limestone from Franklin County, and the man it’s named after was the first president of Auburn University when it was Alabama Polytechnic, and he was born and raised right here in Franklin County.

“I told Buffy, it’s beautiful. There’s nothing you can say bad about it,” Ozbirn said of the campus as well as the people she met. “They were fantastic, and I’d go back in a heartbeat.”

McNees, who first nominated Ozbirn for the chapter award, which then qualified her to be selected for the state award, wrapped up her nomination this way: “I have personally known Chris for many years, and am always impressed with her knowledge, her devotion and her sweet disposition and willingness to push up her sleeves and help with anything. I am proud to nominate Mary Chris Ozbirn for the Historic Preservation Recognition Award,

“I’m really proud these ladies thought that much of me,” said Ozbirn, who has dedicated untold hours helping many members of the DAR locating the documentation they needed to be eligible for membership. “That’s amazing for this old mill hill girl … I feel like my purpose is helping people. I really do.”