Wallace Augustus Rayfield was born in 1873 in Macon, GA. Educated at Howard University, Columbia University and the Pratt Institute, Department of Architecture in Brooklyn, NY, he was offered an instructor’s position at the internationally famous Tuskegee Normal, later Tuskegee Institute and now Tuskegee University. This position was offered by Booker T. Washington personally.
Rayfield, one of the very first university trained black architects in America established the school of architecture at Tuskegee and in 1907 began a private architecture practice in Birmingham, AL. Rayfield designed and was involved in the construction of three church sanctuary buildings in the Old Town neighborhood of Decatur, two of which remain with active congregations.
These are the Kings Memorial United Methodist Church where the Rayfield sanctuary no longer remains but the church remains active, and the First Missionary Baptist Church and Wayman Chapel AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church, churches which still retain their Rayfield sanctuaries.
Perhaps Rayfield’s most famous building was/is the 16th Street Baptist Church, in Birmingham, Alabama, which was bombed during the Civil Rights era in the 1960s resulting in the deaths of four young girls who were attending Sunday School in the church. This church has been rebuilt and still stands in Birmingham today.
David Breland is kind of a big deal in Morgan County. His memory goes WAAAAY back (check out his picture), but he also is a local expert in Morgan County history. David is Director of Historical Resources and Events for the City of Decatur in Morgan County, Alabama.
While this site was developed to share our local treasures with our own community and armchair visitors from around the world during COVID-19, please visit our museums, attractions, hotels, shops, and restaurants in person when all of this craziness is over. Plan your visit to Decatur-Morgan County and Downtown Decatur, Alabama.