The Community Foundation of South Alabama has worked to provide the tools that make giving to our community easier and effective. We have served as the vessel for donors, volunteers and community members to share ideas, identify issues and build the financial resources necessary to make improvements and positively impact our community. Today however, we remember Ms. Dona Finley for her tireless devotion as community volunteer and leader. Although she will be greatly missed, Ms. Finley will continue to be a role model for the members in our communities.
Dora Alice Franklin Finley was an active volunteer and advocate for historic preservation. Native of Mobile, she leaves behind an incredible legacy of preserving the city’s African-American history. From a young age, Ms. Finley was influenced by her family’s long history of activism and, over the years continued that tradition.
In Mobile, Ms. Finley maintained an active role in community outreach and preserving African-American history and heritage. She served in several civic boards, including the Advisory Board for the Historic Mobile Preservation Society and the Board of Directors of The Community Foundation of South Alabama. She was also a member of the East Church Street Historic District Neighborhood Association, the African-American Heritage Trail Committee, and the Mobile Historic Development Commission as a designated representative for the City Council.
When City Councilman William Carroll recruited Ms. Finley back in 2006 to help establish the Mobile African-American Heritage Trail, her charismatic leadership allowed her to successfully launch this. Today, more than 40 historic markers have been placed along this Trail. In 2008, Ms. Finley also had a visible role in “The Order of Myths,” the documentary film about Mobile’s Mardi Gras, directed by Margaret Brown. In that same year, she also received the African-American Heritage Council’s Idella Child’s Distinguished Service Award for her contribution to the African-American Trail.
Ms. Finley’s latest effort was focused on restoring the Cook’s House, the detached kitchen and servants’ quarters on the grounds of the historic Oakleigh Mansion. Cook’s House will serve as the first house museum in Mobile dedicated to the African-American experience and will provide a complete and historically accurate presentation of the families who lived and worked at Oakleigh.
Ms. Finley was an inspirational leader with incredible creative abilities. She was able to bring people together with remarkable results. By reviving and preserving the African-American heritage in Mobile with such dedication and passion, Dora Finley has left a trail of inspiration for others to follow. To invoke the words of John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”