Some 60 years ago, Fulton residents rallied to provide affordable, safe and sanitary housing for all.
Today, the Fulton Housing Authority continues to do just that. The FHA celebrated its 60th anniversary Wednesday with cake and a historical display at the John C. Harris Community Center.
"We were the 14th housing authority in the state of Missouri," FHA Director Anne Johnson said. "We're devoted to providing safe, affordable housing in our 200 public housing units."
According to a booklet on the FHA's first 30 years, written by former William Woods University professor Griffith Hamlin, the idea for a local housing authority was sparked by then-Mayor J. Frank Hensley. In 1959, Hensley attended a meeting of mayors in Jefferson City, which touched on the topic.
Hensley pitched a housing authority to locals and the city council as a way to clear a blighted area and provide housing for low-income families. After collecting 50 signatures on a petition and an order from the city council, the first FHA commissioners were appointed.
These included then-Callaway Bank President John C. Harris, Harbison-Walker Refractories plant superintendent A.R. Maune, store owner Eddie Lee Scott, Fulton Sun-Gazette publisher Virgil Johnston and Westminster College economics professor Virgil Johnston Jr.
"A lot of the original commissioners appointed by the mayor were very devoted, serving 15 or 40 years," Johnson said.
The last set of FHA, housing units was constructed in the 70s; today, the focus is less on building city-owned properties and more on partnering with private entities, Johnson said.
"We keep our properties to the highest standard we can," she added. "Most recently, we installed energy-efficient furnaces using grant money. That saves money both for the tenants and housing authority."
Jackie Britts has lived in FHA housing for 20 years, and Joe Kemp 26.
"They take care of us," Kemp said.
Britts added that the perception some have of public housing as sketchy or cheap isn't correct.
"We have very good neighbors," she said. "We used to barbecue outside with them, and we'll go talk to the new neighbors at the dumpster."
Clarence "Pete" Brickley, the former maintenance supervisor of 28 years for FHA, also stopped by for a slice of cake.
"It's gotten larger," he said. "But it's doing good. I can drive through now and see it's in very fine shape."