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New history scholarship honors Fred Dyess

Christopher McCauley
  • March 21, 2022

If you ever stepped foot inside of Avondale Antiques in Birmingham, Alabama, you surely met owner Fred Dyess. His engaging personality and encyclopedic knowledge of antiques would grab ahold of every customer, prompting new friendships and sparking dynamic conversations.

Roger T. Lewis, Ph.D.Fred DyessIf you ever stepped foot inside of Avondale Antiques in Birmingham, Alabama, you surely met owner Fred Dyess. His engaging personality and encyclopedic knowledge of antiques would grab ahold of every customer, prompting new friendships and sparking dynamic conversations.

“He was an interesting person with a lot of different hobbies,” said Seth Dyess, Fred’s son. “He was always willing to help people.”

Fred nurtured his interest in antiques and history as he traveled the country as a young man. He grew up in Saraland, Alabama; moved to Waynesboro, Mississippi; then settled in Houston, Texas for several years. While in Houston, Fred met his wife Judy Flowers Dyess, and they began to build a life together.

“Throughout his travels, he gained a passion for history,” said Seth.

Along with his journeys, Fred also explored several career fields, including landscaping and sales. When Fred and Judy moved to Birmingham, he made a major life decision and enrolled in college. He selected the University of Alabama at Birmingham and, after taking a few courses, decided to pursue his academic passion: history.

According to Seth, his father was a first-generation college student, which is why he held a special place in his heart for UAB.

“[Many UAB students] are doing everything they can, which is what my father did,” said Seth.

Over time, Fred put his business-sense and love for history into practice, and, in 2015, he opened a mid-century community institution simply known as Avondale Antiques.

When spending time in his store, Fred was more than a salesman. He was a guide—someone who could help you curate a room, while also providing historical context for a rattan chair or a mid-century buffet. In some cases, Fred would personally drive a piece to a customer’s home, carry it inside, and help arrange it. Clearly, he loved his work.

Sadly, on January 2, 2022, Fred passed away after battling COVID-19. The painful news reverberated through his community of friends, supporters, and customers, many of whom shared heartfelt memories of Fred on the Avondale Antiques Facebook page and elsewhere.

While still grieving, Seth sought a way to honor his life and legacy. Given his father’s love for history and UAB, Seth established the Fred Dyess Endowed Student Award in History.

“It honors him,” said Seth. “For someone who is working and raising kids and is trying to go to school, [this scholarship] will hopefully ease the burden.”

Through this scholarship, Seth and his family may help another first-generation college student invest in their love for history and fulfill their dreams. The College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of History deeply appreciate this new scholarship and offer condolences to the Dyess family.

More information about the Fred Dyess Endowed Student Award in History is available here.