William M. Spencer Family




Vietnamese Incense Burner, Early-Mid-17th century, Vietnam


Le Dynasty

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William M. Spencer, Jr., and his son, William III excelled both in business and in generous service to their community. Both William M. Spencer, III, and his father rose from modest Southern roots to attend Harvard School of Law and Business, respectively. Armed with a superior education, the Spencers could have chosen anywhere to begin their careers; however, both men opted to return home to Alabama. In the years ensuing, each man built a name for himself as an individual, all the while continuing to bolster the golden image of a family who embodied such civic pride and a loyalty to service.

William M. Spencer, Jr., made his living as an attorney in Birmingham and found his calling in service on the board of trustees for entities such as Children's Hospital and the Birmingham Botanical Society. William M. Spencer, III, possessed with an industrialist desire, founded Motion Industries, Inc., which later became Genuine Parts Company, and served as Chairman and CEO until his retirement. He also formed Molecular Engineering Associates and BioCryst Pharmaceuticals. One of the Spencer family's most notable examples of community pride and involvement is the dedication towards the Birmingham Museum of Art. Both William M. Spencer, II, and, III, served as Chairman of the board of trustees for a combined total of 31 years with only an 8 year gap between their terms. In short, the William M. Spencer Family exemplifies dedication to supporting and bettering the Birmingham community.

Above all else, the Spencers were friendly, intelligent, and a positive force who always believed in leaving things better than they found them. He was a tremendous example of the power of positive thinking and also displayed great empathy for his fellow man.


Incense Burner will be a part of the Birmingham Museum of Art's Asian Collection. The Museum's Asian art collection started with a gift of Chinese textiles in 1951 and today, with more than 4,000 objects, is considered the finest and most comprehensive in the Southeast. The Spencer family has been closely involved with the Museum since its opening. Galleries are named in their honor and numerous donations made by the family can be found throughout the Museum. The Asian art department is particularly grateful for the support and encouragement of the Spencer family over the years.