The Walter Cecil Rawls Library and Museum was first envisioned in 1952 by Walter Cecil Rawls, a St. Louis businessman and native of Southampton County. In searching for a suitable site, Mr. Rawls enlisted the aid of his boyhood friend, Junius W. Pulley who suggested the Courtland location. Both Mr. Rawls, an inventor and amateur artist, and Mr. Pulley desired that the library would include a museum to house artifacts of the county and collections of art.

The library-museum opened to the public on June 15, 1958. The first exhibit in the gallery was assembled by the Rev. C.W. Gibson, minister or Courtland Methodist Church. The exhibit featured art work by local artists and a display of Civil War memorabilia.

In 1966, F.D. Cossitt, noted art critic, sculptor and art historian, became museum curator . Mrs. E. F. Reese, III chaired the Arts Committee of the library board which was headed by J.M. Camp, Jr. At the time the museum was organized as an affiliate of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In 1980 the museum /art division became a separate non-profit entity known as Rawls Museum Arts, Inc. Its objective was to expand cultural outreach by offering more programs, art classes for young and old, exhibits, trips to the Virginia Museum and opportunity to acquaint regional residents with the many facets of art. Under the auspices of RMA in 1984, a group of working artists formed the Blackwater Artistís League.

On December 1999, RMA celebrated the opening of a new gallery. The building houses the Main gallery, the Francis Gallery which includes a Children’s Gallery, the Artworks Gift Shop, storage space, and offices. It also houses an extensive permanent collection of art.

RMA continues to offer programs to the citizens of the City of Franklin, and the counties of Southampton, Sussex, Surry and Isle of Wight. Visiting curators, lecturers, jurors, artists, performers and educators facilitate programs and exhibitions that are as diversified as the subjects, media, artworks, and lessons they present. 

It is hoped that the entity that is now Rawls Museum Arts would have been pleasing to Mr. Rawls and his dream.

Rawls Museum Arts gratefully acknowledges the support of:
The Virginia Commission for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts
The City of Franklin
Southampton County
Franklin and Southampton County Charities
The Camp Foundations
The Business Consortium for Arts Support
The Cameron Foundation 
and our dedicated membership!

We also are so gracious to our Corporate Sponsors for the 2024 Exhibition Series:
Air Mechanix
Bronco Federal Credit Union
C&C Engineering
Davenport & Co., LLC
Franklin Lumber
Griffin Oil Company
Ivor Furniture Company
River Road Farm

Rawls Museum Arts Board of Directors
Officers  - Board of Directors:
Jane Rddick-Fries, President 
Mary Bradshaw, Vice President 
Ashley Covington, Secretary 
Witt Harper, Treasurer
Lynette Allston, Immediate Past President

Laura Camp
Sandra Marks Councill
Damian Dwyer
Ashley Fisher
Holly Gizzi
Mandy Hall
Jim Jervey
Kenny King
Laura Reese Lass
Deb Pearson