The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

1 hour ago

7 Things: Pressure to end COVID restrictions builds on Ivey, University of Alabama System back to full-time schedules this fall, more vaccines coming to Alabama and more …

7. Trumps get vaccinated

  • According to one of former President Donald Trump’s advisers, Trump and former first lady Melania Trump got their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine before they left the White House this year. This is the first news that Trump received the vaccine.
  • Of course, their second doses were administered while living in Florida. Previously, Trump didn’t say one way or the other if he would get the vaccine, and his doctors had said he shouldn’t get the vaccine due to possible complications from treatments he received when he had the virus.

6. U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl makes monuments fight a national issue

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  • There has been a lot of debate in Alabama over the future of Confederate monuments in the state. The battle is now moving to Washington, D.C. after the D.C. Facilities and Commemorative Expressions Working Group (DCFACES) recommended 150 sites be changed. Included in the suggestions are the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Woodrow Wilson High School and even monuments that honored Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, Francis Scott Key, George Mason, Andrew Jackson and Christopher Columbus.
  • Now, U.S. Representative Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) has introduced the “The American Heritage Protection Act” that would protect national monuments from bureaucrats. He advised, “My bill is in response to D.C. bureaucrats’ attempts to change the names, remove, relocate, or “contextualize” the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument.”

5. Biden is back to believing all women should be heard

  • Apparently, hitting on a girl at a wedding is the straw that broke the back of the American news media and their Democrats, as they are covering New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) many scandals. This comes after the third accusation of sexual harassment has come out against Cuomo. White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said that President Joe Biden would support an “independent” investigation.
  • Biden was much less open to an investigation into Tara Reade’s accusations of sexual assault against him, but Psaki claims that “Biden has been consistent that he believes every woman should be heard.”

4. Tuberville: 2022 is the last chance to keep America 

  • U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) recently spoke about the future of the country and upcoming elections while at the 2021 Winter Meeting for the Alabama Republican Party. Tuberville said that “we’re in trouble” and noted that Republicans are those who want “God in our schools, that want “to go with the Constitution” and that want to “have small government.”
  • Tuberville added that Democrats “are just the opposite.” He added that 2022 is the last chance before “it’ll be too far gone,” stressing the importance of the midterm elections for Republicans.

3. Alabama to receive over 40,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

  • The Johnson & Johnson single-dose coronavirus vaccine is the third vaccine on the market, and the Alabama Department of Public Health has said that the state will receive 40,100 doses just this week.
  • This will dramatically increase the vaccination rate in Alabama, where 617,768 people have already received at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. It’s now expected that Alabama will receive 140,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines this week.

2. These kids are going to throw a tantrum

  • The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa will all reopen for the fall 2021 semester as normal, removing all classroom restrictions and returning to full in-person classes.
  • There’s a “strong likelihood” that going back to regular on-campus activity will be safe in the fall, according to dean of UAB School of Medicine Dr. Selwyn Vickers. Vickers also stated that “if safety concerns arise, we can adjust our plan” as the health and safety of those who attend and work for the schools is the “top priority.”

1. We are officially two weeks from the one year anniversary of “15 days to slow the spread”

  • As daily coronavirus cases have declined throughout the state and more people are being vaccinated every day, there is some question that the statewide mask mandate issued by Governor Kay Ivey may be allowed to expire on March 5. Alabama hospitals want it extended.
  • Ivey has renewed the order since it was first put in place in July, but she has yet to signal if she will be extending the order again. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky has said, “Now is not the time to relax restrictions.”

1 hour ago

Alabama House to consider bill giving legislature more oversight over how executive branch spends money

(Speaker MacMcCutcheon/Facebook, Governor Kay Ivey/Flickr)

The Alabama House will consider a bill on Tuesday, backed by the chamber’s leaders, that would create a joint legislative committee with the authority to approve contracts, leases and agreements made by the executive branch.

Sponsored by Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia), chair of the powerful Rules Committee, HB392 comes in the wake of Governor Kay Ivey’s plan to build three massive new prisons for men. Legislators from both parties have complained about their branch of government’s lack of input in the massive deal.

“Whenever an administration enters into agreements involving millions of taxpayer dollars, the Legislature deserves to have its questions answered and any concerns addressed,” said House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) in a statement.

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McCutcheon is a cosponsor of the legislation alongside Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), Majority Whip Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) and Speaker Pro Tem Victor Gaston (R-Mobile).

The bill creates the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Obligation Transparency and invests it with the power to approve or disapprove of any state agency’s proposed financial arrangement worth $10 million or 5% of its annual appropriation, whichever is less.

Making up the committee would be the chair, vice chair and ranking minority members of the committees in each legislative chamber that oversee taxation.

Meetings would occur at the call of the chair of the new joint committee, a position which would be elected from among its members at its first meeting. The responsibility of chairing the committee would switch between a member of the House and a member of the Senate each year.

A majority of committee members would also have the authority to call a meeting.

The proposed oversight committee would be able to meet when the legislation is in or out of session. It would have to issue approval or disapproval within 45 days of a state agency submitting a proposed contract.

If the committee were not to issue a decision on a contract within 45 days, it would be considered approved.

Disapproval by the committee would delay a contract from going into effect until after the end of the current or next regular session, giving lawmakers a chance to legislate on the issue.

Only future financial agreements would be subject to examination by the committee, meaning passage of Jones’ bill would not affect Ivey’s prison construction plan.

“Rep. Jones’s legislation offers a commonsense method of protecting taxpayers and reassuring lawmakers when large sums of dollars are being obligated,” remarked McCutcheon.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 hours ago

Rep. Jerry Carl introduces bill to prevent bureaucrats from removing, altering certain historical monuments

(U.S. Representative Jerry Carl/Contributed)

Congressman Jerry Carl (AL-01) on Monday filed his first-ever piece of legislation, titled “The American Heritage Protection Act of 2021.”

The Republican freshman representative from Mobile noted that his bill comes after the D.C. Facilities and Commemorative Expressions Working Group (DCFACES) last fall recommended 150 sites in our nation’s capital be either removed, contextualized or have their name changed. Sites specifically under fire include the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Woodrow Wilson High School and the fountain at Chevy Chase Circle.

Other historical figures with listed buildings or monuments included Alexander Graham Bell, Benjamin Franklin, Francis Scott Key, George Mason, Andrew Jackson and Christopher Columbus.

“Today, I was proud to introduce the American Heritage Protection Act of 2021, which protects our nation’s history from being erased or altered based on the whims of government bureaucrats,” said Carl in a statement.

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Carl’s bill would explicitly prohibit the U.S. Department of Interior from changing the names, removing or altering the following monuments in D.C.: the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial and Theodore Roosevelt Island.

Additionally, the legislation would prevent Interior from removing or altering statues related to the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 or Civil War battlefields under its purview.

“While many people wish to erase or rewrite our history, I believe the best path forward involves learning from our complex history and avoiding judgment of historical figures based on today’s standards,” the Coastal Alabama congressman concluded. “If we erase or rewrite our history, we are unable to learn and grow from our past. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in this endeavor so we as Americans can engage in honest, accurate, and unifying discussions that enable us to move forward as one nation.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

What Alabamians need to know about the latest activity on Goat Hill — March 2, 2021

(State of Alabama)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature on Tuesday will convene for the 10th day of its 2021 regular session.

There is also one committee meeting scheduled for the day, as well as one subcommittee meeting.

Read about what occurred last Thursday on the ninth legislative day here.

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Looking ahead

The Alabama Senate will gavel in at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

This will come after the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee meets at 1:00 p.m. The committee’s agenda includes four election-related bills; especially of note, SB 235 sponsored by Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) would ban curbside voting in Alabama. Curbside voting is not provided for in Alabama law, however it is also not explicitly barred at this time.

The committee is further scheduled to take up SB 259 by Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road) that would allow the legislature to call itself into a special session. The provisions of the bill would require a joint proclamation by the Senate pro tem and the House speaker to call a special session; a resolution carrying the support of 2/3 of each chamber would then have to be adopted before business could be taken up in such a special session. The bill was officially introduced last week on the first legislative day following Governor Kay Ivey’s “herd of turtles” remarks. Between Barfoot and 16 cosponsors, the bill already has the support of an effective majority of the Senate, which only has a maximum of 32 members in attendance so far this session. SB 259 is a companion bill to Rep. Becky Nordgren’s (R-Gadsden) HB 21, which was prefiled back in October. Her bill is set to be considered in a House committee on Wednesday.

The House will convene at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Before that, the County and Municipal Government Committee’s Government Service Subcommittee will meet at 11:00 a.m. On that docket is SB 107 by Sen. Chris Elliot (R-Daphne).

The lower chamber’s floor action is set to focus on a 16-bill special order calendar, which can be viewed here.

Included on that calendar is Rep. Jamie Kiel’s (R-Russellville) HB 103, which would effectively erase the distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” businesses during a pandemic or other declared emergency.

Also slated for consideration is Rep. Scott Stadthagen’s (R-Hartselle) HB 391; this bill would mandate that public school students can only compete in athletic competitions aligning with the gender on their birth certificates.

Another notable bill on the House special order calendar is Rep. Paul Lee’s (R-Dothan) HB 249. This legislation would cap a health insurance beneficiary’s cost-sharing or co-pay for an insulin drug prescription at $100 per 30-day supply.

Observers may also be interested to know that Rep. Jeremy Gray’s (D-Opelika) HB 246 is on the calendar; this is the bill that would allow yoga to be offered in public K-12 schools.

Finally, Rep. Mike Jones’ (R-Andalusia) HB 392 is set to be considered. This bill would create a formal layer of legislative oversight — and additional transparency — on executive branch contracts, leases and agreements exceeding $10 million.

“It is important that we maintain a system of checks and balances, and the Legislature must be able to access important information about agreements that obligate the General Fund to substantial expenditures,” Jones said in a Monday statement. “This bill provides an additional layer of oversight on large executive branch agreements in a manner that is fair, transparent, and, most of all, constitutional.”

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) stated that he supports the bill.

“Whenever an administration enters into agreements involving millions of taxpayer dollars, the Legislature deserves to have its questions answered and any concerns addressed,” McCutcheon said. “Rep. Jones’s legislation offers a commonsense method of protecting taxpayers and reassuring lawmakers when large sums of dollars are being obligated.”

While it could pertain to items similar to Governor Ivey’s prison plan in the future, the legislation would not be retroactive and would not apply to current contracts, leases and other obligations.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

LISTEN: Actor Robert Ri’chard previews upcoming faith-based movie ‘My Brother’s Keeper’

(Robert Ri'chard/Contributed, YHN)

Robert Ri’chard grew up in South Central Los Angeles in a very challenging environment. He had to make disciplined choices at an early age that would help determine his future and get him to where he is today.

Robert, an actor, entertainer, entrepreneur and mentor, lives with purpose every day.

In this episode, we discuss the choices we all need to make each day to become who God calls us to be. We also talk about the upcoming movie he co-stars in which will be coming out this month, “My Brother’s Keeper.” The movie deals with the struggles of PTSD and how God can help people overcome it. TC Stallings stars as a veteran returning from war and trying to reestablish a life back home. Robert plays his best friend, Donnie, and the two struggle to maintain their relationship after division arises between the two of them. The film also features Keisha Knight Pulliam and Joey Lawrence.

This is a great faith-based movie that is good for the whole family. Check local listings and online for viewing options starting March 19.

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16 hours ago

William Bell officially launches campaign to retake Birmingham mayor’s office

(Bell campaign/contributed)

Former Birmingham Mayor William Bell officially launched on Monday his campaign to take back the office he held from 2010 through 2017.

Bell, 71, was prevented from earning a third term in office when Randall Woodfin, then-president of the Birmingham City School Board, beat him at the ballot box in 2017.

In his nearly three-minute video announcement released Monday, Bell listed several serious problems he felt Birmingham was facing, including violence in neighborhoods and poorly managed finances.

“Clearly, we need an experienced hand to get us back on track,” Bell intones.

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Though he never mentions Woodfin by name, Bell does not shy away from criticizing the man who ousted him in 2017.

“Four years of ineptitude and mismanagement has our city hurting and adrift,” Bell says in the video.

“The stakes are just too high for the current mayor to learn on the job. He is in over his head, and it shows,” continues Bell.

The announcement video includes images of Bell shaking hands with former President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden, two popular figures within the Democratic Party to which Bell belongs.

Other figures who have previously entered the Birmingham mayor’s race include Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales and businessman Chris Woods.

Woodfin has built a sizeable fundraising advantage over the three candidates seeking to unseat him, reporting over $1,000,000 cash on hand in his 2020 year-end finance report.

Bell’s campaign website, with information on his priorities for the city, can be accessed here.

Magic City residents head to the polls on Tuesday, August 24.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

16 hours ago

Watch: U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville delivers maiden floor speech

(Senator Tommy Tuberville/YouTube)

U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on Monday delivered his maiden speech on the floor of the United States Senate.

In his remarks, which spanned more than seven minutes, the freshman senator thanked the people of Alabama for sending him to Washington, D.C., spoke about his background as an educator and mentor, and emphasized that he looks forward to serving as Alabama’s voice as the people’s senator.

“In the end, I asked the people of Alabama to trust me with the responsibility of representing them here in Washington,” he said. “And they did. It’s humbling. It’s an opportunity to serve my country that I respect, cherish and will always honor. My staff and I will work hard every day to live up to that trust.”

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Continuing his emphasis on and passion for education, Tuberville subsequently remarked, “One thing I’ve learned, is that education is the key to freedom — freedom to live the life you want. I’ve seen firsthand how education can give you a leg up and a way out. It’s a way to achieve the American Dream. When we empower our young people with a quality education, we give them the gift of an opportunity — the greatest gift our country can give our citizens. And what I’ve found as a coach is that when people are given an opportunity to better themselves, they usually take it.”

He also outlined the following about education:

I found that we are failing our young people by not providing the quality education they deserve. It is not about money. It is about people. It is about what we value and what we each. Improving education in this country should be one of, if not the, top priorities we have. That is why I am proud to be a new member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

On the HELP committee, we need to work together – as a team – to do three things: first, we need to recognize that parents and teachers know how to best educate our young people in their community because we’re all different… We do not need a one-size-fits all education curriculum. What works in San Francisco will not necessarily work in Scottsboro, Alabama.

Second, we should recognize that education takes many forms. Not every student in America needs to go to a four-year college or university. To ensure our country remains competitive in the 21st century, we need to promote STEM education to those students who have an interest in math and science. But, to remain strong, this country also needs welders, plumbers, nurses, equipment operators, electricians, and craftsmen. These jobs have excellent pay and great futures.

If the Democrats want to pass a massive infrastructure bill, they need to first ask: ‘who’s going to build it?’ That’s why I’ll be looking for any opportunity to support career technical programs that prepare a skilled workforce.

And number three: we’ve got to start teaching our young people moral values again. That starts with putting God and prayer back in schools.

Watch Tuberville’s entire maiden floor speech here or below:

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

16 hours ago

Newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine set to accelerate Alabama’s vaccination process

(Pixabay, YHN)

Federal regulators in recent days approved a third vaccine product for use by the public, a decision that is set to enhance Alabama’s vaccination efforts.

Developed by the pharmaceutical arm of Johnson & Johnson (J&J), the newly approved vaccine is administered in a single dose. The other two approved products, from Pfizer and Moderna, require two doses given weeks apart.

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) announced Monday that 40,100 doses of the new vaccine product will be shipped to the Yellowhammer State this week.

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The Johnson & Johnson vaccine product was 100% effective at preventing death from COVID-19 in a worldwide clinical study that enrolled 43,783 participants, more than a third of whom were over age 60.

A recipient of the J&J vaccine is considered vaccinated 28 days after receiving the shot with the product.

“This is a fantastic vaccine, it works really well after one shot,” said Paul Goepfert, M.D., professor of medicine at UAB and director of the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic, during a media briefing on Monday. “I would highly recommend you take it and not wait.”

In terms of preventing moderate and severe cases of COVID-19, the most commonly reported vaccine metric, the Johnson & Johnson product was 66% effective worldwide and 72% effective in the United States. The same rate for Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine products is around 94%. All three products have been 100% effective at preventing hospitalization from the coronavirus.

An additional benefit of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that it can last for three months in a refrigerator, making it able to be stored virtually everywhere in the United States. Moderna’s product requires a freezer and Pfizer’s requires ultra-cold storage that is usually only available at hospitals.

ADPH said the 40,100 doses of the J&J product will be integrated into the state’s previously existing allocation process. Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama’s State Health Officer, urged the public last week to take whatever vaccine product was being offered at their local clinics.

Alabama has administered over 100,000 doses of vaccine product every seven days since the week ending January 23, and that rate has risen to more than 130,000 doses in each of the last three weeks.

ADPH says 617,768 Alabamians have gotten a dose of the vaccines, which is equivalent to 12.6% of the state’s total population.

(ADPH/Screenshot)

According to ADPH, Alabama will receive 140,000 first doses of vaccine product this week when incorporating the J&J product.

Johnson & Johnson said in a press release that it will deliver 100 million doses of its vaccine to the United States in the first half of 2021.

ADPH said the 40,100 doses Alabama is getting this week is a one-time allocation, and the department could not provide an estimate for what the state could expect each week going forward. Alabama had been averaging between 90,000 and 100,000 first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna products in recent weeks.

Those eligible to be vaccinated in Alabama are anyone age 65 and over, health care workers, first responders, and several categories of front-line workers.

Alabamians can check their eligibility and see if their local county health office has a vaccination appointment available here.

The portal to book a vaccine appointment at participating Walmarts is available here,

The equivalent program at Sam’s Club stores can be found here.

CVS’s coronavirus vaccine portal, which has several participating stores in Alabama, can be found here.

A complete list of vaccine providers in Alabama can be found at this page, once a user navigates to the “vaccine providers” tab at the bottom.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

17 hours ago

Alabama scores in Top 10 in publication’s 2020 economic development rankings

(YHN)

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Alabama’s ability to overcome the complex challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to economic development earned the state a Top 10 ranking in “Site Selection” magazine’s annual Governor’s Cups analysis.

Alabama ranked No. 9 among the states in job-creating economic development projects per capita, a measurement that places smaller states on a more level playing field in the analysis. The state’s per capita ranking in 2019 was No. 6.

In addition, Huntsville, Decatur, Auburn-Opelika and Cullman all earned high rankings in the 2020 “Site Selection” analysis.

Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the positive results in the closely watched Governor’s Cups analysis underscore how economic developers across the state were able to spur job growth and attract new investment amid the pandemic’s uncertainties.

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“These rankings really speak to the commitment of Alabama’s economic development team to identify meaningful opportunities for citizens in our state through job creation and to pursue that mission despite disruptive challenges,” Secretary Canfield said.

“The rankings also serve as a strong reminder that Alabama remains a very attractive location for corporate decision-makers because of a pro-business environment, a motivated workforce and top-ranked job-training programs,” he added.

TOP PERFORMERS

The Governor’s Cups rankings show:

  • With 121 qualified projects in 2020, Alabama finished just outside the Top 10 in the “Site Selection” ranking of the states by number of projects. Pennsylvania was No. 10, with 123 projects.
  • With 9 qualified projects, Decatur ranked No. 2 among metros with a population of less than 200,000 in the total project rankings and No. 4 in the per-capita rankings.
  • Auburn-Opelika placed at No. 6 in this same population category for total projects and No. 9 in the per-capita rankings. The metro had 7 projects counted by “Site Selection.”
  • Huntsville, with 22 projects, ranked No. 3 among metros with populations between 200,000 and 1 million in the per-capita projects ranking. The metro was No. 7 in the total projects ranking.

With 12 projects, Cullman ranked No. 3 among the 2020 Top Micropolitans for number of projects, reinforcing its perennial ranking in this category of the “Site Selection” analysis. The city ranked No. 6 in the previous year.

In an article, the magazine noted how two Cullman companies – HomTex and JELCO – pivoted their traditional manufacturing activities in 2020 to produce much-needed personal protective equipment, or PPE.

ATTRACTING INVESTMENT

Atlanta-based “Site Selection” has awarded the Governor’s Cup award each year since 1988 to the state with the greatest number of new and expanded corporate facilities as tracked by a proprietary database. In 2014, the magazine launched a per capita category to even the playing field for states with smaller populations. Alabama ranked No. 7 that year.

Qualifying projects are those meeting one or more of Site Selection’s criteria for inclusion in the Conway Projects Database: a minimum investment of $1 million, creation of 20 or more new jobs, or 20,000 square feet or more of new space. It does not track retail and government projects, or schools and hospitals.

“The Governor’s Cups recognize not only the winning governors, but their entire economic development teams, and by extension, the many professionals throughout their states who work every day to attract new investment and retain and grow existing businesses,” said Mark Arend, editor in chief of “Site Selection.”

Ohio ranked No. 1 for projects per capita in 2020, while Texas was tops for the overall number of projects.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

17 hours ago

There is no reason to change Alabama’s voting laws — Other states should be following us

(ARMY/Contributed, YHN)

There are two movements in this country right now when it comes to voting:

  1. Open the system up and have no accountability
  2. Make the system secure and trustworthy

If you want a system where no one is ever kicked off the voter rolls, where voter ID is forbidden, where there are 15 days of voting, you are fine with ballots just being mailed out to those never-checked rolls and where any attempt at accountability is treated as “modern-day Jim Crow,” choose option one.

But, if you like the results of the 2020 elections, you know there is a benefit to your side participating in a system that encourages and guarantees fraud. Democrats are trying to do this federally.

Why? Because they can benefit from the fraud it will create.

If you want a system where we know who is voting and we can assure that one person equals one vote, choose option two.

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Alabama’s voting system is near perfect.

Try as they might, U.S. Representative Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham), of the gerrymandered Seventh Congressional District, and former U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) were never able to prove any instances of voter intimidation or fraud, despite their charges.

2020 saw record turnout, and Alabama’s system is not ensnared in mistrust and chaos.

It works. If you want to vote, you can. If you wanted to vote absentee because of the pandemic, you could.

Yes, you had to have a reason to vote absentee, and you had to still show ID, but the system worked fine.

The attempt to change the system by State Representative Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) is a solution in search of a problem.

Yes, the American media will scream about how Alabama’s voting system is unfair, but they can’t back it up. But they also claim there were no issues in 2020 after declaring that the 2016 election was almost certainly interfered with by the Russians.

These claims are made every election cycle, and they will continue to be made. If a Democrat makes them. they will get a pass. The claims will be boosted and investigated to death by the media and their Democrats. But if a Republican makes them, they will be branded with the “without evidence” tag.

But here is the truth — judges changed rules on the fly during the election.

It happened in Alabama, and in some cases, it stood; in others, it did not.

Some changes were used during the election and were clearly unconstitutional.

That is not how the system is designed.

Call it conspiracy if you must. Call it a “Big Lie” if you need to. But there are issues here, and ignoring them won’t make them go away.

Using the momentum of a biased national and local media to pretend Alabama’s election system is broken “without evidence” makes no sense.

Secretary of State John Merrill has famously said that Alabama’s system makes it “easy to vote and hard to cheat.” Unless this is false, there is no reason to change our voting system to open it up for bigger problems.

The nation should be working to copy Alabama’s laws, not the other way around.

Alabama’s system worked, and Hall’s attempt to undermine it should be defeated unless she can actually show some issues with the current system.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

17 hours ago

NFIB calls on Alabama Legislature to support bill ending ‘essential,’ ‘non-essential’ business differentiation

(PIxabay, YHN)

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Alabama state director Rosemary Elebash on Monday called on the Alabama House of Representatives to pass State Rep. Jamie Kiel’s (R-Russellville) bill that would effectively erase the distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” businesses during a pandemic or other declared emergency.

HB 103 as amended was given a favorable report by the House State Government Committee last week; the bill now awaits consideration on the House floor. If passed by the lower chamber, the legislation still needs to work its way through the Senate process before potentially reaching the governor’s desk.

The bill would enact the following:

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During the existence of a state of emergency declared pursuant to Section 31-9-8, Code of Alabama 1975, a business entity or a church, mosque, synagogue, or other bona fide religious institution may continue or resume its business or religious operations if the business entity or religious institution complies with all of the safety precautions issued by the Governor, a state department or agency, or a county or municipal governing body or agency thereof under the authority of the Alabama Emergency Management Act of 1955, Article 1 of Chapter 9 of Title 31, Code of Alabama 1975, to prevent a threat to the public caused by a pandemic, epidemic, or bioterrorism event, or the appearance of a novel or previously controlled or eradicated infectious agent or biological toxin.

Kiel has previously explained of the bill, “What this bill simply does is it says if one business can be open under certain guidelines during emergencies or a pandemic, then all businesses and churches can be open under those same guidelines.”

NFIB is the nation’s largest small business advocacy organization.

“This is commonsense legislation that would help small businesses get through another economic crisis and keep people working,” Elebash said in a written statement. “Whether you’re a grocery store or a dress shop, you should be allowed to open as long as you follow the government’s guidelines for keeping customers and employees safe.”

She added, “It also would avoid situations where the government appears to pick winners and losers, for example, by allowing a discount store that happens to sell groceries to remain open but telling a clothing store that doesn’t that it has to close because it isn’t ‘essential.'”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

18 hours ago

Justice Will Sellers: Liberty of conscience didn’t come easy

(Pixabay)

We take freedom of conscience for granted, but, 500 years ago, accepting and practicing beliefs outside of the mainstream was deadly.

The 1521 Diet of Worms was a legislative gathering held in Worms (one of the oldest cities in Europe) to consider Martin Luther’s theology.

The stakes were extraordinarily high as Luther, a mere monk, parried with the leading Roman Catholic scholars of his day. The ramifications of this meeting, while couched in religious terms, had clear political underpinnings. So much so that Holy Roman Emperor Charles V presided over the “meeting”, which allowed the trappings of his office to validate the ultimate decision.

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Martin Luther’s heretical writings were to be publicly reviewed and examined; and while he was given safe conduct to attend the diet, that he was a heretic was a foregone conclusion. The issue before the diet was not the persuasiveness of Luther’s argument, but whether he would recant.

When Luther appealed to his conscience and argued that his conviction about his beliefs was firm and not subject to change, he set himself in the crosshairs of the 16th century religious and political establishment. Heresy and blasphemy were capital offenses. Keeping the doctrines of the Church pure and undefiled was taken quite seriously and anyone advocating a different belief system was considered an outlaw with no legal process available for protection.

Inappropriate beliefs about religion might lead others to perdition, so political power was enlisted to stop errant beliefs and prohibit any doctrine that was not officially sanctioned. But mandating beliefs or emotions fails to consider human advancement in rationally considering ideas, accepting some while rejecting others and developing a personal system of faith and knowledge.

The most critical idea inadvertently let loose by the Edict of Worms was that in matters of faith, people could think for themselves and choose a belief system appealing to the conviction of their conscience. While it would be easy to accuse the Holy Roman Empire of attempting to eliminate competing faiths, protestants held an equally monolithic view resulting in religious wars that seemed to miss the point of the faith each side advocated.

Protestants, while wanting to believe as they wished, were not willing to extend this liberality to others within their realm of influence. The puritan poet John Milton would see his writings banned by Cromwell’s Commonwealth, causing him to write one of the first essays against censorship and in favor of Christian liberty. Said Milton, “Let Truth and falsehood grapple; whoever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”

But even in the new world, liberty of conscience was slow to catch on.

The Dutch Reformed Peter Stuyvesant attempted to limit the worship of Quakers within his jurisdiction. Refusing to submit, the residents of Flushing, New York published the Flushing Remonstrance, which advocated for freedom of conscience not only to Quakers, but also to “Jews, Turks and Egyptians.”

Controlling beliefs and limiting ideas was nothing new for religion, but once institutional religion was de-coupled from government, limiting dissension became applied more frequently in the realm of politics. Often when a new political regime became ascendant in countries without a history of personal freedoms, dissent was stifled, disagreements became illegal and hagiographic propaganda replaced information. One area which politicians around the world agree is how much they despise opposing viewpoints.

Even in seemingly democratic countries with a history of freedoms supported by the rule of law, politicians simply hate criticism and will attempt to restrain if not eliminate it. Usually, this takes the form of mild disgust, but at times it can prove to be both personally and financially costly to oppose the ruling elite. We expect this from authoritarian governments, but when we find democratically elected governments engaging in censorship and limiting dissent, we should be troubled.

Consider the Reuther Memorandum of the 1960s. Seemingly established to advocate for fairness and equality of the public airwaves, Bobby Kennedy used the Reuther brothers’ report to curtail political opposition with breathtaking success. But this is not a liberal vs. conservative issue as regulation and limitations of speech are subtly advocated by all sides.

Even founding father John Adams had Congress pass the Sedition Act making it a federal crime to speak, write, or print criticisms of the government that were arguably false, scandalous, or malicious. Numerous newspaper editors were arrested and some even imprisoned under this act.

In recent memory, both conservative and liberal groups have advocated using government regulations to limit their respective definition of offensive speech. A journalist of the Jacksonian era, William Leggett, warned: “if the government once begins to discriminate as to what is orthodox and what heterodox in opinion, what is safe and unsafe in tendency, farewell, a long farewell to our freedom.”

Ideas, whether in opposition or support of a politician or political ideology, should never be restricted. It is much better to have ideas aired and let people decide. Bad ideas typically die a quiet death, but good ideas live on and become part of the progress of democratic government.

Rather than restrict poorly thought ideas, it is better to let them be proclaimed loudly and see them disintegrate on impact. Many years ago, Jerry Rubin encouraged student protestors to burn down a historic academic building. The more he shouted, the more the crowd responded, but no one was willing to act because no one was willing to torch a building to support academic freedom.

Bad ideas are like that. Giving someone a megaphone and unlimited time can be their undoing. Public debate, like sunlight, is a great disinfectant. Debate and open discussion forces ideas to compete against practical reality, thus winnowing out the ill-conceived and fostering workable solutions.

So, 500 years ago western civilization moved toward allowing people to think and believe as they followed their convictions, but even Luther and his followers failed to see the broad implication of their success. Various events would slowly chip away at autocrats forcing their subjects to subscribe to approved beliefs.

Instead, in a triumph of experience and personal liberty, states moved toward greater freedom. While elites might try to restrict the thoughts of others and limit criticism, free societies realize that allowing open discussion and a variety of viewpoints lays the foundation for a community in which all rights are respected, and belief systems are not censored but allowed to sink or swim based on the truth of their results.

Will Sellers is an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama.

18 hours ago

Pro-freedom economists, legal minds gather in Alabama to discuss reopening America

(Pixabay, YHN)

HOMEWOOD — The “Reopening the Economy in the Age of COVID” conference occurred Thursday in suburban Birmingham, drawing leading academics and economists from across the nation to discuss not only the COVID-19 pandemic but also how lessons learned from the past year should help inform public policy and future decision-making to avoid repeated mistakes.

The event was organized by Troy University’s Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy, which is housed within the Sorrell College of Business. Cosponsors included in-state groups such as the Business Council of Alabama, Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Policy Institute; national co-sponsors included the American Institute for Economic Research and the Heartland Institute.

The conference was held at the new Valley Hotel, with enhanced social distancing and sanitation protocols in place.

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The program opened with a luncheon put on by the Federalist Society’s Birmingham chapter. Matthew Denhart — president of the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation’s Coolidge Fund, was the featured speaker at the luncheon, filling in for the foundation’s chair, Amity Shlaes.

This was followed by the first panel of the day, entitled “Costs and Consequences of Lockdowns.”

The discussion consisted of economists who supplied and interpreted data regarding the harmful economic impacts of COVID and COVID-related restrictions on business. Panelists were Dr. Stephen Miller, Ph.D., from Troy’s Sorrell College of Business; Dr. Daniel Sutter, Ph.D, from Troy’s Sorrell College of Business; Dr. Phil Magness, Ph.D., senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research; and John Tamny, editor of RealClearMarkets and vice president of FreedomWorks.

“Both the virus and the policies that state and local governments have enacted to control the virus have economic impacts,” summarized Sutter. “And one of the important tasks economists are going to have going forward is to attempt to try to figure out how much of what’s happened over the last year was the virus itself versus how much was the impacts of the policy beyond the virus. That’s going to be a challenging task. … It’s one that we’ll know a lot more about in the next couple of years. But we do know that the extreme lockdown policies that were in effect as of like last April were projected to have an enormous cost.”

Sutter explained that several topline, aggregate statistics — such as GDP — are poor measurements of how pandemic-related policies such as lockdowns have negatively affected the economy through limiting consumer options.

Explaining this reasoning, he said, “People didn’t stop eating; they stopped eating at restaurants that were closed by government order. People didn’t stop spending money; but they couldn’t spend money at small retail stores that were closed.” Read a column he penned on this topic here.

“If we want to really try to quantify the economic losses that we’ve suffered, we’ve got to look beyond the traditional economic losses,” Sutter later added. “Businesses have suffered financial losses, that’s certainly true. Small businesses and restaurants that have failed during the pandemic and the lockdowns, have experienced financial losses. But these businesses were the life dreams of their owners and their entrepreneurs. Those dreams have been crushed.”

He also outlined that increased unemployment has caused negative effects that are not reflected by aggregate statistics, especially due to relief measures covering some of the financial losses normally associated with unemployment. Some of these unaccounted-for effects include increased depression, substance abuse, domestic abuse and even suicide, he said. Sutter made similar points regarding the substantial but hard-to-account-for negative effects of school closures. He further underlined the loss of autonomy across the populace as a factor that needs to be included in calculating the true impact of the pandemic and lockdowns.

“We do have to think about the distribution of these costs of the pandemic and the policies that we’ve undertaken,” Sutter concluded. “Because they’ve been tremendously uneven and very regressive… There’s an old saying that … it’s a rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight. I think the war against SARS-CoV-2 can also be described similarly. It’s been a rich man’s war, but the poor have been doing a lot of fighting for us.”

Tamny delivered perhaps the most fiery speech of the day; his remarks were largely based on a book he is releasing entitled, “When Politicians Panicked.”

As the title suggests, Tamny believes that in response to COVID-19, “politicians panicked in disastrous fashion.” He argues that individuals would have been better suited to obtain and utilize information how they saw fit to deal with COVID rather than the liberty-curtailing government response we have witnessed over the past 12 months.

“Freedom is the first, middle and last answer every single time in response to anything,” he began. “My major concern with numeric arguments is it sets us up for more of this in the future.”

“The answer should always, always be freedom regardless of what people presume are the implications,” Tamny stressed.

He repeatedly emphasized what he views as low rate of lethality associated with COVID-19.

“But let’s again presume that it was extraordinarily lethal. The last thing you’d want to do in response to something that’s a killer is to force a contraction of the economy,” Tamny advised. “And the reason for that is very basic. Economic growth, prosperity is easily the biggest enemy of death and disease. Nothing else comes close. Poverty is the biggest killer mankind has ever known. When you’re fighting a virus, you don’t destroy the economy.”

“You can’t begin to describe how mind-numbingly, matchlessly stupid the response was,” he decried. “You don’t fight death and disease with economic contraction, yet that’s what they did.”

He highlighted that free people, in addition to creating wealth and resources to elongate human lives, produce vital information.

“Historians will marvel at the shocking stupidity that got us to where we are, because they literally chose to make us less capable of fighting the virus, as opposed to more capable of doing so,” Tamny lamented.

The day’s program later included remarks by Alex Epstein, founder of the Center for Industrial Progress and author of “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.”

The second panel of the day was entitled, “Liberty, Lockdowns, and Law.” It focused on addressing the legal aspects of responses to COVID. Panelists included Michael DeGrandis, senior litigation counsel for the New Civil Liberties Alliance; S.T. Karnick, director of publications for the Heartland Institute; Andrew Graham, senior fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute; and former State Sen. Phil Williams, now chief policy officer and general counsel for the Alabama Policy Institute.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

20 hours ago

Carl: Honoring South Alabama’s hometown heroes

(Brian Copes/Facebook, University of South Alabama, Fairhope UMC, Chickasaw United Methodist Church/Facebook, YHN)

Last week, I had the honor of recognizing several hometown heroes in South Alabama who have made an impact in their community over the past year. This past year has been tough on millions of Americans as we battle the COVID pandemic and endure countless hardships, but I’m proud of so many folks in South Alabama who make our community a better place.

Brian Copes, a manufacturing instructor for the City of Chickasaw school system is leading an effort to develop inexpensive prosthetic limbs that will change the lives of many amputees throughout Latin America. Students from all disciplines have been working together to create a real non-profit business, and eventually, these students will travel to Latin America to not only fit amputees but also to aid the amputees in rehabilitation as they learn to walk with their new prosthetics.

Natalie Fox, assistant administrator and chief nursing officer for USA Physicians Group and USA Health, has been the lead coordinator of the University of South Alabama’s Health system community testing and vaccination site for the Mobile region. To date, she has overseen the successful implementation of over 26,000 COVID-19 vaccinations administered since December 15 and over 50,000 COVID tests performed since the pandemic began. Natalie has worked tirelessly to meet the high demands on the health care system for the past year, and we are incredibly thankful for her hard work and dedication to the people of South Alabama.

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Jennifer Myrick of Fairhope has been a critical figure in recovery efforts after Hurricanes Sally and Zeta. Jennifer worked through the Fairhope United Methodist Church to set up an independent point of distribution to hand out crucial supplies to the public. She also headed up a feeding program with those supplies and is an active member of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster through Baldwin County Emergency Management where she helped fulfill many needs throughout the county. Jennifer also worked with the Fairhope Police Department to keep officers, dispatchers and corrections officers fed during a long stretch following the hurricanes.

Kathy Couey, the recreation superintendent for the City of Chickasaw goes above and beyond the day-to-day responsibilities to make the city a better and healthier place for families to live. Her creativity is limitless and she has a true servant’s heart. With so many people working and learning from home over the past year, staying active and getting outdoors has been critical to people’s physical and mental health. Kathy’s hard work has made Chickasaw a better place to live and raise a family.

Virtually no person across our country has not been impacted in some way by the pandemic, natural disasters and the countless other challenges that have come our way over the course of the past year or so. Although we are living in difficult times, I couldn’t be prouder to be an American, and I couldn’t be more thankful for so many incredible people all over my district and all over the nation who work hard each day, not for fame, recognition, or money, but for the betterment of their friends and neighbors. This is what makes America strong, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to recognize just a few of these unsung heroes who have made an impact on their community during this past year.

If you know of a hometown hero who has made a difference in your community and would like to nominate them to be recognized, please send their name, location, description and a photo to honorahero.carl@gmail.com by March 12 so they can be recognized.

Jerry Carl represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. He lives in Mobile with his wife Tina.

23 hours ago

University of Alabama System intends on returning to pre-COVID normal for fall semester

(YHN)

The University of Alabama System on Monday announced that its three distinct institutions plan to return to traditional in-person instruction without restrictions on classroom capacity for the fall 2021 semester.

While UA System campuses this ongoing spring semester continue to offer a mixture of traditional, hybrid and virtual classes while implementing campus-wide advanced health and safety protocols, current plans would see the upcoming fall semester return to operations akin to fall 2019, the last full semester before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday’s announcement allows for course planning and registration for fall 2021 courses to take place as usual in the coming weeks. It also continues the UA System’s national leadership on following the science and spearheading a safe return to the classroom.

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Beginning in spring 2020, the UA System Health and Safety Task Force developed a state-of-the-art plan for a return to in-person instruction that became a national model for colleges, universities, corporations and non-profit organizations.

The renowned leadership and strategy, which incorporates masking, social distancing, safety training, symptom tracking, sentinel testing and contact tracing as well as guidelines for activities on- and off-campus, enabled the completion of a full academic year on the three UA System campuses via hybrid, online and socially distanced in-person classes.

Now, the UA System Health and Safety Task Force, comprised of public health and infectious disease experts and administrators from the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Alabama in Huntsville and UAB Medicine, has made the unified recommendation to the chancellor and the board of trustees to return to normal operations in the fall; this was done in accordance with data, including modeling developed by UAB School of Public Health epidemiologist Suzanne Judd, Ph.D.

Dr. Selwyn Vickers, dean of the UAB School of Medicine and chair of the UA System Health and Safety Task Force, commented on Monday in a statement, “Our models give us confidence in the strong likelihood that we’ll have a safe environment for traditional classrooms and on-campus activities by the fall.”

“Of course, we will continue to make every effort to abide by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Alabama Department of Public Health guidance and make data-driven decisions,” he continued. “If safety concerns arise, we can adjust our plan; the safety of the 110,000 students, faculty and staff of the UA System remains our top priority as it has since our Task Force began its work one year ago when COVID-19 began to emerge.”

While Dr. Judd’s projections are based on known COVID cases, vaccinations administered and the projected number of people who have immunity but never received a positive test, the UA System Health and Safety Task Force urges individuals to remain committed to safe practices, such as masking and social distancing, in order to make the model a reality.

“The return to normal operations would not be possible without the leadership of our campus presidents – UA President Stuart Bell, UAB President Ray Watts and UAH President Darren Dawson – who have skillfully implemented the health and safety measures recommended by our world-renowned medical experts,” stated UA System Chancellor Finis St. John in making Monday’s announcement.

The chancellor cited the work of hundreds of front-line health care staff and their counterparts across the UA System who have worked throughout the pandemic on implementation of the Health and Safety plan.

It should be noted that a return to normal operations would span academics, student life and athletics — including a full Bryant-Denny Stadium in the fall, should the plans come to fruition.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

Alabama’s Austal USA awarded $235 million to build additional EPF for U.S. Navy

(Austal USA/Flickr)

In an important and timely display of confidence for the Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) program, the U.S. Navy has selected Mobile-based Austal USA to design and build an additional EPF.

The award comes in the form of a $235 million undefinitized contract action modification for the detailed design and construction of EPF 15. The modification was made formal by the Navy on Friday and announced by the company on Sunday afternoon.

This comes after the resignation of then-Austal USA president Craig Perciavalle last week and underscores the Department of Defense’s continued trust in the company.

The EPF program, currently operating on schedule and under budget, has delivered 12 ships to the Navy’s fleet thus far. The versatility of the EPF design has enabled each ship to provide a significant operational capability tailored to the needs of each geographic command. EPF 15 will include enhanced medical capability to increase its operational capability, a release noted.

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“At its core, the EPF is designed to be highly capable, flexible and affordable,” stated Austal USA CFO and interim president Rusty Murdaugh. “With this baseline, we’ve been able to deliver multiple ships that are performing different missions for the U.S. military. The award of EPF 15 allows the Navy to leverage a hot production line and highly trained workforce to continue producing ships that are meeting the needs of warfighters today and into the future.”

Originally designed as a high-speed intra-theater transport, the EPF has been described by many in the U.S. military as the pick-up truck of the fleet. EPFs have performed humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, maritime security, surveillance, command and control, counter narcotics, and additional operations in almost every region of the world.

With a draft of only 13 feet and waterjet propulsion, the EPF is able to access austere and degraded ports with minimal external assistance providing flexibility to fleet and combatant commanders. With its maneuverability, large open mission bay and ability to achieve speeds greater-than 35-knots, the EPFs have the capability to support additional missions such as special operations and medical support.

Austal USA builds EPFs and Independence-class Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) at its world-class facilities in Mobile, Alabama.

RELATED: Senator Tuberville visits Mobile: ‘We’ve got to continue to keep Austal here’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Alabama’s strength in the real estate market continues to make national headlines

(Pixabay, Wikicommons, Equal Justice Initiative/Facebook, Julia Sayers Gokhale/YHN)

2020 was a record-breaking year for the U.S. housing market, and Alabama was no exception. Investment in the state generated a lot of attention from publications around the globe as a variety of Alabama destinations appear at the top of the list for booming markets.

Here are a few examples of Alabama destinations identified by industry leaders as ones to watch:

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Lake Guntersville

As the pandemic has shifted interest to more rural, scenic driven destinations, places like Marshall County, Alabama, have surfaced to the top of real estate searches. According to Market Watch, Marshall County led the country in the percentage of increased searches for micropolitan communities. The area surrounding Lake Guntersville saw an increase of 2817% on the Redfin.com website in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019.

Montgomery

Appearing in two notable publications, Alabama’s capital city has been recognized for its affordability, promising job market and appeal to travelers. Forbes Advisor looked at 100 metro areas with a population of at least 100,000 to identify the top 10 most affordable cities for homebuyers. Appearing at No. 8, Montgomery offers the lowest median annual real estate taxes and is poised for growth based on continued investment from the aerospace and automotive employers. In addition, the continued expansion of Montgomery’s social justice attractions has drawn attention from Bloomberg who has listed it as one of the best places to travel in 2021.

Tuscaloosa

Leading the national trend in real estate is the continued growth of vacation rental property investments. According to the real estate education publication Fortune Builders, Tuscaloosa is No. 2 in the country on the list of places to buy a vacation rental property. Citing the year-over-year growth in tourism both inside and outside of football season, this Alabama city bodes well for investors looking for potential profits in rental investments.

Gulf Shores / Orange Beach


No stranger to second home real estate investors, the beautiful beaches of Alabama’s gulf coast have been an attractive destination for years.  In spite of the changes 2020 brought to the investment landscape, this area proves to be dependable for travel-hungry tourists. Air DNA tracks the performance data of over 10 million AirB&B and VRBO vacation rentals and published a list of the best places to buy short-term rental property in the U.S. When it comes to areas with over 1,000 active short-term rentals, Gulf Shores / Orange Beach scored number eight for its annual revenue potential and annual revenue growth.

Dauphin Island

As reported by CNBC, the vacation rental management website Vacasa has rolled out its annual report highlighting the best U.S. destinations to invest in a vacation rental property. The study analyzed home sales and rental data in vacation areas around the country. For the second year in a row, the “sunset capital of Alabama” has made the list.

Birmingham

The Magic City appeared on several real estate investment lists in 2020.  In its analysis of America’s hottest real estate zip codes, Forbes lists Birmingham first on the list. The analysis uses data from Zillow.com to determine America’s fastest-growing zip codes by home sale price appreciation. Property Wire lists Birmingham as one of five on its 2020 best areas to invest and the international publication Global Investments lists it as the next U.S. property investment hotspot. Additionally, Travel and Leisure magazine includes Birmingham as of the best places to travel in 2021.

Huntsville

Alabama’s Rocket City made the list of emerging real estate markets of 2020 according to Mashvisor, an analytics service company focused on providing investors with property information. Huntsville is noted as one of the markets leading the economic recovery in the nation.

Auburn


Housing Wire, a digital publication focussed on mortgage and housing markets placed Auburn on the 2020 best locations for investment property. The only Alabama city to make the rankings, Auburn was listed in second place for the highest population growth and first place for employment growth.

Alabama REALTORS® is the largest statewide organization of real estate professionals and the official advocate of Alabama’s multifaceted real estate industry. Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up to date on real estate news in Alabama.

1 day ago

7 Things: Trump asks if America misses him yet, State Sen. Waggoner says simple lottery would pass, Biden supports unionization effort in Birmingham and more …

7. Cuomo downplaying his alleged harassment as ‘flirtation’

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has been accused of sexually harassing women, and now he’s said that he’ll cooperate with the investigation over behavior that women “misinterpreted as unwanted flirtation.”
  • The accusations are made by at least two women who previously worked for Cuomo. New York Attorney General Letitia James will be leading the investigation into these accusations. 

6. Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine approved for use; Appointments can be made again

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  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the single-dose coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, which will potentially speed up vaccination efforts dramatically. The vaccine is slightly less effective against preventing mild cases, but is said to be just as effective at preventing severe cases of the coronavirus. Johnson & Johnson is expected to deliver 100 million vaccines by the end of June.
  • Last week, Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris said to take whichever vaccine you get offered and noted that vaccine delivery is increasing. The increasing vaccine supply means that counties have restarted taking appointments for the vaccine injections after halting them because of concerns about future availability.

5. Syria strike approved by Alabama congressmen

  • President Joe Biden’s administration authorized a drone strike in Syria, and all three U.S. Representatives from Alabama that serve on the House Armed Services Committee approved of these actions. 
  • U.S. Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville), Mike Rogers (R-Saks) and Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) serve on the committee and issued statements on the attack. The Department of Defense also said this was done due to “recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq.”

4. Brooks says to reject expanding absentee voting

  • Last week, State Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) proposed a bill that would remove the need for an excuse to vote absentee in Alabama. Secretary of State John Merrill is in favor of the bill, while U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) raised concerns and wants it defeated.
  • Brooks cited the Jimmy Carter-James Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform report that was issued in 2005 which suggested 87 ways to protect ballot access and ballot integrity while specifically calling out the areas where absentee ballots are rife for abuse and manipulation.

3. President Joe Biden endorses union in Bessemer Amazon facility

  • Not content with killing jobs with a $15 minimum wage or by killing a pipeline, President Joe Biden voiced his support for the unionization effort in Bessemer, Alabama’s Amazon distribution center. Biden did not use the Amazon name. He now joins U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Stacey Abrams, the NFL players union, Danny Glover and a bullied Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.
  • In the video, Biden stated, “Today and over the next few days and weeks, workers in Alabama and all across America are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace.” He also thinks this has something to do with a pandemic, which is sort of a catch-all. He said, “[T]his is vitally important, a vitally important choice as America grapples with the deadly pandemic, the economic crisis and the reckoning on race – what it reveals (about) the deep disparities that still exist in our country.”

2. A simple lottery bill could pass in Alabama

  • The current lottery and casino bill brought to the Alabama Legislature by State Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has been stalled to give the bill more hope of passing through working out specifics as some Republicans are undecided. 
  • State Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) is one who is undecided, and while on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” clarified that the holdup for some is in the casino aspect of the legislation. Waggoner advised, “[I]f it was a simple lottery bill, I think it would have passed in great haste.”

1. Trump spoke at CPAC, and no, he’s not creating a new party

  • While at CPAC, former President Donald Trump spoke and addressed many issues, including President Joe Biden’s “disastrous first month of any president in modern history.” He added that the administration is “anti-jobs, anti-families, anti-border, anti-energy, anti-women and anti-science.”
  • Trump also addressed the rumor that he would create another political party, but he said this is “fake news,” adding, “We have the Republican Party, it’s going to unite and be stronger than ever before – I am not starting a new party, that was fake news.”

1 day ago

Birmingham-based startup chosen for prestigious national accelerator program

(YHN)

Lighthouse Labs, a nationally acclaimed startup accelerator based in Virginia, on Monday announced the 10 teams joining its milestone 10th cohort.

This latest cohort will run from March 15 until June 4 and is Lighthouse’s largest and most diverse to date. Among the group is Birmingham-based Frameworq.

Created initially for internal usage by KMS, formerly Kemp Management Solutions, Frameworq is an easy-to-use, proprietary software platform that transforms full-scale project management for high volumes of small projects.

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RELATED: Frameworq brings innovation through software platform

According to a release, Lighthouse Labs received record-breaking applications for its spring 2021 cohort; over 200 companies applied, a 50% increase from the next highest cycle. Beyond an increase in application quantity, the accelerator also saw an increase in application quality — with an 11% increase in average finalist scores over fall 2020.

All ten teams — located across America — will receive $20,000 in equity-free grant funding, as well as access to three months of tailored support from Lighthouse Labs, mentorship from a network of over 100 subject-matter experts, weekly programming on startup foundations and services from partners including financial modeling from Sandbox, legal support from Kaleo Legal and accounting support from Ballast Consulting Group. Lighthouse will also debut a partnership with Pip Collective to provide diversity, equity and inclusion training and consulting services to the teams. The program will run entirely virtually this spring and will culminate with a public demo day event the week of May 31.

“The ten teams and sixteen founders that will join Lighthouse Labs this Spring represent the true potential of a more diverse innovation economy in Richmond and beyond,” stated Erin Powell, executive director at Lighthouse Labs. “Access to early capital is extremely limited for underrepresented startup founders, and we are thrilled to do our part to help close that funding gap and support founders as they grow, especially for such a diverse group of entrepreneurs.”

Frameworq is led by cofounders James Kemp (CEO) and Jay Kemp (CMO).

Asked why they decided to launch a startup when already running a successful business, Jay Kemp stated, “Innovation is one of the pillars of our business with KMS. Our drive to find the best way to manage projects and the best software to manage projects was what led to Frameworq.”

“We are excited about being a part of the Lighthouse community and meeting more like-minders founders. We anticipate the program will really help us dial in on our target market and scale our customer pipeline,” he added.

The software is already in use by clients such as Regions Bank, Alabama Power Company’s energy services group and Truist Bank.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

After bowing to teachers unions on school closures, Biden backs Bernie’s union drive in Alabama

(Wikicommons, (@JoeBiden/Twitter, @BernieSanders/Twitter, YHN)

On the heels of President Joe Biden buckling to teachers unions and refusing to follow the science in keeping schools shuttered across the nation, he has now apparently caved to behind-the-scenes lobbying from union bosses again.

Biden on Sunday evening released a video in support of the New York City-based Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s (RWDSU) push to unionize the Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama.

Biden joins the likes of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams and Hollywood activist Danny Glover in publicly backing the Alabama unionization effort.

This comes after Reuters reported last month that union leaders have been directly engaged with the Biden White House regarding the union vote in Bessemer.

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“The larger labor movement has indicated to the White House that this is an important campaign, that this is a priority,” RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum said at the time. The RWDSU is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, a major financier of Biden’s 2020 campaign.

“Thank you, President Biden, for sending a clear message of support for the BAmazon Union workers in Alabama seeking to bring the first union to an Amazon warehouse with the RWDSU,” Appelbaum stated on Sunday following the video release.

Per the latest available data from the Alabama Department of Labor, Bessemer has the third-highest rate of unemployment among the state’s major cities.

On top of the Bessemer fulfillment center, Amazon late last year announced its plans to open two delivery stations in Alabama: one in Bessemer and one in Birmingham. These stations will reportedly create hundreds of full- and part-time associate jobs, all paying at least $15 per hour, in addition to hundreds of driver opportunities for Amazon’s Delivery Service Partners and Amazon Flex drivers.

However, all of this progress could come to a screeching halt if history is any indicator.

RWDSU was the union involved in the 2019 cancellation of Amazon’s plans to open a second headquarters in New York City, reportedly killing 25,000-40,000 planned jobs in the area. Ocasio-Cortez was a vocal ally of the union in those efforts, as well.

On top of Amazon’s $15 minimum wage, the company offers industry-leading benefits to full-time employees, which include comprehensive health care from day one, 401(k) with 50% match, up to 20 weeks paid parental leave and Amazon’s innovative Career Choice program, which pre-pays 95% of tuition for courses in high-demand fields. Since the program’s launch four years ago, more than 25,000 employees have pursued degrees in game design and visual communications, nursing, IT programming and radiology, just to name a few.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

‘God’s on our side’: Tuberville says 2022 is final chance to save America from being ‘too far gone’

(Tuberville campaign/YouTube)

MONTGOMERY — U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on Saturday addressed the 2021 Winter Meeting of the Alabama Republican Party.

He delivered an update on his first two months in office, decrying what Democratic-control of both legislative chambers and the executive branch means for the country.

Tuberville noted that between now and when he next is able to speak to the ALGOP during their August summer meeting, “[Y]ou’re going to be shocked what’s going to happen to this country.”

“And it’s already happening,” he continued. “Folks, we’re in trouble. But I’m speaking to the choir here. I’m speaking to the group that wants God in our schools, that wants to go with the Constitution, that wants to have small government. They are just the opposite. And now we gave them the reins and they’re going to build on that like you’ve never seen.”

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The freshman senator warned that Alabamians should brace for their taxes to go up and gas prices to continue rising due to Democrats’ rule.

“How they got control, I don’t know,” the Lee County resident said. “But we have got to fight. We can’t lay down; we can’t say we can’t do anything about it. In this state, we can continue to grow and keep sending conservative congressmen, senators, state legislators … everybody, local governments, school boards.”

He then stressed the critical importance of local governance on citizens’ daily lives, encouraging people “to take care of your neighborhoods” and greater communities across the Yellowhammer State.

“Run for office, stand up for something. Because if we don’t, we’re going to lose. Our kids are not going to have the same thing that you and I had growing up,” Tuberville urged.

“It’s scary,” he added. “I told everybody on the campaign trail, ‘We’re in trouble.’ I didn’t really realize how much we were in trouble. It’s bad.”

The Republican subsequently spoke about being on the Senate floor on January 6, “when all heck broke loose.”

“I was embarrassed,” he remarked. “If that was people that were conservative, God-loving Republicans, they were wrong. Because we gave them something to talk about. There’s been 225 riots in this country. People have been killed, $200 million worth of businesses burned. Nobody says anything. But if we went up there and did that, which a lot of people did, that’s all they talk about. And it put us in a bind. We’re going to fight back; we know better — we do it the right way.”

He encouraged Republicans to work hard at building party infrastructure and new coalitions ahead of 2022.

“Folks, we’ve only got one more chance,” Tuberville stated. “One more chance and it’ll be too far gone. But, God’s on our side. Pray every day. Believe in your state, your community, your schools. It’s going to work out fine. But there’ll be a lot of bumps down the road.”

“I’m going to vote for you every time there’s a vote,” he reiterated to the people of Alabama. “We’re going to vote the right way.”

“I promise you I’m going to do God’s work and think about you every day,” Tuberville pledged.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Roy Wood Jr. wants greater career opportunities for youths in Alabama

(Á la Carte Alabama/Contributed)

Roy Wood Jr. had a good amount of success on radio and doing standup comedy in Birmingham. But to reach his full celebrity status, he had to travel to New York.

The actor, comedian and filmmaker grew up in Birmingham without knowing the variety of career paths available to him or how to pursue them.

These days, Wood is an ambassador for Birmingham and Alabama, believing youths here should have a world of opportunities available to them and shouldn’t necessarily have to leave Alabama to fulfill them.

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“My hope is for Birmingham and Alabama to get the chance to finally prove to the rest of the world what we already know to be true – is that we’re capable, skilled and gifted the same as anywhere else on Earth,” Wood said.

Wood saw firsthand the need for greater careers when he was shooting a sitcom pilot in Birmingham and struggled to find the people and equipment needed to pull off the production.

In the last of a three-part interview he did with Á la Carte Alabama for Alabama NewsCenter, Wood talks about what he wants to see happen in his home state to create opportunity for all.

Roy Wood Jr. wants more to see Alabama’s youths able to pursue their dreams from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

During Black History Month, Alabama NewsCenter is celebrating the culture and contributions of those who have shaped our state and those working to elevate Alabama today. Visit AlabamaNewsCenter.com throughout the month for stories of Alabamians past and present.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 days ago

VIDEO: Gambling stalls, Ivey mixes it up with the legislature, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell pretends she might run for U.S. Senate and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Party Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Is the gambling proposal by State Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston) in big trouble?

— Is Alabama Governor Kay Ivey doing herself any favors when she attacks the Alabama legislature?

— Why is U.S. Representative Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) pretending she might run for U.S. Senate?

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Jackson and Handback are joined by Jacob Morrison of “The Valley Labor Report” to discuss the issues facing the state of Alabama this week.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” at people who don’t want a real balanced commission to take a look at the U.S. Capitol riot and what led to it.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

2 days ago

‘From Marion to Montgomery’ sheds new light on the founding, history of Alabama State University

(Lincoln Normal School, Brantley Collection, Samford University Library, D-000108)

In the recently released “From Marion to Montgomery: The Early Years of Alabama State University, 1867-1925,” author Joseph Caver brings to light new information about the founding in a detailed history of one of the country’s earliest historically black universities.

Caver is a former senior archivist at the Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, a history lecturer at Alabama State University (ASU) and he was the first Black archivist at the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Caver’s interest in researching his alma mater began during graduate school, while working at the state archives.

“I was working with all types of scholars using the resources there,” Caver said. While assisting an Auburn University graduate student researching Perry County history, Caver was told, “they’ve got it all wrong over there. … The school was founded much earlier than 1874.”

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Intrigued, Caver delved into the microfilm collection of the American Missionary Association (AMA) papers, as well as newspapers and other primary source materials housed at the state archives – eventually developing his curiosity into a master’s thesis for graduate school.

In his thesis, Caver provided evidence that ASU had been founded by freed slaves several years earlier than had been previously recognized.

“In the AMA papers, I found the incorporation of the Lincoln School on July 18, 1867. … I also went to the courthouse in Perry County and there was a reference there,” Caver said. “Using legislative records, I discovered the Lincoln Normal School received state funding in 1869, making it one of the country’s first state-supported educational institutions for Blacks.”

The Lincoln School’s incorporation papers were signed by nine members of the Black community in Marion who served as “elected” trustees for the school: James Childs, Alexander Curtis, Thomas Speed, Nickolas Dale, Thomas Lee, John Freeman, Ivey Parrish, Nathan Levert and David Harris.

Before Caver’s 1982 thesis, the university had celebrated 1874 as its founding and William Burns Paterson as its founder. Paterson, a native of Scotland and founder of the Tullibody Academy for Blacks in Greensboro, accepted the presidency of the Lincoln Normal School in Marion in 1878.  His Feb. 9 birthday was designated as the university’s Founders Day in 1901.

“While Paterson wasn’t the founder, he was a great man,” Caver said. “He went against the grain when he didn’t have to.” Paterson was an advocate of the liberal arts and under his leadership the school experienced tremendous growth.

“The Marion Nine figured out that the way to improve the race was through education, and their establishment of a school was spectacular,” Caver said. “It testifies to the zeal that the half-million newly freed former slaves wanted to be educated.”

These new discoveries created some initial pushback.

“It was new research,” Caver said. “It’s history. … You uncover new things and basically try to find the truth.”

In 2017, Randall Williams, editor-in-chief of NewSouth Books, reached out to then-retired Caver about expanding his thesis into a complete history of the founding and early years of the university.

“Using the original thesis as the base, I uncovered so much additional information from the electronic records that are now available,” Caver said. “I could really go in-depth and bring those nine former slaves to life.”

“From Marion to Montgomery” provides extensive details, excerpts from the research materials, illustrations and photographs to provide a thorough history of the university’s first 60 years.

“I wanted the primary source documents to speak,” Caver said. “We get into this period of presentism, where we judge everything that occurs in 1867 by today’s standards. … I left that to the reader.”

For Caver, researching the story of African American education in Alabama had meaning because of the limited opportunities that were available to his father and grandfather.

“My grandfather was born in 1878 and he was able to go through the third grade at his community school and then he had to go to work,” Caver said. “My dad went through the eighth grade and then he was old enough to go to work in the agrarian community in rural Autauga County. … The availability of a higher education was limited to black Alabamians.

“In Alabama, we’re talking about a century of basically controlling what could be taught, how long you went to school, and what type of education you got,” Caver said.

By founding the Lincoln School, the newly freed black residents of Marion made an impact on generations to come. Historian and social researcher Horace Mann Bond studied African American education in Alabama. He discovered that the Black Belt region, because of the Lincoln Normal School and its successors, produced a disproportionately larger number of Black doctorate recipients.

The school flourished in Marion until 1886, when an altercation between white cadets from Howard College and black students from the Normal School occurred. The following week, a petition to relocate the Normal School began circulating.

The school was relocated in 1887 to Montgomery when the state Legislature decided to establish the Colored People’s University. Many among the city’s white community were against the relocation and shortly thereafter, according to Caver, a lawsuit led to defunding the university.

“For three years, the university went without funding,” Caver said. “But like the Marion Nine and the community in Marion, the Black community in Montgomery came together. … Members of the Black community purchased a 5-acre plot of land, and the school got off to a rocky start.

“Mary Frances Terrell, a former student and long-time faculty of the university, called this period a time to pray and pay,” Caver said.

State funding was resumed in 1890 and President Paterson continued a liberal arts trajectory for the school. However, Jim Crow laws outlined in the 1901 Alabama Constitution affected the university, as those segregation laws did for the rest of Montgomery.

“The role that Alabama State plays in the (1955-1956) bus boycott is significant because of the struggles and challenges the institution went through from its inception through the Jim Crow era. The Montgomery streetcar boycott (1900-1906) paved the way for the launching of the Montgomery bus boycott,” Caver said. “It’s an unbelievable story – mentioned in the epilogue. … I took this work up to 1925 and decided much more research was needed to complete the story. Hopefully, current and future scholars will continue this work.”

In 1915, following Paterson’s death, John William Beverly, an African American, was named president of Alabama State. Born in Hale County, Beverly attended Tullibody Academy and the Lincoln School in Marion, followed by Brown University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Beverly returned to Alabama as assistant principal at the Lincoln Normal School in 1894.

“Things changed. … Beverly established the laboratory high school, which was a college preparatory school for Blacks,” Caver said. “Before 1900, to obtain a secondary education, Blacks had to attend one of the three Black normal schools. There were no public secondary education schools for Blacks until 1900. Today’s Black colleges did not achieve post-secondary status until 1920.”

The State Normal School (Lincoln) became a junior college in 1920 and a four-year institution in 1927. Over the decades, the school continued to develop, from the State Teachers College and Alabama State College for Negroes, to Alabama State College, and finally became Alabama State University in 1969.

“This is what my work has uncovered,” Caver said. “Some of the misconception that we call colleges who were really just normal schools but that was as high and as far as they could go unless they went out of state.”

Caver said he’s extremely proud of his work.

“My journey as a historian and archivist has been quite rewarding. I enjoy sharing information with other people; that’s my calling,” he said. “That’s why I was an archivist for all those years … and because I’m an African American, I migrated to this study to tell the story of this distinguished black university.”

“From Marion to Montgomery” is available through local and online booksellers. For more information, visit: www.newsouthbooks.com/frommariontomontgomery.

During Black History Month, Alabama NewsCenter is celebrating the culture and contributions of those who have shaped our state and those working to elevate Alabama today. Visit AlabamaNewsCenter.com throughout the month for stories of Alabamians past and present.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)