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 day ago

Samford’s Cumberland School of Law partners with Tuskegee University to offer students accelerated law degree plan

(Samford University/Contributed)

The Cumberland School of Law at Samford University has joined forces with Tuskegee University to offer students an accelerated path towards achieving a law degree.

Tuskegee students will now be able to join what is commonly called a 3+3 partnership, allowing them to take three years of courses at Tuskegee, then three years at Cumberland. Upon completion, they would graduate with both a bachelors and law degree.

“Tuskegee students are very involved in their prelaw program, and it just made sense to institute a formal agreement that substantiates the relationship which already exists,” Whitney Dachelet, assistant dean for Admission at Cumberland, said in a statement.

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The universities say the program will begin right away, with Tuskegee juniors who have completed their core and major requirements being able to use their first year of law school to fulfill any outstanding requirements for their bachelor’s degree.

“With Cumberland being situated in Birmingham, the largest legal market in Alabama, we have no doubt that this program will prepare our students to become better acquainted with the legal profession,” remarked Tammy Laughlin, a professor and advisor to the prelaw program at Tuskegee.

Tuskegee joins Samford University, Birmingham-Southern College, the University of Montevallo and Troy University on the list of schools that have a 3+3 partnership with the Cumberland School of Law.

According to a release from Samford, “Students with a competitive GPA and LSAT scores are eligible to receive a scholarship ranging from 25% tuition scholarship to a full tuition scholarship.”

“In addition, the partnership with will create summer coursework and internship opportunities to help students build relationships with attorneys and judges within the Birmingham legal community,” the university added.

Laughlin said that she and other officials at Tuskegee felt that both their institution and Cumberland “fully embraced the concept of a family atmosphere where students feel comfortable interacting freely with faculty and administration.”

“In addition, both universities instill a certain ‘can do’ spirit that will assure that our students are fully prepared to excel in the legal profession,” Laughlin concluded.

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

1 day ago

Ivey allocates $35 million in coronavirus aid for emergency responders, health care facilities

(Governor Kay Ivey/Flickr)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday designated $35 million to support emergency responders and certain sectors of the health care industry that are suffering financially amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Grants of up to $15,000 will be how the program is distributed, and applications will be open from October 5 through October 16 at noon. The State Finance Department is overseeing the administration of the grants, which will be given on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Groups like rescue squads and volunteer fire departments will be eligible, along with places like primary care clinics, pharmacies and assisted living facilities.

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The money for the program, officially titled the Alabama Health Care and Emergency Response Providers Grant Program, comes from the $1.9 billion the state received from the federal government’s CARES Act.

“I am proud to continue getting the CARES Act money into the hands of Alabamians who need it,” Ivey said in a statement on Thursday.

The governor’s office provided a full list of the institutions that can qualify for one of the grants:

Emergency Response Providers

• Rescue Squad Organizations
• Volunteer Fire Departments
• 911 Boards
• Other (Will need to specify)

Health Care Providers

• Primary Care Clinics
• Other Clinics (Will need to specify)
• Ambulance/EMS Service Providers
• Pharmacies
• Physician Offices
• Dentist Offices
• Other Health Practitioner Offices (Will need to specify)
• Outpatient Care Centers
• Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories
• Home Health Care Businesses
• Assisted Living Facilities
• Physical Therapy Offices
• Other (Will need to specify)

Mark Jackson, executive director of the Alabama Medical Association, advised on Tuesday that “a recent COVID-19 impact survey revealed that more than 70% of Alabama physicians have experienced a severe financial impact on their practice, causing a disruption in their business operations, and limiting access to care.”

“We applaud Governor Ivey for making these funds available and believe that they will be critical to ensuring that physicians can continue to provide services to those who are in need of medical care,” added Jackson on behalf of his organization.

Those interested in applying for one of the grants can find comprehensive information about the program here.

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

2 days ago

House of A.D. King added to African American Civil Rights Network by Sec. of Interior David Bernhardt

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

BIRMINGHAM — On May 11, 1963, the house in Birmingham where Reverend Alfred Daniel Williams “A.D.” King lay asleep with his family was bombed by someone angry at King’s leadership in the civil rights movement.

Fifty-seven years later, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt traveled to that same house so he could personally oversee its addition to the African American Civil Rights Network.

Though not as famous as his elder brother, Martin Luther King, Jr., the younger King was a prominent civil rights leader in his own right. He led the Birmingham Campaign while serving as reverend of the First Street Baptist church in the Ensley neighborhood of the Magic City.

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According to the King Institute at Stanford, angry protesters filled the streets that May evening after learning of the failed assassination attempt at the faith leader’s home.

A.D. King went out to join the protesters, who were on the verge of descending into riots.

“My friends, we have had enough problems tonight. If you’re going to kill someone, then kill me. … Stand up for your rights, but with nonviolence,” he told the crowd, which reportedly dissipated soon after.

King tragically drowned at age 38 in 1969 but his widow, Naomi Ruth Barber King, and daughter, Dr. Alveda King, were both on hand Thursday for the addition of the A.D. King House to the African American Civil Rights Network; both women were in the house when it was bombed.

The A.D. King Home in the Ensley neighborhood of Birmingham (Henry Thornton/YHN)

The African American Civil Rights Network was created by a unanimously passed act of Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in January 2018. It catalogs and publicizes locations significant to the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

“I am humbled to be here,” began Secretary Bernhardt when he began his remarks Thursday morning.

The A.D. King home was purchased in 2005 by Omie Crockett, Sr., a contemporary of King’s and civil rights foot soldier who is now 98 years old. Crockett paid to restore the home and was praised by Bernhardt and members of the King family on Thursday. His daughter, Jacqueline Crockett Washington, represented him at the ceremony on Thursday.

“This is a home where many civil rights movement meetings were held,” advised Washington, adding, “Words cannot express our sincere gratitude. To us, this represents all that Rev. A.D. King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and other civil rights greats fought for.”

“This home could have been torn down, those stories could disappear,” Bernhardt said of the value added by recognizing sites such as the A.D. King House. ”

“Those stories in my opinion are what bring us together as a community and as a country. Today’s actions ensure that the events that occurred here on May 11 1963 will never be forgotten, ever,” Bernhardt continued about the importance of the African American Civil Rights Network and its inclusion of the King house.

Aurelia Skipwith, the director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, was on hand for the ceremony Thursday morning and noted that the A.D. King House is the 32nd site on the African American Civil Rights Network. Skipwith had a role in implementing the Network before being nominated to head the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“This event is also particularly meaningful to me, because my parents are from Columbus, Mississippi… without the contributions of A.D. King and countless others fighting for freedom and equality I would not be standing here today,” said Skipwith.

“I am proud to be the Service’s 22nd director and the first African American to hold that position in our organization’s 150-year history,” she informed those attending.

During the ceremony, Bernhardt sat to sign the official proclamation adding the A.D. King House to the Civil Rights Network and was embraced by Naomi King.

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

Yellowhammer News asked Bernhardt what he had learned in the commissioning of the 32 sites so far in the Civil Rights Network.

“Understanding how courageous not only are the people we know, but their entire families were involved. Tremendous courage, tremendous leadership,” he replied.

At the conclusion of the event, Yellowhammer asked Naomi King, A.D.’s widow, what it was like to have the Secretary of the Interior travel to Alabama to memorialize the house she once lived in.

“It means the world to me,” she responded, “When I say that it means the world to me, in my heart of hearts, people are people, and love has no color. To have this brother [Bernhardt] sit here today to help celebrate this, it means so much to me.”

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

2 days ago

Dr. Deborah Birx praises state of Alabama’s COVID-19 response, urges mask order extension in Auburn visit

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

AUBURN — Dr. Deborah Birx, a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, visited Auburn University on Thursday where she praised the COVID-19 containment efforts undertaken by the state and school in recent weeks while urging continued mitigation measures and an extension of the state’s mask mandate.

Birx said Auburn was her “16th or 17th” college campus visited over the last two months. She told the public that she always arrives early for these visits, unbeknownst to campus administrators.

“The students are being very compliant about their mask wearing and physical distancing,” she reported about the younger people she noticed on Thursday, noting that older people seemed to be less compliant than she liked.

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Birx said she had visited almost all of the SEC schools and has coordinated with them since the summer because they were some of the first and biggest universities to announce plans to resume in-person instruction.

“What came out of this is one SEC. Not an SEC of constant competition but an SEC that shared information,” Birx remarked about the combined efforts of the schools she dealt with.

Birx said she talked with Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday morning and urged continued mitigation measures by the state, which sees as being the key to the prominent drop in cases and hospitalizations the state experienced in August.

When asked if she thinks Alabama needs to extend the mask order due to expire on October 2, the doctor replied, “I do.” She added the state needs to keep up containment efforts “through the fall.”

“If you look at what happened within two weeks of the mask mandate, you can see the dramatic decline in cases here in Alabama,” she explained with regards to her position.

When it came time for reporters to ask questions, the internationally renowned doctor was immediately pressed on reporting from CNN published Wednesday that alleged Birx was “distressed” and thinking of leaving her job at the White House because she felt “diminished” in recent weeks.

“They wrote that without even speaking to me,” Birx began in her refutation of the piece by oft-maligned CNN reporter Jim Acosta.

“Do I look like a person that is diminished?” she asked rhetorically, subtly gesturing to the sizable media contingent she was addressing.

“That is the first time those adjectives have ever been used in describing my behavior,” she said.

Birx went on to flatly deny she was considering leaving her role in the government, saying, “I believe I am doing my job pretty well every day.”

The health official provided an update on vaccine efforts, which she described as moving along at a healthy pace.

She detailed how “many” of the individuals receiving the first two vaccine candidates, from companies Pfizer and Moderna respectively, have now received their second of two shots and as such are now detailing the events of their lives and reporting whether they catch COVID-19.

“The way you control viruses in the long run is through a vaccine. Every week we get a vaccine early – I mean you all know the numbers, we are losing nearly 1,000 Americans every day – if we get a vaccine a week earlier that is potentially 7,000 Americans saved,” she concluded.

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

3 days ago

Sara Evans is a 2020 Woman of Impact

One of country music’s most popular artists of the 21st century, Sara Evans, has adopted Alabama as her own, and she is not slowing down.

Earlier in 2020, Evans released a new album, “Copy That,” where she covers 13 classic songs, and published a new memoir, Born to Fly.

She came to the Yellowhammer State after marrying former University of Alabama quarterback Jay Barker in 2008. They now make their home in the Birmingham area along with their seven children.

The singer performs and releases music under the name Sara Evans, which is how Yellowhammer News is referring to her for the purposes of this article. Evans does not shy away from her married name; just in 2019, she released a six-track EP titled “The Barker Family Band” which featured herself, her son Avery and daughter Olivia.

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Evans was born and raised outside of a small town in Missouri and began her lifelong connection with music at age four. She had recorded her first CD and was attending country music events by the age of 9 or 10, according to a 2011 interview.

Aspiring to a career in music, she moved to Nashville in 1991 and worked as a waitress while trying to find her big break.

“Three Chords and The Truth” and “No Place That Far,” Evans’ first two albums, were released in 1997 and 1998 respectively. They earned the artist solid reviews from critics but did not make a big impact on the charts.

“If I’m going to have the career I came to Nashville to find,” she told a newspaper at the time. “I’ve got to get on the radio and give today’s fans what they want.”

“Born to Fly,” the album that resulted from this change in sound, achieved everything Evans aimed to accomplish. The Recording Industry Association of America has certified it as double platinum; meaning it has sold over 2 million copies. Singles “Born to Fly” and “I Could Not Ask for More” placed first and second on the U.S. Country charts.

After the breakthrough success, Evans never left the country charts for very long over the next decade; buoyed by singles like “Suds in the Bucket” and “A Little Bit Stronger.”

Evans’ albums “Restless,” “Real Fine Place,” and “A Little Bit Stronger” are certified platinum and five more albums by Evans are certified gold.

She won Top Female Vocalist at the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2006.

Her five most popular songs available on the music streaming service Spotify have been played a combined 101,997,937 times.

Jerry Sharpe, a music writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, described Evans as having a “a strong, spring-water clear voice, which she uses well.”

Evans met her now-husband when they were both in their 30s with kids. They were introduced by Joe Beam, a Christian speaker that focuses on love and marriage who knew them both previously.

“One defining moment was, I made the decision to walk into my office and email Jay Barker and say, ‘Hey, so-and-so told me that I should reach out to you. I want you to know that I’m praying for you, and I’m sorry for everything that you’ve been through,” Evans recounted to music website The Boot.

Barker was the starting quarterback on the Crimson Tide’s 1992 championship-winning team, and at the time when he and Evans connected they had both recently gone through painful divorces.

“He emailed me back within five minutes, and that was definitely a defining moment,” she added.

Evans brought three children to the new family, while Barker brought four.

“Our house is full of children and activities and chaos, but Jay is such a great support to me,” Evans told The Boot about her husband, who hosts a sports talk show in Birmingham.

Radio play by country music stations is dominated by male artists and programmed by male deejays, something that has frustrated Evans in recent years.

She has become an outspoken advocate for more women in country music and voices her opinions on the subject with regularity.

Evans has appeared at events and spoken up for the organization Change the Conversation that aims to gain more representation for women in country music.

“The lack of voices heard on country radio affect not only those who are making music, but those listening as well. Music plays a powerful role in shaping our popular culture. Today’s music does not reflect who we are as a country and sends the wrong message to our girls and women. Too often, country songs portray women as a pretty ornament on the passenger side. It is time to reclaim a woman’s place in the driver’s seat,” the organization says on its website.

Evans has remarked that for her most recent original studio work, the album “Words” released in 2017, she placed a greater emphasis on including female producers and songwriters to give their careers a boost.

At a Change the Conversation event in 2017, Evans said, “When I first got my record deal, women were dominating country radio. We had Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, Lee Ann Womack, LeAnn Rimes, Shania Twain, Patty Loveless and on and on. I was fortunate enough to join that group of amazing women.”

“[W]e need to change the conversation and figure out why it is not that way anymore. Why are there not enough women on country radio? Women artists are amazing and they have so much great music that we want to hear and we need to hear, so let’s change the conversation,” she urged.

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Sara Evans a 2020 Woman of Impact.

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through October 1. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

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

3 days ago

Ivey, Orr and Battle team up for virtual groundbreaking for School of Cyber Technology and Engineering campus

(ASCTE/Twitter/Screenshot/YHN)

Ground was broken on the new campus for the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering (ASCTE) on Wednesday, and prominent officials in Alabama delivered virtual addresses about the importance of the new institution.

The ASCTE is a magnet high school open to students from any of Alabama’s 137 public school districts. Located in Alabama’s cyber capital of Huntsville, attendees live on campus in a boarding environment.

Governor Kay Ivey, State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, the three public officials most involved in making ASCTE happen, spoke at the groundbreaking for the new campus.

ASCTE’s first crop of students enrolled this fall. They are currently taking classes in facilities on the campus of Oakwood University. The cyber school will move to the permanent campus that began construction on Wednesday upon its completion.

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(Huntsville Chamber of Commerce/Contributed)

According to materials provided by the school, ASCTE is the first cyber-focused school of its type in the country.

Orr sponsored the legislation to create ASCTE and now chairs its board of trustees.

The lawmaker from Decatur recounted that soon after he embraced the idea of a cyber-focused magnet school, he approached the governor and “she immediately saw the value.” Orr also praised the “support we got from the mayor’s office” as he and a team were putting together the project.

Ivey, who has made education a priority of her administration and in the last week created a STEM council, joined the virtual groundbreaking from her office in Montgomery.

“We must provide our state’s children with meaningful opportunities to pursue careers in STEM fields to ensure a prosperous Alabama of tomorrow,” Ivey remarked during her speech.

Battle was thanked in his introduction by Alicia Ryan, ASCTE Board of Trustees vice-chair, for creating the Cyber Huntsville initiative in 2010 and for his general support of the atmosphere that made the Rocket City fitting for a technology-focused school.

“Today begins a new chapter for Huntsville,” began Battle, who praised the “collaborative effort” that brought ASCTE into being and thanked Orr and Ivey by name.

“Welcome to Huntsville,” he told the assembled students who were watching via telecast.

Raytheon Technologies, a defense contractor with a strong presence in the Rocket City, is ASCTE’s most supportive corporate partner. The company donated $4 million to help get the school off the ground and was a partner in Wednesday’s groundbreaking. All public officials who spoke thanked the business multiple times.

“Our nation has a significant cyber talent gap,” remarked Wes Kramer, president of Raytheon Missiles & Defense, in talking about why investing in ASCTE was good for his company and the nation.

Matt Massey, a former superintendent of the Madison County School System, is the president of ASCTE and tasked with both leading the current iteration of the school and preparing it for the future.

ASCTE plans to go from the 72 students currently enrolled to over 350 by 2024.

Phillip Thomas (left) speaks on ASCTE groundbreaking (ASCTE/Screenshot)

One of those students currently enrolled, Phillip Thomas, spoke at the groundbreaking on Wednesday.

“Coming to this school was the best decision I have ever made,” he began.

Thomas assured those listening that the residential staff was top-notch and the boarding environment was welcoming and comfortable.

“I came here to further advance my path to engineering and cyber career opportunities, and this school is one of a kind in that regard,” he continued.

The freshman said his plan was to eventually earn advanced degrees in the fields in which ASCTE is giving him a robust primary education.

“The future of this world relies on technological advances, and I am excited to play a role in that innovation. Thanks to ASCTE, I will achieve these goals,” Thomas concluded.

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

3 days ago

New commission tasked with deciding what to do with the state’s soon-to-be-replaced prison facilities

(YHN, Pixabay)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday created a new commission that will examine how to best utilize the state’s prison facilities, several of which will be emptied in upcoming years as the state constructs three new prisons.

The current plan to build three new men’s prisons was covered by Yellowhammer News in an in-depth report earlier in September.

Officially titled the Alabama Prison Repurposing Commission, the governor’s new group will be chaired by Neal Wade, an economic development official who has worked for the State of Alabama in the past.

“As our Alabama Prison Program moves forward in building three new prisons… we will simultaneously need to smartly and safely repurpose or decommission these outdated, aging prisons,” Ivey said in a statement on Tuesday.

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The governor further explained that the new commission “will provide recommendations based on in-depth facility analysis considering both the impact on the state and local community as well the financial ramifications to potentially repurpose or decommission some of our current prison infrastructures.”

A release from the governor’s office says that some facilities may find another use within the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), while others may be best suited for a different public entity or the private sector.

Citizens will not see a report from the commission anytime soon. The governor has mandated a report be sent to state leaders by September 1, 2023, or 90 days after the Commissioner certifies to the Commission that construction on the final prison is complete.

The report is to include “recommendations for the future of each existing male prison facility.”

Members of the commission, per the governor’s office, are as follows:

Neal Wade (Chair) is the former director of the Alabama Development Office, the precursor to the Alabama Department of Commerce, and currently serves as the managing partner of Advanced Economic Development Leadership for the National Economic Development Education Program.

Sen. Greg Albritton is chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee and was elected to represent District 22 in the Alabama Senate, which includes Baldwin, Clarke, Escambia, Monroe and Washington Counties.

Ben Baxley currently serves as chief of the Opinions Division in the Alabama Attorney General’s Office. He previously served as the deputy chief of the Criminal Division in the office of the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama.

Ted Clem is the director of Business Development for the Alabama Department of Commerce. Clem joined Commerce in February 2014 as a senior project manager and played a key role in two projects in Opelika that involved $340 million in capital investment and nearly 400 new jobs.

Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison was elected to represent District 20 of the Alabama Senate, which includes Jefferson County. She previously served one term in the Alabama House of Representatives and three terms on the Birmingham City Council. She serves as the ranking minority member of both the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund and Governmental Affairs Committees.

Harold Crouch is currently the mayor of Chatom where he has served for 24 years. He was previously on the city council for two terms. He has also taught government, history and economics.

Darius Foster is the CEO and co-founder of H2T Digital. He received a BS in Business Administration from Miles College and a GC in Business Strategies for Social Impact from The Wharton School. He is a current member of the Board of Directors for the Business Council of Alabama as well as a former commissioner of the Alabama Commission of Higher Education.

Annette Funderburk is the President of Ingram State Technical College which serves a 100 percent incarcerated adult population that delivers career technical, GED and job skills training at six locations across Alabama. She previously served nearly 10 years within the Alabama Community College System where her most recent role was director of External Affairs.

Rep. Kelvin Lawrence was elected to represent District 69 of the Alabama House of Representatives which includes Autauga, Lowndes, Montgomery and Wilcox Counties. He serves on the Ways and Means General Fund and State Government Committees in the House of Representatives.

Merceria Ludgood currently serves as a Mobile County commissioner, District One, attorney and civic leader. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Alabama, followed by a Master of Arts degree. She earned her law degree from the Antioch School of Law An avid supporter of higher education, Ludgood is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including being selected for Leadership Mobile, Leadership Alabama and the prestigious Kellogg National Leadership Fellowship.

Walter Givhan, Maj. Gen., USAF (Retired) currently serves as senior vice chancellor for Advancement and Economic Development at Troy University. He is also the commander of the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education and vice commander of Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base. General Givhan, a native of Safford, Ala., graduated from Morgan Academy in Selma, Ala., and the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was a National Merit Scholar.

Allen G. Peck, Lt Gen., USAF (Retired) is an assistant professor in the Department of Airpower and General George Kenney Chair at the United States Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College (ACSC). He also serves as co-facilitator for the joint Air War College/ Air Command and Staff College Airpower Vistas Research Task Force joint elective. Peck served for 36 years on active duty in the USAF, flying the air-to-air and air-to-surface variants of the F-15.

Rep. Connie Rowe is the vice chair of the Majority Caucus in the House of Representatives. She also serves as vice chair of both the Rules Committee and Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. Representative Rowe was elected to represent District 13 of the Alabama House of Representatives, which includes Blount and Walker Counties.

Kyes Stevens is the founder and director of the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project at Auburn University.  Starting in 2001, she has worked to design and build an innovative and sustainable outreach program that works with the underserved adult prison population in Alabama.

Willie Williams, Lt. Gen., USMC (Retired) is a senior consultant and owner/president of Williams Consulting, LLC based in Huntsville assisting the Department of Defense-supporting contractors and industries in strategic business development. Williams previously served as the chief of the Marine Corps Staff, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C.

“This process will allow both public officials as well as members of the general public to have a meaningful voice in the future of our existing prison infrastructure,” concluded Ivey.

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

3 days ago

Black pro-life leaders gather in Montgomery, argue the next step for civil rights is ending abortion

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — A group of black leaders within the pro-life movement came together in Alabama’s capital city on Tuesday where they highlighted what they believe is racial prejudice among America’s abortion providers.

Speakers included Dr. Alveda King, an outspoken opponent of abortion and niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She and the other speakers said their fight to end abortions is the next step in civil rights for African-Americans.

All presenters who were able to make it to Montgomery in person signed the Equality Proclamation, which argues the location of abortion providers and other tactics used by groups like Planned Parenthood are racially discriminatory.

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The group believes, according to a document they disseminated, that “the targeted practices of Alabama abortion providers are both discriminatory and disproportionately harmful to black mothers and their babies.” The group further believes they have a case based on the 10th Amendment that would force state leaders to take actions against such prejudice.

To that end, the group is filing an emergency petition for a writ of mandamus with the Alabama Supreme Court that seeks to spur action from Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall.

King appeared at the event via a recorded video, explaining that her mother has recently come down with COVID-19, which prevented the pro-life advocate from traveling to Alabama.

She noted that 158 years ago President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Today, 158 years later, history will record that leaders of the Pre-natal nondiscrimination alliance, PRENDA, signed the Equality Proclamation,” King stated.

“My uncle worked for the civil rights of all of God’s children. After all the work he did I think his heart would be broken to see what is happening to unborn children in the United States of America,” she added.

“Denying personhood has always been used to justify killing,” said Walter Hoye II, founder and CEO of Issues4Life Foundation, in an attempt to tie the language of abortion advocates to that of American judges in the 19th century who decided slaves did not count as people.

Amie Beth Shaver spoke on Tuesday and referenced Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, saying Sanger did not believe in the human rights of all people. After defending Sanger for many years, Planned Parenthood has begun to walk back its ties to her after her beliefs in eugenics are getting more publicity.

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has thrown abortion access back into the American political spotlight in recent days, with many conservatives hoping President Donald Trump will select a jurist who shares the view of most Republican voters that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.

Montgomery attorney Sam McLure is the legal representation in Alabama for the pro-life leaders that assembled on Tuesday, and a staunch opponent of abortion himself. Yellowhammer News asked McLure what he thought of Judge Amy Coney Barrett and Judge Barbara Lagoa — the two candidates who observers say are the front runners to be Trump’s selection for the open SCOTUS seat.

McLure did not comment on Lagoa but said that Coney Barrett “has a track record of reverencing the personhood of humans at all stages of development.”

“I think that conviction is important for our country to be a land of justice, and I think it is long overdue, just like Dred Scott was long overdue to be overturned I think Roe v. Wade is long overdue to be overturned,” McLure stated.

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

4 days ago

Ivey creates STEM council to inform state on education, workforce development

(Governor Kay Ivey/ Contributed)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday created a new STEM council that will inform state leaders on matters of education and career preparedness as they relate to STEM.

STEM is an acronym of science, technology, engineering and math, and state leaders have long sought to more deeply integrate those subjects into the state’s education system and workforce development pipeline.

“The Alabama STEM Council will play a vital role in ensuring that our state’s future leaders have the opportunity to learn STEM-based skills that will help them transition into successful career pathways upon graduation,” Ivey, who created the council via executive order, on Monday.

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The governor explained that Alabama in recent years “has continued to grow into an advanced manufacturing, aerospace engineering and cybertechnology center of excellence and as a result, the demand for qualified labor in these sectors has skyrocketed.”

Dr. Neil Lamb, vice president for Educational Outreach at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, will serve as chairman of the Council.

“Our great state is home to several quality STEM-focused education and workforce initiatives. However, we lack a common system to weave these initiatives together into a network that reaches all learners across the state and expands the workforce pipeline,” said Lamb in a statement on Tuesday.

State Representative Terri Collins (R-Decatur) sponsored legislation during the 2020 session that would have created a similar STEM council. Her bill passed the House but was not taken up by the Senate due to the coronavirus pandemic shortening the session.

On Monday, Collins praised Ivey, saying, “I’m extremely pleased the governor is taking the lead with the Executive Order to form the STEM Council.”

“Having the math and science experts from Alabama set high quality standards and guiding student growth in achievement will make a positive difference. Thank you, Governor Ivey, for prioritizing education!” Collins added.

Deputy Commerce Secretary Ed Castile will be heavily involved with the STEM council, according to the governor’s office. Castile runs the Alabama Industrial Development Training Agency that focuses on workforce development across the state.

“With new tech companies developing, manufacturing moving to digital “smart factories” and numerous job opportunities that support these businesses, we must have a workforce that will meet the demands,” Castile remarked on Monday.

“The STEM Council will be crucial in working with K-12 education as they develop their STEM programs to align with Community Colleges and Universities to assist students move along the STEM pathways needed by our developing businesses,” he advised.

Per the governor’s office, the full membership of the STEM council is as follows:

  • Dr. Neil Lamb, vice president for Educational Outreach, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology
  • Dr. Charles Nash, University of Alabama System
  • Terry Burkle, Baldwin County Education Foundation
  • Dawn Morrison, Alabama State Department of Education
  • Charisse Stokes, Montgomery Chamber of Commerce
  • Dr. Vicky Karolewics, president, Wallace State Community College
  • Sheila Holt, AMSTI director, University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Liz Huntley, Lightfoot, Franklin & White
  • RaSheda Workman, Stillman College
  • Dr. Eric Mackey, state superintendent of education
  • Dr. Barbara Cooper, secretary, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • Jimmy Baker, chancellor, Alabama Community College System
  • Dr. Jim Purcell, executive director, Alabama Commission on Higher Education
  • Fitzgerald Washington, secretary, Alabama Department of Labor
  • Greg Canfield, secretary, Alabama Department of Commerce
  • Tim McCartney, chairman, Alabama Workforce Council
  • George Clark, president, Manufacture Alabama
  • Dr. Ken Tucker, president, University of West Alabama
  • Dr. Kathryn Lanier, STEM Education Outreach Director, Southern Research
  • Dr. Tina Miller-Way, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
  • Amy Templeton, president and CEO, McWane Science Center
  • Kay Taylor, director of education, U.S. Space and Rocket Center
  • Dr. Mary Lou Ewald, director of outreach, Auburn University College of Sciences and Mathematics
  • Paul Morin, Alabama SMART Foundation
  • Dr. Adreinne Starks, founder and CEO, STREAM Innovations
  • Dr. Calvin Briggs, founder and director, Southern Center for Broadening Participation in STEM
  • Josh Laney, Director, Alabama Office of Apprenticeship
  • Keith Phillips, executive director, Alabama Technology Network
  • Jimmy Hull, career and technical education director, Alabama State Department of Education
  • Sean Stevens, career coach, Alabama State Department of Education
  • Tina Watts, community investor, The Boeing Company
  • Daryl Taylor, vice president and general manager, Airbus America
  • K-Rob Thomas, power delivery general manager, Alabama Power
  • Dr. Lee Meadows, associate professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Dr. Tim Wick, senior associate dean, School of Engineering, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Dr. Robin McGill, director of instruction, Alabama Commission on Higher Education
  • Elisabeth Davis, assistant superintendent of the Division of Teaching and Learning, Alabama State Board of Education
  • Dr. Jeff Gray, professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Alabama
  • Dr. Cynthia McCarty, District 6 representative, Alabama State Board of Education
  • Dr. Andre Harrison, vice president, Cognia
  • Brenda Terry, executive director, Alabama Mathematics, Science, Technology, and Engineering Coalition for Education
  • Tammy Dunn, program director, A+ Education Partnership

The council’s first meeting will be in the next 90 days.

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

4 days ago

Air Force football to honor Tuskegee Airmen with new uniforms

(Air Force Football/Twitter)

The United States Air Force Academy this week unveiled new football uniforms honoring the Tuskegee Airmen that its team will wear on the field this fall.

The uniforms are part of the Air Power Legacy Series the academy began in 2016 that recognizes important parts of Air Force history.

The Tuskegee Airmen were airborne units made up of black service members who fought during World War II, a time during which the American military was still segregated. The squads were educated and trained near Tuskegee, Alabama.

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The new helmets are pictured on a plane that mentions Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. in script writing on the tail. Davis was the first black officer to solo an Army aircraft and later ascended to command the 99th Pursuit Squadron, America’s first all-black air unit.

(Air Force Football/Twitter)

According to the Air Force, the units that made up the Tuskegee Airmen were assigned the color red as an identifier, a decision that later produced the nickname “Red Tails” for the famous units.

One unit of Tuskegee Airmen, the 332nd Fighter Group, is credited with “flying more than 15,000 sorties and shooting down 112 enemy planes total” during WWII, the Air Force said in a release.

“The unit earned 96 Distinguished Flying Crosses and three Distinguished Unit Citations,” the Air Force added.

President Harry Truman desegregated the Armed Forces in 1948, and the success of the Tuskegee Airmen is often cited as one of the factors that led to that decision.

The Air Force provided more information on the uniforms, saying, “The chrome base gray helmet features the P-51 aircraft flown by the Tuskegee Airmen with signature red tails and nose that helped identify the squadron. The helmet features the four squadron patches for the 99th, 100th, 301st and 302nd. The pants feature an authentic stenciled information graphic on the side. The custom nameplate on the jersey says Red Tails, inspired by hand-lettered names painted on the side of the P-51 aircraft.”

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

5 days ago

Workforce development expert Dr. Brock Kelley appointed interim president of Lurleen B. Wallace Community College

(Alabama Community College System/Contributed, YHN)

Chancellor Jimmy Baker of the Alabama Community College System (ACCS) announced on Monday that Dr. Brock Kelley will serve as the interim president of Lurleen B. Wallace Community College (LBWCC).

Kelley comes to LBWCC after a string of prominent roles in workforce development across Alabama. According to a release, he has served as regional director of Workforce Development for ACCS, and as director of Workforce Development for the Alabama Department of Education.

According to the ACCS, a presidential search remains ongoing, the conclusion of which will relieve Kelley of his interim responsibilities.

“Brock’s experience marries the worlds of academics and workforce development, which is a tremendous asset to Lurleen B. Wallace Community College,” Baker said in a statement.

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Dr. Herbert Riedel served as president of Lurleen B. Wallace from 2009 to 2019. Since his retirement in September of last year, the institution was led in an acting capacity by Clay Helms for four months and then by Dr. Chris Cox in an interim capacity since January.

Lurleen B. Wallace Community College has campuses in Andalusia, Opp, Greenville and Luverne.

Word was not made public for the reasons why a switch in interim presidents was necessary, or on what the timeline is for a permanent selection.

Per the ACCS, Kelley has a “Bachelor of Science in Collaboration (K-6) and a Master of Science in Collaboration (6-12) from Troy University. He completed the Education Administration Endorsement at Auburn University-Montgomery and earned his Ph.D. in Adult and Continuing Education from Auburn University.”

“It is an honor to serve the Andalusia, Opp, Greenville, and Luverne communities in this capacity and I’m eager to hit the ground running to create the best possible experience for LBW’s students,” Kelley said on Monday.

Kelley will officially begin his role at the institution on October 1.

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

5 days ago

Former State Sen. Burkette pleads guilty to ethics violations; Sentenced to 12-month probation, $3K fine

(Alabama Democratic Victory/Twitter)

Former State Sen. David Burkette (D-Montgomery) officially entered a guilty plea on Monday on charges that he violated state campaign finance laws. He was sentenced to 12 months of probation and ordered to pay a $3,000 fine.

Burkette admitted taking $3,625 in donations his campaign for Montgomery City Council raised and depositing it into his personal accounts. The criminal behavior occurred between the spring of 2015 and January 2016.

“Personally profiting from campaign funds erodes public confidence in the system and will not be tolerated,” Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a release announcing the conviction.

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The offense to which Burkette pleaded guilty is classified by the State as a Class A misdemeanor, which has a maximum penalty of one year in jail with a fine of $6,000. Conviction of a misdemeanor does not legally necessitate expulsion from state office.

Burkette struck a deal with prosecutors in August, where he agreed to resign from the position he then held in the Alabama State Senate in return for leniency from prosecutors.

He will have to pay court costs in addition to his fine. Burkette was first elected to the Montgomery City Council in 2007 and served in that capacity until 2018, when he won a special election to represent Alabama Senate District 26.

The former official suffered a stroke during his time as a legislator and is now mostly confined to a wheelchair.

Marshall praised Assistant Attorneys General Jasper Roberts and Kyle Beckman as well as special agents of the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their work in securing the conviction on Monday.

As previously reported by Yellowhammer News, the Democratic primary to replace Burkette looks to be highly competitive. The primary date for that race is Tuesday, November 17.

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

5 days ago

AT&T gives $100,000 to Hurricane Sally relief efforts in Alabama

(AT&T/Contributed)

AT&T announced Monday that it is giving $100,000 to help the citizens of South Alabama recover from the destruction caused by Hurricane Sally.

The donation was given to the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund (GERF), a pool of money to which anyone can donate that the State sets aside for use in the wake of natural disasters.

“I appreciate AT&T for immediately mobilizing their employees and their resources to offer support to our citizens, first responders and communities,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement on Monday.

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The telecommunications giant also temporarily waived all overages in impacted areas, essentially giving unlimited talk, text and data to their customers in 195 Alabama and Northwest Florida zip codes from September 16 to September 23.

AT&T, along with all other major wireless carriers in the United States, has turned on a system that allows charitable giving via text message.

Anyone with a cellphone can text HURRICANES to 90999 which will trigger a $10 donation to the American Red Cross’ hurricane relief efforts.

Wayne Hutchens, president of AT&T Alabama, commented, “As our teams are working alongside their neighbors along the gulf coast to restore their communities, we are proud to support our first responders and organizations that are dedicated to helping our friends and families as they get back on their feet after the devastation of Hurricane Sally.”

The GERF, to which AT&T donated, is administered by the Governor’s Office of Volunteer Services and was created after Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina in 2004 and 2005, according to its website.

Any person with a credit card can donate to the Relief Fund here, via a portal made possible by the United Ways of Alabama.

“Even as we see tremendous suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally, we also see shining examples of commitment and care. This is a time for the entire state to rally behind the good people of South Alabama,” Ivey remarked on Monday.

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

1 week ago

Ivey tours battered Gulf Coast; Area officials say progress being made, ask for patience

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

MOBILE – Alabama Governor Kay Ivey toured via helicopter on Friday the parts of Alabama hit hardest by Hurricane Sally. She was accompanied at two different stops by several local officials who praised how the response had gone so far, but warned there was much work left to do.

The governor in public remarks called seeing the damage firsthand an “eye-opener,” saying the reality could not be properly conveyed by the news broadcasts she watched before traveling down on Friday.

“The damage is huge, our people are hurting,” she said of witnessing the destruction. “I’m sure it could be worse, but from what I’ve seen this morning in the flyover… it is really, really bad.”

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U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), who represents the hardest hit parts of the state, was praised by Ivey and several other officials for his work on the hurricane response at the federal level.

Byrne explained that large supplies of water and other necessary relief supplies had been stored by the federal government at an old Air Force base in Selma last week, out of the reach of the storm.

He added that the supplies were now being brought to the area as he spoke around noon on Friday.

Baldwin County bore the brunt of the damage inflicted on the state by Sally. As of 5:30 p.m. on Friday, over 100,000 households remained without electricity. “For Baldwin County this storm is worse than Hurricane Ivan,” said Byrne.

The congressman said he has met with officials at the White House and FEMA, and he said every relevant federal resource would be forthcoming.

As reported by Yellowhammer News earlier in the day, thousands of people from across the United States are pitching in to help restore power in Baldwin County.

Yellowhammer News, in traveling through Baldwin to get to the governor’s event, noted continued long lines at gas stations with many citizens filling up red gas cans once they got to the pump.

 

One of Baldwin County’s commissioners, Billie Jo Underwood, joined the governor during a briefing at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores.

“I want to stress that we need to continue to have patience,” Underwood told the public, urging those listening to follow signs put up by law enforcement and other first responders, who are working around the clock.

Underwood concluded by saying, “We are strong here in Baldwin County, we are resilient.”

The commissioner’s comments echoed Byrne, who said that Baldwin would have a full recovery, “but it won’t happen real quick.”

The governor said on Friday that her main mission for the day was to listen to local leaders to so she could best coordinate the state and federal response.

“We’ve already heard we need ice and water and food,” said Ivey.

Yellowhammer News spotted one church that was giving out free ice and had a long line with many interested.

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

One Baldwin County resident told Yellowhammer they had been forced to throw out all of their perishable food items, a situation the individual presumed was common in the area.

Across the bay in Mobile County the situation was far less dire, apart from the town of Dauphin Island which experienced a similar treatment to its counterparts on the Eastern Shore.

Around 37,000 households in Mobile County do not have electricity as of 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

“I’m proud to report the government is working here in Mobile County,” said Commissioner Jerry Carl on Friday, adding, “I’m proud to say politics have been pushed aside.”

Carl is the Republican nominee for Alabama’s Second Congressional District but did not mention his campaign for higher office on Friday.

He joined Ivey, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and a cadre of other local officials at a briefing at Dauphin Island’s city hall.

Stimpson said he wanted to join his fellow local officials in “thanking Governor Ivey and Senator Jones for their work.”

“We know the things that need to be done… We will come up with solutions,” remarked Stimpson.

Carl told Yellowhammer News after the official briefing ended that “getting the trees out of the yard and the power on is 99% of getting back to normal after a storm.”

“We are all used to that… we are Alabama tough,” Carl said of his neighbors on the coast.

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

1 week ago

Help pours in to South Alabama from across the U.S. as over 180,000 remain without power

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

GULF SHORES — Linemen have poured into Alabama’s Gulf Coast to help with the recovery from Hurricane Sally in recent days, as an all-hands-on-deck effort to restore power to the people in Alabama’s coastal area is underway.

According to Poweroutage.us, a site that tracks power outages across the United States, 185,598 households in Alabama are currently without electricity, including 123,453 in Baldwin County and 56,020 in Mobile County. Some providers are not tracked by Poweroutage.us so the total number may be higher.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said on Friday that, to her knowledge, 4,000 electric professionals had been sent to Alabama from other states.

“It is just neighbors helping neighbors and states helping states, cause nobody expected this storm to be as strong as it was,” remarked Ivey about the display of generosity.

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Mark Ingram, an executive with electricity provider Baldwin County EMC, told Yellowhammer News that in addition to the 90 linemen his company has working, 800 more are at the EMC’s disposal from a dozen other states including as far as Illinois and Texas.

Alabama Power Company tweeted that lineworkers from 14 states were assisting their crews on Friday.

As of 12:45 p.m. on Friday, Baldwin EMC had the most customers without power of any provider, followed by Alabama Power and Riviera Utilities.

“The real focus of our efforts is going to have to be here in Baldwin County,” U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (AL-01) said at a press conference on Friday. Byrne’s congressional district encompasses all of the hardest-hit counties in the state.

Byrne also cautioned that some amount of citizens may be without power for “a long time” due to the sheer number of trees that fell during the slow-moving Hurricane Salley.

Evidence of the all-out effort to restore power was evident along the main roadway through Baldwin County on Friday morning.

Yellowhammer News witnessed a procession of several trucks from Carolina Power, a company headquartered in Fayetteville, NC.

Help also came from Mississippi, as a shipment of new utility poles could be spotted in the parking lot of a closed bowling alley.

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

Giving a new light to the term SEC linemen, a shipment of more utility poles on a truck with license plates from Georgia was also spotted.

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

Yellowhammer News is on the ground in the Gulf Coast, so expect more updates later in the afternoon.

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

1 week ago

Winston Groom, beloved Alabamian and author of Forrest Gump, dies at 77

(C-SPAN/YouTube)

Winston Groom, Army veteran, Alabamian, and writer of the bestselling novel Forrest Gump, passed away recently at his home near Fairhope at the age of 77.

The Tuscaloosa News first reported the news of Groom’s death, citing confirmation from a local official with the City of Fairhope.

Groom was born in Washington, D.C., but spent most of his life in the Yellowhammer State. He spent his childhood in Mobile and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965.

While in Tuscaloosa, Groom was in the ROTC. Groom served in the U.S. Army after graduation, rising to the rank of captain and serving a combat tour during the Vietnam War.

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The author lived in both Washington and New York after leaving the armed forces, during which time he transitioned from journalism to authoring books.

According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, Groom returned to Mobile in 1985 at which point he began work on what would become his career-defining work, Forrest Gump, which published in 1986.

The book did not immediately leap off the shelves. It was the runaway success of the 1994 movie that catapulted Forrest Gump to the top of bestsellers lists across the nation.

As noted by many, Groom’s novel is quite different from the best picture winning film that made its central figure a pop-culture touchstone.

“Most writers never put a character into the popular imagination … but Winston did,” Don Noble, professor emeritus of English at the University of Alabama and a longtime friend of Groom’s told the Tuscaloosa News.

Groom was inducted into the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame in 2018, he is survived by his wife and a daughter.

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

1 week ago

U.S. DOT grants Tuscaloosa $15M for Riverwalk improvements

(Department of Transportation/Screenshot)

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that Tuscaloosa has received a $15 million grant to fund improvements to the Riverwalk area of the city.

The money will help pay for “Black Warrior River barge mooring improvements; a bicycle and pedestrian path; and a pedestrian bridge” over Jack Warner Parkway, according to the DOT.

The total estimated cost of the project is $20 million. The federal government’s investment will cover 75% of the cost.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) said in a release that he believes the grant “will provide important federal resources that will improve infrastructure and promote increased economic development opportunities in Alabama.”

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He also thanked Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao for her work on the matter.

Shelby’s Senate office advises that the “mooring improvements will allow the abandoned lock structure to be used for the construction of the shared-use path,” while “the bicycle and pedestrian path will run from the new pedestrian bridge to the existing riverfront park to the east, with lighting and security elements.”

The grant is from the Department of Transportation’s BUILD program, short for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development Transportation Discretionary Grants Program.

Shelby had a role in shaping the BUILD program in his role as the powerful chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

The Tuscaloosa grant, along with a smaller $450,000 grant to fund a transportation study in the Wiregrass region of the state, are part of a $1 billion nationwide investment by the federal DOT.

The Wiregrass study will examine the feasibility of widening two highways, including making State Road 167 between Enterprise and the Florida border a four-lane divided highway.

More details on the Tuscaloosa project and the Wiregrass study can be found here.

“Thank you Secretary Elaine Chao & U.S. DOT for including Alabama projects on this list to receive two major BUILD grants to improve infrastructure in Tuscaloosa, Coffee, Geneva & Dale counties!” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey wrote Thursday on her Twitter account.

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

1 week ago

Ivey updates on Hurricane Sally recovery, urges patience from those without power

(Gina Maiola/Governor's office)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday morning provided an update on the state’s recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sally. She urged citizens to remain calm and promised linemen were working at “warp speed” to get the power back on.

“Every resource that is available to the state will be available for the people of Alabama during their recovery,” the governor began.

Alabama Power said on Twitter that as of 11:00 a.m. Thursday morning, around 135,000 households were without electricity, mostly in the Mobile area.

Ivey on Thursday encouraged citizens not to attempt to fix downed power lines themselves, emphasizing the danger such an action presents to an untrained individual.

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“We’re still in the phase of rescue and recovery,” Ivey remarked about the Sally aftermath.

Media reports currently indicate that uncountable numbers of trees are down and roads are flooded in most counties south of Montgomery.

Ivey further advised that Alabama Power and PowerSouth had “armies” of people working to the best of their abilities to rectify current outages.

“Y’all I know it is uncomfortable and downright scary to be sitting in the darkness of your home without any lights, but please be patient,” Ivey admitted.

“These linemen will be working at warp speed to get your power restored,” she assured. “Patience will truly be a virtue, my friends.”

The governor said that she would visit the damaged areas as soon as her arrival “would not impede progress.”

Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Brian Hastings said that the state currently has one confirmed death from Hurricane Sally. Hastings said the U.S. Coast Guard saved 18 people over 24  missions.

According to Hasting, 130 people are currently in a Baldwin County shelter, with a few others in smaller shelters in Mobile County and elsewhere. He advised that those numbers change rapidly.

Hastings warned that flooding conditions in South Alabama will continue through the weekend.

Major General Sheryl Gordon, adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard, said they have rescued 35 people so far during recovery efforts. Five high-water evacuation teams are still working in Baldwin County, according to Gordon.

“We are in the business of helping our neighbors… The Guard is always ready,” she concluded.

Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Secretary Hal Taylor reminded the public that as little as 12 inches of water is enough to start moving cars.

ALEA also has swift water rescue teams ready for action, per Taylor.

“I’d like to remind everyone to stay at home the next day or so, give our first responders the time they need to prioritize the most critical needs,” Ivey concluded.

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

1 week ago

Ivey honors Alabama Truck Driver of the Year

(Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey this week honored Rosko Craig, who was recently named Truck Driver of the Year by the Alabama Trucking Association.

Craig, 50, pulled his rig right up next to the Alabama Capitol for the occasion and blasted his horn to celebrate the occasion.

The longtime trucker was chosen as Alabama’s best in part for driving 3 million miles without an accident.

“Rosko certainly has a positive attitude and a proven track record over his 20-plus-year trucking career,” Ivey said at the ceremony.

“I love trucking because it was a childhood dream of mine,” Craig stated. “I support my family, my wife, my son, my daughter, my grandson – they are my rock and my backbone. I couldn’t do this without them.”

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Craig’s boss, Rollins Montgomery, president of Montgomery Transport, remarked during the event that Craig represents the best of the trucking industry.

“I wish I had 100 Roskos working for the company,” Montgomery offered. “We’re so honored to be here today to celebrate and recognize his outstanding achievement. We are so thankful to have him on the Montgomery Transport team.”

The ceremony honoring Craig kicked off National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, which runs from September 13-19.

Mark Colson, president of the Alabama Trucking Association, believes that truckers often go unappreciated.

“[V]isit any grocery store, business, or medical facility in Alabama, and it becomes obvious that truckers move America,” Colson remarked.

“Most importantly, America’s professional truck drivers are committed to doing their jobs safely, because they too are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and friends and neighbors,” he added.

“Our hats go off to Rosko and all our truckers who keep Alabama moving!” Ivey concluded.

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

1 week ago

Huntsville biotech company that aims to increase diversity in clinical trials receives investment

(Acclinate Genetics/Contributed, YHN)

Acclinate Genetics in Huntsville received this week an investment from Birmingham venture capital firm Bronze Valley. The investment will help Acclinate advance its mission of increasing diversity in clinical drug trials.

According to a release from Acclinate, “Racial and ethnic minorities make up 40 percent of the U.S. population. But in clinical trials, minorities often account for as little as two percent of participants.”

The company says this can lead to many “commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals that are less effective or have negative side effects due to a person’s race and ethnicity.”

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Clinical drug trials are scientific research done on human subjects that evaluate whether a drug or other medical procedure is effective.

Acclinate adds that their business reduces the cost of clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies because they have a method of using machine learning and predictive analytics that helps identify individuals for inclusion in studies.

The clinical trial recruitment market is currently worth almost $3.5 billion and is estimated to increase in coming years.

Del Smith, co-founder and CEO of Acclinate, said he and his business “believe that diversifying genomic research and clinical trials to include more representation and diversity increases knowledge about health issues and makes a difference in personalized healthcare for all.”

Bronze Valley is a non-profit group that invests in tech companies founded by minorities.

Neill Wright, president and CEO of Bronze Valley, stated in a release that the investment in Acclinate is meant to go beyond helping them grow the business. Bronze Valley also wants “to encourage their vision for addressing critical economic and social needs.”

“Existing healthcare disparities in communities of color have been highlighted even more by COVID. Eliminating such chronic inequality is essential to creating a pipeline of economic opportunity and social progress,” Wright added.

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

1 week ago

Sample ballots available for every Alabama county ahead of November general election

(W.Miller/Pixabay)

For those looking to plan out how to vote in this November’s general election, the Alabama Secretary of State’s office has made sample ballots available for all 67 counties.

In addition to the presidential race driving headlines around the country, Alabama has a high profile U.S. Senate race between Republican nominee Tommy Tuberville and incumbent Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL).

The Senate race in Alabama will be impactful for which party controls Congress. The Republican Party is fighting hard to maintain its three-seat majority in the Senate.

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Voters who are unable to make it the polls on November 3, including any voter fearful of contracting COVID-19, can apply for an absentee ballot.

Citizens can also go to their county courthouse and vote in advance of the election until October 29, so long as they have a valid reason why they cannot be at the polls on Election Day. Those taking advantage of this option need to bring a photo ID with them.

Every Alabamian’s ballot will feature a yes or no vote on six amendments to the state’s constitution. More information on those amendments is available here.

One third-party presidential ticket qualified for the ballot in Alabama. Libertarian nominee Jo Jorgensen will be listed as an independent candidate for the nation’s highest office. Jorgensen is listed as independent instead of libertarian because no libertarian candidate received 20% of the vote in Alabama’s 2018 general election. Those wishing to support Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins or the quixotic campaign of hip-hop artist Kanye West must utilize the write-in option.

Alabama also has two of its U.S. House seats open in 2020. The two seats are for the districts representing the southeast and southwest corners of the state.

The majority of the remaining statewide offices have Republican nominees that are not being challenged by any member of the Democratic Party, though the Democrats are contesting the race for president of the Public Service Commission.

Click county name to access sample ballot:

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

2 weeks ago

Lynn Beshear is a 2020 Woman of Impact

Lynn Beshear has spent her whole career improving the conditions of those around her. Alabama is lucky she landed here.

Beshear was appointed in 2017 by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey to be commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health, a role that has required increasing levels of perspicacity and dedication as more and more Americans have gained appreciation for the role mental health care plays in a functioning society.

Calm, welcoming and intelligent, Beshear says she has a simple tenet to which she tries to adhere, “DWYSYWD: Do what you say you will do.”

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Beshear’s role with the state requires inordinate compassion and understanding of others. She told Yellowhammer News during a recent interview that a core principle of psychiatric care is, “What people perceive is happening to them is more important than what is actually happening.”

“Mental illness is messy, it just is, we have to recognize that up front,” Beshear said of her chosen field.

“If you don’t understand what is going on the natural inclination is to flee from it,” she added, acknowledging the stigma many still feel about diseases of the brain.

Beshear, a nurse by training, was educated at Wake Forest University and began her career at the Duke University Medical Center where she quickly became the head nurse of the Well-Baby Nursery.

She met her husband while working at Duke, and after a brief stint in Kentucky, the pair settled in Montgomery in the late 1970s. Beshear wasted no time in becoming a leader in her community.

In the ensuing decades, churches, schools, charities and civic organizations across the River Region have all seen Lynn Beshear grace their board of directors for at least one term. She has been involved in campaigns to prevent teen pregnancy and eradicate racial prejudice.

“I believe that without any of those experiences I would not be able to do what I am doing today,” Beshear remarked about her kaleidoscopic work history.

Ivey made Beshear one of her first appointments after assuming the governorship, indicating deep faith that her appointee’s longtime advocacy for the people of Alabama would be well suited for government.

“Through active participation in securing mental health services in the River Region, Lynn understands the complexities of the Department, and the importance of its work on behalf of the people of Alabama,” the governor said when making the appointment.

Beshear, who did not seek out the position, said she was honored to serve her fellow Alabamians.

The Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) has 1,316 employees and receives about $1 billion in funding per year from a mixture of state and federal sources. It has almost 300 provider agencies and 97% of its expenditures provide direct mental health services to the people of Alabama.

While at the head of ADMH, Beshear has spearheaded efforts like the Stepping Up Initiative to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in jail.

According to publicly available annual reports, the department directly helped 151,463 individuals last year.

“Service to others is not easy, if you’re looking for an easy job this would not be it. You have to really care, it is hard work,” Beshear told Yellowhammer about her position.

The department, under Commissioner Beshear’s leadership, last year opened an Autism Services program to better serve Alabamians with Autism spectrum disorder and their families.

The commissioner is currently working with state leaders to build three new mental health crisis diversion centers to better handle emergency mental health cases around the state.

In addition to being a high profile public servant and prominent member of her community, Beshear is also a mom and grandmother. She and her husband, Robert, have three adult children and five grandchildren.

In her interview with Yellowhammer, Beshear frequently conveyed pieces of wisdom she has found useful throughout her life.

Beshear at one point advised that “the only behavior you can change is your own,” perhaps giving a peek into the mindset required to frequently come up against tough mental health care decisions without falling into despair.

“We cannot take on the blame of the world for things that are not our responsibility,” she offered with respect to her job.

“Always be truthful and consistent with what you say and how you treat people,” Beshear told Yellowhammer when asked what piece of advice had remained true across the many facets of her career.

“Your word needs to be your bond,” she added.

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Commissioner Lynn Beshear a 2020 Woman of Impact.

WATCH:

See the full interview here

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through September 30. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

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

2 weeks ago

Coastal Growers building peanut shelling facility in Escambia County, creating over 100 jobs

(Pixabay)

The agriculture company Coastal Growers is planning to invest $87 million to build a peanut shelling facility near Atmore that will employ over 100 workers.

News of the project was announced by the office of Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday morning.

“We are excited to be able to announce this project today, to bring peanut shelling to south Alabama, and to bring economic benefit to the hard-working farmers of our state who so desperately need it,” said Paul Turner, attorney for Coastal Growers, in a statement.

Turner said the facility plans to have around 100 full-time employees making at least $17 an hour, with more positions open during the busy times of the year.

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“The Coastal Growers facility in Atmore will become a vital resource for peanut farmers in Alabama and beyond by helping to make their operations more sustainable and profitable,” Ivey said.

Atmore is located just northeast of Baldwin County and sits adjacent to the border between Alabama and Florida.

Coastal Growers is a company owned by farmers in the general vicinity of where the shelling facility will be built.

“This facility will be owned by the farmers that use it, and they’ll keep those profits themselves,” advised Mark Kaiser a farmer from Baldwin County.

He added, “That’s good for both the farmers and for the immediate area, because the money will just keep turning over locally.”

Construction of the peanut shelling plant, which will be over 400,000 square feet, will be handled by Hollis and Spann, a contractor in Dothan led by Glenn Spivey.

Alex Jones, a banker with ties to the project, said the plant was financed by a mixture of “New Market Tax Credits, incentives and traditional financing.”

“We have farmers from one side of the state to the other who are involved in this, in Florida and Mississippi as well, and even up the state into the Sand Mountain area,” Jones remarked.

“[I] t’s going to mean a lot for our region, for Atmore, for Escambia County and our state,” he promised.

Governor Ivey concluded, “I look forward to seeing the impact that this project is going to have for our farmers and for the region.”

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

2 weeks ago

Ivey designates $10M for ad campaign to boost Alabama tourism in wake of pandemic

(Gov. Ivey/Flickr)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced that $10 million will be spent on a new advertising campaign to help the state’s tourism industry recover financially from the coronavirus pandemic.

The money comes from the $1.9 billion Alabama received as part of the federal government’s CARES Act, passed in March to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and the precautions it makes necessary.

Alabama Tourism Department Director Lee Sentell said the money “will allow the Alabama Tourism Department to generate a marketing campaign aimed at potential guests from outside the state.” Alabama’s normally robust tourism and travel industry has been severely impacted by the effects of the pandemic,” he added, noting his thanks for Ivey’s decision.

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Sentell says his department “will work with tourism professionals in all 67 counties and feature their top assets to bring visitors back.”

A comment on Monday from Ivey appeared to indicate the campaign will, in part, communicate that it is safe to visit any attraction in Alabama that is open to visitors.

“I am pleased to award these well-deserved dollars to an industry that has been hurting so that people can feel confident that they can be safe when visiting Alabama destinations,” Ivey remarked.

Coronavirus-induced declines in tourism, and the resulting dearth of revenue from lodging taxes, has caused an especially big impact on the budgets of many cities across the state.

“COVID-19 has taken a hit on our society, but that does not change the fact that Alabama has so much to offer. We look forward to helping our tourism industry grow, come back stronger and welcome visitors for years to come,” concluded Ivey.

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