The Wire

  • Fmr US Rep Jo Bonner named Kay Ivey chief of staff as Steve Pelham takes job at Auburn University

    Excerpt:

    In a move that had been rumored for the last few weeks, former U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner has assumed the role as chief of staff for Gov. Kay Ivey.

    Last November after Ivey was elected to a full term, Bonner was named a senior adviser to Ivey.

    Bonner is replacing outgoing chief of staff Steve Pelham, who will become Auburn University’s vice president for economic development and the chief of staff to Auburn University President Steven Leath.

  • Historic Inauguration Day in Montgomery heralds continued growth for Alabama

    Excerpt:

    It was a day of celebration, unity and tremendous optimism as Governor Kay Ivey and other statewide elected officials were officially sworn into office on Monday.

    The weather played into the symbolism of the occasion, as a cold, overcast day – a storm almost certainly imminent – gradually became sunnier and sunnier as the afternoon pushed on, much like the outlook of the state under Ivey’s steady guidance.

    Political insiders and everyday Alabamians from every nook and cranny of the state gathered in front of the Alabama State Capitol steps for the inauguration ceremony, which began promptly at 10:00 a.m. From the state’s richest man to the single mom who checked her little girls out of school just to see Ivey’s historic oath of office, it was a day that transcended the lines that divide us.

    Because Ivey’s inauguration message of “Keep Alabama Growing” is a theme meant for all. It is a message of hope – that even a little girl from Camden, Alabama can rise to be duly elected as the state’s chief executive through hard work and perseverance.

  • Ivey orders flags lowered to half-staff to honor fallen police Sgt. Wytasha Carter

    Excerpt:

    Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff to honor Birmingham Police Sgt. Wytasha Carter, who was killed in the line of duty on Sunday.

    “I am directing flags be flown at half-staff as a mark of respect for Birmingham Police Sergeant Wytasha Carter who was killed in the line of duty early Sunday, January 13, 2019,” Ivey said in a statement. “Sergeant Carter laid down his life protecting the people of Birmingham, and the entire state of Alabama mourns this tremendous loss.”

14 hours ago

Andy Andrews to host special leadership event in Orange Beach

(Andrews/Facebook)

Renown author, speaker and Alabama native Andy Andrews is planning to host a leadership conference in Orange Beach this year.

Andrews’ event, The Traveler’s Summit 2019, is set for March 9 and includes several guest speakers.

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In addition to being a sought-after speaker and host of the Alabama-based podcast The Professional Noticer, Andrews has written the New York Times bestsellers The Traveler’s Gift and The Noticer. And his thought-provoking How Do You Kill 11 Million People?: Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think is on Yellowhammer News’ list of Alabama-authored books to read in 2019.

The theme of Andrews own speech at the conference is “The Leader’s Secret Weapon.”

A recent email to subscribers outlined the topics he planned to cover:

Have you ever fully considered the difference in a boss and a leader? Have you lately experienced a hint of personal or professional frustration? Do you know how to build upon the success you’ve experienced in your life thus far? Have you marked your map…are you ready to move quickly to the next level?

Do you even have the map…? At The Traveler’s Summit, Andy will explain in simple terms a hidden truth about leadership that will slightly shift your focus…and profoundly change your results.

Tickets for the event can be purchased at AndyAndrews.com.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News.

2 days ago

Mural art exhibit commemorates Alabama history as part of state’s bicentennial

(Dan Bynum/Alabama NewsCenter)

Artist historian Dean Mosher has created nine murals to celebrate Alabama’s bicentennial.

The Eastern Shore Art Center opened an exhibit of the murals Jan. 4, including the unveiling of two of them to the public. The exhibit can be viewed at the Fairhope center through Feb. 23.

The “Battle of Fort Mims” and “Tribute to the Merchant Marine” are the new additions that join Mosher’s previous murals that pay tribute to the founding of Fairhope, the University of Alabama, Alabama’s veterans and other historic moments.

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For more information, visit https://esartcenter.org/.

Other exhibits at the Eastern Shore Art center include:

–“Magic City Shines” group exhibit of Birmingham artists Eric Johnson, David Joseph Self (Deep Fried Sugar), Chiharu Roach and Dan Bynum.
–Pottery by Rezner Pottery showcasing handmade stoneware pottery out of clay dug just outside Fairhope.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 days ago

Maori Davenport has been ‘consulting with God’ throughout AHSAA ordeal

(USA Basketball)

Throughout USA Basketball and Charles Henderson High School star Maori Davenport’s ongoing saga with the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA), she has leaned on her faith to carry her through and find the silver lining in a trying time.

Davenport’s mother explained in a Facebook post, “I have always told Maori to glorify God with her talents, and she will never go wrong.”

She added, “Even though it seems that her world is turned upside down. She is still consulting with God! What more can a mother ask for!?!”

The basketball phenom’s mother also shared a heartwarming text message exchange between the two.

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Circuit Judge Sonny Reagan, who presides over Pike and Coffee Counties, on Friday issued a temporary restraining order against the AHSAA, meaning Davenport will at least temporarily be able to play again.

The TRO came hours after the Davenport family filed a lawsuit against the AHSAA.

The association, which deemed the star player in Troy ineligible for her senior season, has been heavily criticized by national media and sports figures, as well as members of the Alabama State Legislature.

Davenport is eligible to play in Friday night’s home game against Ozark’s Carroll High School. She will continue to be eligible to play pending a hearing in Reagan’s courtroom. A hearing date has yet to be set.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

Swinney on connection with mentor from Atmore: ‘This is how God works through the game of football’

(FOX Sports Southwest/Twitter, YHN)

Dabo Swinney delivered a powerful message at the award ceremony named in honor of Paul “Bear” Bryant.

In front of a bronze statue of the legendary Alabama football coach, Swinney recalled the providential meeting he had with former Tide assistant coach Woody McCorvey.

“This is what the game of football does,” remarked Swinney. “This is how God works through the game of football.”

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In his speech, Swinney shared the story of how the two men met and mapped out the connection that has always existed.

“So Woody McCorvey’s from Atmore, Alabama, Highway 31 which runs all the way through the state of Alabama,” Swinney explained. “He’s from Atmore, Alabama. I’m from Pelham, Alabama. Highway 31, that’s the only road I knew my whole life until they built I-65 through Pelham sometime when I was in middle school.”

“Football brought a guy from Atmore, Alabama together with a young guy from Pelham, Alabama and we meet up at the University of Alabama,” continued Swinney. “He came to Alabama with Gene Stallings, and I’m a young sophomore in 1990. He became my position coach and then he is very instrumental in me getting into coaching, he and Coach Stallings.”

When McCorvey became the first African-American offensive coordinator in the history of the University of Alabama, McCorvey elevated Swinney to serve on his staff.

“Fast forward to 1996, and he’s the offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama, broke down a barrier, and he wants me to be his receiver’s coach,” Swinney recalled.

Swinney went to work for McCorvey that year, and the two men have shared a special bond ever since.

“You don’t know how impactful Woody McCorvey has been in my life,” Swinney said. “If you don’t think football matters, are you kidding me? Highway 31 and the little pigskin brought these two men together and he’s been a best friend and a father to me in life.”

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News.

6 days ago

Red Tail Scholarship Foundation honors legacy of Tuskegee Airmen

(Red Tails Foundation/Instagram)

Alabama has for more than a century reveled in its role in America’s aviation history.

The nation’s first civilian flight school started in Alabama. The state’s Air Force and Army bases have always been essential to the nation’s national security. Some of the most enduring advances in aviation and aerospace technology have occurred within the borders of the state.

Perhaps the Yellowhammer State’s greatest contribution to aviation history is the Tuskegee Airmen.

And it is in their honor that an Alabama non-profit is providing scholarships to African-American high school and college students that have an interest in working in the aviation industry.

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The Red Tail Scholarship Foundation seeks to provide opportunities for African-American students in all areas of the aviation industry through funding, resources and mentorship.

The foundation is named after the Tuskegee Airmen who were known as the “Red Tails” because of the paint scheme on their planes.

The group desires to see increased participation of African-Americans in the industry as pilots, aeronautical engineers, airframe and power plant mechanics and avionics technicians.

Foundation co-chairman Maj. Richard Peace explained the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen is that of excellence and opportunity.

“Being the best at what you do will always create opportunity,” said Peace.

Not surprisingly, “Red Tail” success stories have begun to pile up.

When Col. William Sparrow, also a foundation co-chairman, sought the first candidate, a trusted friend and fellow pilot suggested Torius Moore.

Moore is a Tuskegee University triple-major getting degrees in aerospace engineering, physics and mathematics.

Moore has a keen awareness of the legacy left by the Tuskegee Airmen and what that means to him.

“I’m walking the same footsteps as they are,” said Moore. “So I want to continue the tradition by going even further. I know they broke a lot of barriers. I want to be one of the Tuskegee Airmen who was an astronaut.”

Scholarship recipient Jasmine Smith is a mechanical engineering major at Tuskegee University. Her interest in aviation began in an unexpected fashion.

“My love for flying started back in high school when I was accidentally placed in an aerospace class,” Smith said. “Some of my classmates and I went to work a booth showing off our school engineering program at the Blue Angels Airshow and, surprisingly enough, though I was thoroughly impressed with the Blue Angels, it was the opening act of the WWII re-enactment that amazed me.”

Smith also understands the lasting impact the Tuskegee Airmen had on aviation and American history.

“When someone says ‘Tuskegee Airmen,’ my first thought is that this is a very big legacy,” said Smith. “I want to continue the excellence by breaking boundaries in the aerospace industry not only as a female but as an African-American female and keep doing things that only help me become a better engineer and a pilot.”

In addition to carrying forth the legacy of the Red Tails, Peace and Sparrow both emphasize that careers in aviation will have their own benefits.

“There are so many great opportunities inside aviation, great careers that can sustain you for a lifetime,” said Peace.

Sparrow adds, “Aviation careers have excellent pay, they are essential to our economy and the tip of our national security spear.”

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News.

3 weeks ago

How faith, Alabamians’ generosity brought about the ‘best Christmas’ for this Birmingham-area family

(Jonathan McKinney/Contributed)

A story of faith in God and trademark Alabama generosity has led one Birmingham-area family to receive the “best Christmas gift” they ever could have asked for.

Jonathan McKinney explained to Yellowhammer News that the tale began to take shape about two months ago, when he and his wife were at their weekly Sunday life group meeting at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church, where they have been active ever since moving to the area from the Shoals in June of 2014.

On this fateful fall Sunday, the McKinneys shared with the group that their son Jon Andrew, who has special needs, was having trouble with getting up in the middle of the night, which puts him in physical danger because of his condition.

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Jon Andrew has Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS), which is a rare, severe form of epilepsy that begins early in life. McKinney told Yellowhammer News that this presents with his son suffering from multiple seizure types, including grand mal and absence seizures.

Grand mal seizures result in the loss of consciousness, which can lead to serious and even fatal falls. This is why Jon Andrew wears protective headgear during the day. However, nighttime is a different problem, as the boy’s life is at risk anytime he wanders around without protection for his head.

Yet, given his condition, Jon Andrew does not understand this risk and cannot mitigate it himself.

“Jon Andrew is about a 14-month-old developmentally,” McKinney explained. “He’s a 13-year-old trapped in the mind of a baby, really. So, he is non-communicative. We’re still changing diapers and things like that. And that’s not me complaining or anything, that’s just a part of our life.”

And, as babies need cribs and other protection to keep them safe while sleeping, Jon Andrew has special needs of his own for nighttime – specifically, a specialized bed designed to keep him from getting up and wandering in the middle of the night while keeping him comfortable.

However, the necessary type of bed starts at about $10,000 retail, leaving Jon Andrew’s parents feeling “stuck.” They had come up with a temporary mesh-tented bed but knew they needed a long term answer to keep him safe.

Which is why at the Sunday life group meeting this fall, the McKinneys shared their need and prayed earnestly for a solution.

In an immediate reply, their faith payed off. Two members of their life group, Stephen and Anita Jackson, knew the very person for the job: Stephen’s dad, Travis Jackson.

“Little did we know that God would answer our prayer that night,” McKinney said.

Travis has worked in upholstery, woodworking and carpentry the majority of his life. In recent years, and primarily due to his own grandson’s respective special needs, he began to make rehabilitation equipment for other kids, becoming a go-to specialty craftsman for Huntsville Hospital and other hospitals in the state.

When Stephen and Anita shared this need with Travis, he took on the McKinneys project free-of-charge and truly made it his own, just like Jon Andrew was his own.

Travis came over within a week of the life group meeting to meet with the family and discuss their needs. From there, a plan and design for the project was made.

On two sides of the bed, half-inch-thick plexiglass was needed and eventually procured from a company in Pelham. The rest of the materials were gathered by Travis, with Anita’s dad, Tom Davidson, also pitching in some specialty material through his own work.

Through this family’s collective work and Travis’ craftsmanship, what would have cost well over $10,000 only saw the McKinneys paying for materials.

“Mr. Jackson spent, I would say, 20-40 hours over the last couple of months putting this bed together in his shop. And then taking it apart, bringing the pieces to our house and putting it back together again,” McKinney outlined.

He continued, “That was just the thing that was over the top for us: here’s a guy that we did not know – and that did not know us – that because his grandson has special needs and because he’s been touched by other people, other families that have special needs kids, he felt that a part of his personal ministry was to be able to provide us with something like this.”

Just in time to usher in joy for the McKinneys, the bed was completed days before Christmas, with Jon Andrew now able to enjoy newfound bliss during the night. And just like the entire project, the final installation was a family affair, with the McKinneys and multiple members of the Jackson family coming together to help Travis put the pieces in place.

“We got to talk and spend time together and know each other,” McKinney said.

The answer to the McKinneys’ prayers, the Jacksons have built not just a bed, but something that no-one could ever put a price on.

“Jon Andrew is sleeping a lot better, he’s…” McKinney reflected, trailing off as he started beaming thinking of the impact the bed has had. “He outwardly just loves it, smiling and having a big time. He’s really sleeping well, and it’s a huge blessing to our family.”

Not only is it helping potentially save Jon Andrew’s life and aiding his sleep, but the new bed is giving the entire family – the parents and Jon Andrew’s two little brothers – a better night’s sleep and overall peace of mind, too.

“We can sleep a lot better knowing that Jon Andrew is safe,” McKinney advised.

He emphasized that for he and his wife, with their deep faith coming first in life, “this, like everything, was a God thing.”

“This was the best Christmas gift for our family,” McKinney said.

He also stressed that it was not just a function of his and his wife’s own faith but of the Jacksons’, as well. As McKinney detailed, if everyone answered callings and lived out their ministries like Travis, it would feel like Christmas year-round.

“We’re very thankful for Travis and Carolyn Jackson. We’re grateful for Stephen and Anita and their boys. We’re grateful for our life group and our church. We’re grateful for a God who cares about our needs, hears us when we pray, and answers us in His perfect timing,” McKinney said.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 weeks ago

Review: Sorkin’s Broadway adaptation of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ doesn’t betray Harper Lee’s novel, definitely worth seeing

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

NEW YORK – Many feared for the worst when news broke earlier this year that an Aaron Sorkin stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” would be opening on Broadway.

In this highly polarized political environment, I shared a suspicion that the Coastal elites behind this production would use Lee’s classic novel to perversely attack President Donald Trump or advance the latest hot-button left-wing cause du jour.

Yet, the temptation to go and find out what form this might take, however, was too much for the Alabamaphile in me to pass up.

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So, ticket in hand, I set one rule for myself. Given my political leanings and general disgust for liberal virtue-signaling, I avoided reading the reviews from the professional Broadway watchers and media types.

Why is this presentation of Harper Lee’s signature work important? Obviously, there is the “To Kill a Mockingbird” cult following. More importantly, the novel and its companion “Go Set a Watchman” are important historical documents for the State of Alabama. Lee’s works are, to date, the best offering of life in rural 1930s and 1940s Alabama.

How would entertainment industry heavyweights like screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, producer Scott Rudin and lead actor Jeff Daniels disseminate that history to the tens of thousands who will see this production?

According to the Los Angeles Times’ Nardine Saad, Sorkin’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” has already grossed a record of nearly $1.6 million after its first full week and has an advance of more than $22 million in ticket sales.

Getting to this point wasn’t that easy for Sorkin and producer Scott Rudin. Back in March, Harper Lee’s estate sued Rudin. Lee estate attorney Tonja Carter raised concerns that the script deviated too much from the novel, and thus was in violation of an original agreement to put the story on Broadway.

In the end, the two sides quietly settled their dispute and nine months later, “To Kill a Mockingbird” opened at the Sam S. Shubert Theatre on West 44th Street in midtown Manhattan.

The 7 p.m. day-after-Christmas showing at the theater was a full-house affair, as are most of the shows from now until April. The show isn’t the usual out-of-town fare for tourists you might see at the nearby theaters showing “Frozen” or “Phantom of the Opera.”

The idea of “To Kill a Mockingbird” on Broadway for some may conjure a notion of a musical. Rest assured, Scout and Jem are not singing show tunes in this adaptation.

For the most part, the intellectual integrity of Lee’s novel remains intact. To fully appreciate this show, one would have to be familiar with the “To Kill a Mockingbird” story, which on its own is complex. Sorkin’s version is not chronological, and it isn’t entirely told from the viewpoint of protagonist Scout Finch, the narrator in Lee’s novel.

Sorkin takes his liberties with some of the characters. Calpurnia, the Finch family housekeeper, played by actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson, is much more of an outspoken critic of the racially divided society in Maycomb, Alabama, the setting for the story.

Dill, played by actor Gideon Glick, takes a slightly different form from the character portrayed in the novel and in the 1962 “To Kill a Mockingbird” film. He is more of an older version of Truman Capote than the childhood friend who is believed to be Lee’s basis for the character of Dill.

The hero of the tale Atticus Finch is played by Jeff Daniels, who has reinvented himself as more than just the guy from “Dumb and Dumber” over the last decade. At times, it is a struggle to watch Daniels, who hails from Michigan, pull off a southern accent. Otherwise, his portrayal of Atticus Finch, very much different from Gregory Peck in the 1962 film, works for this setting.

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ lead actor Jeff Daniels signs autographs outside Shubert Theatre, 12/26/2018 (Jeff Poor/YHN)

It’s a respectable and professionally done production, as one should expect for any major Broadway show.

As for going out of the way to make a grand proclamation about current affairs, Sorkin does not do that. Antagonist Bob Ewell doesn’t put on a “Make America Great Again” ballcap or anything like that.

Sorkin, however, does make Bob Ewell, played by Frederick Weller, a more hateworthy figure, this time as anti-Semitic, in addition to being drunk and racist.

Other than these few wrinkles, Sorkin is true to Lee’s original story in the “To Kill a Mockingbird” novel. It has comedic elements, but they’re not over the top and don’t detract from the seriousness of the story.

However, one can’t help but wonder if Sorkin was using the end of the play to lay out a different path for Atticus Finch than what was in Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman,” which for some of the theatergoers tainted Harper Lee’s legacy.

If you are planning a trip to New York City and were on the fence about seeing it, it’s worth seeing. It is sure to be more thought-provoking than the bulk of the Disney-ified offerings currently showing on Broadway.

It is not an indictment of modern-day Alabama, nor of conservatives or who conservatives elect. Given American pop culture in 2018, that’s saying something.

On a side note:

As with any of these Broadway spectacles, there are “To Kill a Mockingbird” souvenirs available for purchase at the theater, but this list comes with one curiosity.

In addition to “a portion” of the proceeds from the sales going to the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville, “Trayvon Martin” and the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center also receive a share.

Souvenir price list at the ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ showing on Broadway (Jeff Poor/YHN)

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

3 weeks ago

Sixteen must-read books by Alabama authors

(Amazon)

With 2019 just around the corner, many of us are starting to map out our New Year’s resolutions, lists of goals and annual plans.

Reading more books seems to be a perennial goal for many people, but where to start? Well, if you’re an Alabamian, here are 16 books by Alabama authors — broken down into a handful of different categories, depending on what you’re looking for — that could get your year started off right.

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Faith

Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt

When David Platt wrote this New York Times Bestseller in 2014, he was pastor of Birmingham’s Church at Brook Hills.

From Multnomah: “In Radical, David Platt challenges you to consider with an open heart how we have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. He shows what Jesus actually said about being his disciple — then invites you to believe and obey what you have heard. And he tells the dramatic story of what is happening as a ‘successful’ suburban church decides to get serious about the gospel according to Jesus.”

How to Be a Man: Pursuing Christ-Centered Masculinity by Rick Burgess 

From YM360: “Manhood is in crisis. In the majority of our churches, men make up the minority of regular attenders, and many of the men who show up on Sunday mornings are disconnected from the work and life of the church. How can men become who God wants them to be? And what does it even mean to be a man anyway? The truth is that it’s impossible to be a man without grounding your definition of manhood in the person of Christ… Using 8 core characteristics, this devotional experience will challenge men to exemplify these in their own lives as they passionately pursue a Christ-centered manhood.”

The Daniel Dilemma: How to Stand Firm and Love Well in a Culture of Compromise by Chris Hodges

From Thomas Nelson: “Christians today face a dilemma: in a world that seems to reject everything we believe, how do we walk closely with God without caving to pressure or alienating those we hope to reach? In this eye-opening new book, Chris Hodges, pastor of Alabama’s Church of the Highlands, provides a solution by examining the life of the prophet Daniel, who persevered in a corrupt culture that closely resembles our own—and emerged as an influential force in God’s redemptive plan.”

Classic Novels

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

From Grand Central: “The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Alabama town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.”

Forrest Gump by Winston Groom

From Vintage: “The modern classic that inspired the beloved movie starring Tom Hanks. Six foot six, 242 pounds, and possessed of a scant IQ of 70, Forrest Gump is the lovable, surprisingly savvy hero of this classic comic tale. His early life may seem inauspicious, but when the University of Alabama’s football team drafts Forrest and makes him a star, it sets him on an unbelievable path that will transform him from Vietnam hero to world-class Ping-Pong player, from wrestler to entrepreneur. With a voice all his own, Forrest is telling all in a madcap romp through three decades of American history.”

Sports

Called to Coach: Reflections on Life, Faith and Football by Bobby Bowden

From Howard Books: “In this New York Times bestseller, legendary coach (and Alabama native) Bobby Bowden gives readers an inside look at the path that led him to become one of college football’s most successful coaches.”

Game of My Life by Mark Murphy

From Sports Publishing: “Several prominent Auburn football players of the past share their fondest single-game experience and memories. Some of these games involve championships, while others seem ordinary save for extraordinary personal meaning. In each case, it is the player who singles out the game, the moment in time that to him is the most defining of his Auburn Tiger football career. Each player has his own unique story, but together they weave a tapestry of Auburn’s legendary history.”

The Storm and the Tide: Tragedy, Hope and Triumph in Tuscaloosa by Lars Anderson

From Sports Illustrated: “On April 27, 2011, a powerful tornado ripped through the heart of Tuscaloosa, Ala., leaving 53 dead and a path of unimaginable devastation. In the aftermath, Alabama coach Nick Saban and his football team went out into the community, sharing its grief and aiding in the recovery. Together they forged an unbreakable bond, and in a place where Saturdays are dedicated to Crimson Tide football, ‘Let’s play for Tuscaloosa’ became a rallying cry, an emotional touchstone that transcended the playing field.”

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip into the Heart of Fan Mania by Warren St. John

What is it about sports that turns otherwise sane people into raving lunatics? Why does winning compel people to tear down goal posts, and losing, to drown themselves in bad keg beer? In short, why do fans care? In search of answers, Warren St. John seeks out the roving community of RVers who follow the Alabama Crimson Tide from game to game. Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer is not only a hilarious travel story, but a cultural anthropology of fans that goes a long way toward demystifying the universal urge to take sides and to win.

Hometown Heroes

Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, legendary NASA engineer based at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center

From Random House: “One of the most beloved bestsellers in recent years, Rocket Boys is a uniquely American memoir. A powerful, luminous story of coming of age at the end of the 1950s, it is the story of a mother’s love and a father’s fears, of growing up and getting out. With the grace of a natural storyteller, Homer Hickam looks back after a distinguished NASA career to tell his own true story of growing up in a dying coal town and of how, against the odds, he made his dreams of launching rockets into outer space come true.”

Send the Alabamians: World War I Fighters in the Rainbow Division by Nimrod Thompson Frazer

From the University of Alabama Press: “Send the Alabamians tells the remarkable story of a division of Alabama recruits whose service Douglas MacArthur observed had not ‘been surpassed in military history.’ The book borrows its title from a quip by American General Edward H. Plummer who commanded the young men during the inauspicious early days of their service. Impressed with their ferocity and esprit de corps but exasperated by their rambunctiousness, Plummer reportedly exclaimed: ‘In time of war, send me all the Alabamians you can get, but in time of peace, for Lord’s sake, send them to somebody else!'”

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington

In one of the most famous autobiographies in American history, Booker T. Washington tells the remarkable story of his rise from a childhood of slavery to a life of extraordinary accomplishment. He earned a wide range of titles along the way, from author and educator to entrepreneur and presidential advisor.

Current Events

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson 

From Spiegel & Grau: “A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time,” Bryan Stevenson of Montgomery, Alabama’s Equal Justice Initiative. This No. 1 New York Times Bestseller will soon be a major motion picture starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx.

Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House by Cliff Sims

 From St. Martin’s Press: “The first honest insider’s account of the Trump administration, due out January 29. Sims stood with the President in the eye of the storm raging around him, and now he tells the story that no one else has written―because no one else could. The story of what it was really like in the West Wing as a member of the President’s team. The story of power and palace intrigue, backstabbing and bold victories, as well as painful moral compromises, occasionally with yourself. Team of Vipers tells the full story, as only a true insider could.”

How Do You Kill 11 Million People?: Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think by Andy Andrews

From Thomas Nelson: In this New York Times Bestseller, “Andy Andrews [shows] that good answers come only from asking the right questions. Through the powerful, provocative question, ‘How do you kill eleven million people?’―the number of people killed by the Nazi German regime between 1933 and 1945―he explores a number of other questions relevant to our lives today.

Career Advice

 Climbing the Hill by Amos Snead and Jaime Harrison

From Yellowhammer News’ Sean Ross: “For young people seeking careers in public service or politics, it is often the lessons learned outside of the classroom that make the difference between success and failure. Now, one Alabama native is providing a guide to help aspiring politicos find their way.” In Climbing the Hill, Alabama native Amos Snead has co-written a book chock full of advice and insight for anyone seeking a career in the political arena.

3 weeks ago

Five-year-old Alabama boy named one of 2018’s five most influential people

(Huckabee/YouTube)

A five-year-old Alabama boy who made international news earlier this year for his passion for feeding the homeless has been named one of the five most influential people of 2018.

Austin Perine, a Prichard native who lives in the Birmingham area, was given this honor this week by CNN, who wrote about how the boy “captured the hearts of fans around the globe as video of him handing out chicken sandwiches to the homeless was shared millions of times on social media.”

Perine’s story was covered by Yellowhammer News in the spring, and the inspirational young Alabamian also appeared multiple times on Yellowhammer Radio.

CNN noted that since they aired Perine’s story in July, he has visited 15 cities to spread his now-iconic message: “#ShowLove.”

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“A little boy on a big mission, he trekked as far as San Juan, Puerto Rico,” the network explained.

“It’s been an awesome experience to make people smile, carrying something on that started with 25 chicken sandwiches,” Austin’s dad, TJ Perine, told CNN.

TJ Perine said he cried in Detroit, when Austin received resounding applause at a homeless and recovering addicts shelter. The staff even wore Austin’s #ShowLove t-shirts.

“It was remarkable,” Perine commented. “He is an all-American kid who is an inspiration.”

Austin’s big year also included a letter from Lebron James, an appearance on Steve Harvey’s national television show and front row seats to a Miami Heat game.

“We are honored and thankful for all the opportunities we’ve had this year,” Perine said.

Austin’s favorite activity – when he is not being a red-caped superhero, of course – is reportedly hitting the mat as part of a local wrestling team.

“I like who I am, I never want to change,” the five-year-old told CNN, as a matter of fact.

“We hope he doesn’t. The world needs more people like him,” the network concluded.

The Perines also discussed making this prestigious list with NBC 15, who revealed that Austin’s fifth birthday was just this week. As they celebrated Christmas, the family also reflected on the spirit of the season, which Austin is intent to spread year-round.

“True happiness is when you know your child is becoming a good person,” TJ Perine outlined.

“It’s important to show love to the homeless because love is the answer,” Austin added to NBC 15.

The boy spent the morning of his birthday doing what he loves most: passing out food to the homeless.

His father says it makes him proud every time Austin puts a smile on someone else’s face.

“It warms my heart to know the city of Mobile is proud of Austin and that he has made a difference throughout the entire world for people who needed hope,” Perine shared.

While this honor might be a cherry on top of a whirlwind year, Austin is not nearly done yet.

“Merry Christmas and year-five is going to be better,” he emphasized.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 weeks ago

Athens police officers deliver gifts to children on Christmas Day

(City of Athens, Alabama/Facebook)

Children in Athens received a special treat this year for Christmas as Athens police officers played the role of Santa Claus.

Each year, officers at the Athens Police Departement drive around and deliver donated toys to kids in the community, and this Christmas was no different.

The officers handed out hundreds of toys, including soccer balls, footballs, board games, stuffed animals and hats, to many boys and girls.

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Officer Mickey Hart said some people were nervous and confused to see him show up, but were surprised to see him giving out gifts.

“It takes a lot of stress off of them knowing that we’re not there for some other reason. We’re just there to kinda help brighten up, especially with it being as cloudy as it is, trying to bring a smile on Christmas,” Hart told WAFF.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

3 weeks ago

Florence restaurant wins ‘Bama’s Best Breakfast’ competition

(Simply Southern TV/Facebook)

The winner has been crowned in Simply Southern TV’s “Bama’s Best Breakfast” competition, which concluded before Christmas.

Hosted on the television show’s Facebook page, Staggs Grocery proved to be the fan favorite, racking up over 1,400 votes in the contest’s final round. The runner-up, Big Bad Breakfast, received 772 votes.

“If you want to see the best the world has to offer of Renaissance art and architecture, you go to Florence, Italy. And if you want the best Alabama has to offer for breakfast? Well, you visit Florence, Alabama — home to the winner and runner-up in ‘Simply Southern TV’s’ Bama’s Best Breakfast contest,” a press release announcing the winner began.

As the winner, Staggs Grocery will receive a plaque and $300, along with being featured in the fifth season of Simply Southern TV.

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This popular eatery has been a family-run, Florence staple since 1936. Legends have been told of its biscuits with chocolate gravy, which is only served on Fridays until 10:30 a.m. It is also the place to be for comfort food classics like a pork-chop biscuit. Then, for a stick-to-your-bones breakfast, try the three egg, three meat omelettes.

In comparison, Big Bad Breakfast is a relative newcomer to downtown Florence. The restaurant is open daily, 7:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The contest started December 10 and pitted eight restaurants against each other in a bracket-style tournament.

The other top eight restaurants were:

Ray’s Restaurant in Dothan — semifinalist
Tater’s in Luverne — semifinalist
Chris Z’s in Birmingham
Biscuit King Cafe in Fairhope
Walters’ Gas & Grill in Opelika
The Waysider in Tuscaloosa

The Bama’s Best Breakfast competition is sponsored by the Alabama Wheat & Feed Grain Producers. Simply Southern TV is a production of the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Farmers Cooperative. The show airs Sunday mornings on broadcast channels across the state and Wednesdays at 5:00 p.m. central on RFD-TV. For more information about the show, click here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 weeks ago

Zeigler: The birth of Christ changed the world

Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” At least, that is what the song claims. Is it, though? I choose to believe that it can be.

In this busiest of seasons, people take joy in helping others. There are toy drives and food drives; there are visits to nursing homes and hospitals. We reach out and help the unfortunate. We show our concern for each other in countless ways at Christmas because that is the focus of Christmas — showing Christ’s love.

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When God sent Jesus to the earth in the form of a helpless infant, He demonstrated the unfathomable depth of His love for us. Even knowing that Jesus would be rejected and mocked and eventually killed, God still willingly sent His precious son. When we share ourselves with those we love, and especially with those we do not know, we are celebrating Christmas in its most real sense.

We celebrate Christmas with gifts, lights, music and feasts. When we remember the one small child whose birth changed the world, we celebrate the most wonderful time of the year in the best possible way — by sharing God’s love with a hurting world.

Jim Zeigler has been Alabama State Auditor since January 2015.

4 weeks ago

Annette Shelby to be appointed to Kennedy Center advisory committee

(Sen. Richard Shelby/Instagram)

The White House announced on Wednesday that Dr. Annette N. Shelby, the wife of United States Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), will be appointed by President Donald Trump to the prestigious Advisory Committee on the Arts of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Senator Shelby expressed his pride in his wife’s latest honor and her lifetime of exemplary service.

“I am very proud of my wife, Annette, for her nomination today by President Trump to be a member of the Kennedy Center Advisory Committee,” Shelby said. “She spent her career as an academic, teaching at both the University of Alabama and Georgetown University for more than 30 years. Annette has been widely recognized for her distinguished career of teaching, research, and service. She has worked diligently to earn this honor.”

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Lauded as a “key” post by the White House, the Kennedy Center’s Advisory Committee on the Arts is a national board appointed by the president of the United States. Members are chosen for their knowledge of and experience in the arts. They act as ambassadors to their home states on behalf of the Kennedy Center and its national education and outreach programs. The Advisory Committee on the Arts also advises and consults with the center’s board of trustees and makes recommendations regarding existing and prospective cultural activities to be carried out by the Kennedy Center — the nation’s preeminent and official “National Cultural Center.”

Dr. Shelby is a native of Kinston, which is located in Coffee County. A current resident of Tuscaloosa, she is widely known for her dedication to academia and the public welfare. Shelby earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in speech from the University of Alabama in 1960 and 1962 respectively and her Ph.D. in speech from Louisiana State University. She has since been awarded a Doctor of Humanities degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The Alabama grad began her academic teaching career at her alma mater in 1971, working there until her husband was elected to Congress in 1979. At that time, she began a storied tenure at Georgetown University, where she achieved the historic distinction of being the first woman to become a tenured full professor in the university’s McDonough School of Business. In 1991, she was named Professor Emerita. She also has been a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh and the Helsinki School of Economics and a director of both the Georgetown graduate and undergraduate programs at Oxford University.

Her long and illustrious career has been recognized by numerous teaching, research and service awards, including the Leavey Award for Excellence in Private Enterprise Education, the Danforth Association Program Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Joseph F. LeMoine Award for Undergraduate and Graduate Teaching Excellence.

Shelby’s service awards include the University of Alabama’s Julia and Henry Tutwiler Award and Georgetown University’s Ronald L. Smith Distinguished Service Award. She also is a fellow and distinguished member of the Association for Business Communication.

Shelby has held fundraising responsibilities for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington. She also has worked on behalf of the March of Dimes in Washington and been a member of the Honorary Advisory Committee for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and the Honorary Advisory Board for the National Osteoporosis Foundation. She was a member of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Healthy Women 2000 Advisory Committee.

She also has been an active member of the Tuscaloosa County Mental Health Board and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Board. Shelby is a member of the University of Pittsburgh Global Studies Board of Advisors, the Stillman College Board of Trustees and the University of Alabama President’s Advisory Board.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 weeks ago

Prayer at Fultondale Full Moon Bar-B-Que goes viral (VIDEO)

(M. Jefferson/Facebook, CBS 42/YouTube)

As Christmas quickly approaches, a prayer captured on camera at an Alabama restaurant has gone viral, gaining national attention for its powerful message about faith and overcoming life’s obstacles.

In a video posted by Maria Jefferson Monday that already has over 75,000 views, the owner of the Full Moon Bar-B-Que franchise in Fultondale, Tony Teichmiller, can be seen leading the restaurant staff in prayer. For, Teichmiller this is reportedly a daily routine.

Jefferson shared that she went to the restaurant to get lunch, but God told her to go inside instead of using the drive-thru.

What she witnessed inside did not disappoint.

Watch:

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“I was waiting on my order, look at GOD…. GOD YOU ARE REAL,” Jefferson wrote in the Facebook post accompanying the video.

In a post since the original video took off, Jefferson added, “God you are Awesome. This is not about me or the owner of Full Moon Its for you to get All the Glory!!!!”

CBS 42 caught up with Teichmiller for an interview, with the owner providing background on how crucial a role faith plays in his daily life and business practices.

“I say it all the time, it’s not really about food and beverages, it’s about God and people. We feel like if we get the God part right and the people part right then the rest of it falls into place, and that’s exactly what’s happened here,” Teichmiller said.

He advised that prayer has always been rooted in his business. In fact, the land was prayed over before his Full Moon franchise was even built.

Like Jefferson, he also stressed that this is all about giving glory to God.

“It truly is not about me, and people that know me well know it’s not about me. I’m not a great businessman. I’m not a great restaurateur. But I put it in His hands, and as I’ve said He’s faithful. He tells us that in His word,” Teichmiller emphasized.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 weeks ago

Alabama family wins ABC’s ‘Great Christmas Light Fight,’ $50K prize

(The Great Christmas Light Fight/Facebook)

Two brothers in Etowah County blew the nation away during Monday night’s episode of “The Great Christmas Light Fight” on ABC, with the duo from a small Alabama community taking the $50,000 prize back to their uniquely lit home.

For Ballplay’s Mike and Donnie Gilley, the extraordinary Christmas light display is not just an annual tradition. This family affair ensures their father’s legacy continues to burn brightly, and with the televised appearance, has allowed the entire nation to see the Gilleys shine.

The late J.C. Gilley, who passed away in 2002, put together each fixture with lights and welded metal over a 20-year period, adding a new distinctive touch year-after-year from materials he had around the home. Since then, Mike and Donnie have not only kept their father’s work going, they have continued to add more and more over the past sixteen years.

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“It seemed like everywhere I looked there was another moving piece,” Carter Oosterhouse, one of ABC’s judges, said on the show that aired Monday night.

Oosterhouse highlighted the attention to detail, and the creativity the late Gilley put into crafting the figures that people in the Gadsden area have enjoyed since the 1980s.

“People say, ‘Well, he must have been an engineer,’” one of the Gilley brothers told the judge. “He probably didn’t have more than an eighth-grade education.”

Between their father’s quiet genius and the brother’s commitment to his legacy, the Gilleys beat out three other impressive family displays from across the United States. Their display included two spinning footballs, spinning Christmas trees, dancing figures, a Noah’s ark with a rainbow, an Easter tomb and a Nativity scene with moving parts.

The sons cried recounting their father’s craftsmanship.

“He would be thrilled his display would be shown to the whole country,” Donnie said.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 weeks ago

Alabama WWII vet receives high school diploma at age 92

(WAFF 48/Twitter)

For members of the Greatest Generation, age really just is a number.

As reported by WAFF, a World War II veteran in Jackson County graduated from high school on Monday at the age of 92.

Sam Tipton could not graduate 75 years ago because he was serving the country. Fast forward to 2018, and a moving ceremony was held for this special graduate at Scottsboro High School, where he received a resounding standing ovation.

In an interview with WAFF, he called the graduation the third biggest event in his life.

“Number one: when the good Lord saved me. Number two was a wonderful wife for 65 years,” Tipton said.

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Tipton was not drafted, however, he still got into World War II at the age of 17 when a family member signed the papers saying they approved.

“I loved the Navy better than I did any other branch of service. I like them white sheets so I had to quit school and join the Navy,” Tipton explained.

The State of Alabama now approves for diplomas to be given to citizens who leave school to serve the country in the armed forces. That was a welcome surprise to Tipton when he stopped by his local veteran’s office recently.

“I thought I’d done past all of it but he asked me would I like to get it, and I said yes,” Tipton shared.

Then, school officials confirmed Tipton’s records, setting up Monday’s main event. He may have been on stage over 70 years late, but for this Alabama hero, there is no better time than the present.

Tipton urged seniors in the audience to get their diplomas as well, but added that college probably was not in his future.

“No, I don’t think I will at 92. I think I will just live the rest of it out on the farm,” Tipton concluded.

Watch the full report here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 weeks ago

Birmingham’s Highlands Bar & Grill featured on list of America’s best eateries

(Highlands Bar and Grill/Facebook)

Birmingham’s Highlands Bar & Grill has capped off a historic year by being named to a list of the “100 Best Restaurants in America.”

Perhaps the most prestigious aspect of being featured on the extensive list, which was compiled by OpenTable, is that it was generated solely by real diner reviews. The list also represented a diverse cross-section of restaurants from coast-to-coast.

Highlands was Alabama’s lone representative on the list, with OpenTable’s chosen snipet highlighting its service, food and signature drinks, while calling the restaurant a “must visit.” 

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This adds to Highlands’ year of incredible accolades.

In 2018, the French-inspired southern restaurant took home the most outstanding restaurant honor at the James Beard Awards, while Highlands’ Dolester Miles won the award for the most outstanding pastry chef.

Then, Robb Report named executive chef and owner Frank Stitt’s restaurant one of “The 30 Most Influential Restaurants of the Last 30 Years.”

Star Chef Mike Lata praised Highlands in Robb Report’s rundown, saying Stitt has “paved the way for new Southern cooking.”

The Birmingham eatery was also named to Eater’s 38 Best Restaurants in America list recently.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 weeks ago

Four restaurants competing for ‘Bama’s Best Breakfast’ title

(Simply Southern TV/Facebook)

Four breakfast joints remain in the quest to earn the title of “Bama’s Best Breakfast,” with the competition semifinals taking place on Monday and Tuesday.

The first semifinal match-up pits Tater’s Restaurant in Luverne against Staggs Grocery in Florence. This matchup is taking place on Monday.

A second Florence establishment – Big Bad Breakfast – will compete Tuesday in the semifinal round against Ray’s Restaurant in Dothan. Semifinal winners will move on to the final round, which will take place on Thursday.

You can vote at Simply Southern TV’s Facebook page here. To vote, click the gif of your preferred restaurant. Only one vote per Facebook account is allowed.

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The winner of Bama’s Best Breakfast will receive $300 and a plaque, along with the chance to be featured in Simply Southern TV’s fifth season.

Eight restaurants were selected for the competition based on a bevy of nominations received through comments on the Facebook post announcing Bama’s Best Breakfast contest.

(Contributed)

Final tallies from first-round matchups were as follows:

Dec. 10 –
Tater’s Restaurant in Luverne – 615 votes
Biscuit King Cafe – 214 votes
Dec. 11 –
Big Bad Breakfast in Florence – 358 votes
Walters’ Gas and Grill in Opelika – 270 votes
Dec. 12 –
Ray’s Restaurant in Dothan – 343 votes
The Waysider in Tuscaloosa – 179 votes
Dec. 13 –
Staggs Grocery in Florence – 405 votes
Chris Z’s in Birmingham – 326 votes

Bama’s Best Breakfast is sponsored by the Alabama Wheat & Feed Grain Producers.

Simply Southern TV is a production of the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Farmers Cooperative. The show airs Sunday mornings on broadcast channels across the state and Wednesdays at 5 p.m. central on RFD-TV. For more information, click here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 month ago

Valor’s Voice helps Alabama veterans visit National World War II Museum

(S. Ross/YHN)

NEW ORLEANS – Two days before Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and on the day of President George H.W. Bush’s funeral, two Alabama World War Two veterans and their families got to visit the National World War Two Museum, thanks to the passionate work of Marshall County-based Valor’s Voice.

For the nation, it was a day when politics as usual seemed to take a break. But in this place that commemorates the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation, there is never a left vs. right divide. It is a place that takes you back to a time when there was only right vs. wrong – a time when the very fate of the world hung in the balance.

Yellowhammer News was on hand with the group from Alabama in New Orleans to cover the emotional trip, which started Tuesday evening with an explanation by Valor’s Voice founder and CEO Adam Ragsdale on what the organization does and why it does it.

Along with Ragsdale, WWII veterans Richard “Dick” German and Jack Pritchett, members of their families and two veterans serving as “chaperones” made the journey.

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Valor’s Voice

The mission of Valor’s Voice is to ensure America never forgets what happened during the Second World War, premised on the three pillars of “Remembering, Restoring and Reuniting.”

Ragsdale said of the first tenet, “We think remembering is intentional.”

He explained that his daughter is a high school senior in Guntersville and only had a page and a half reference to the war in her history class.

“That was it,” Ragsdale lamented. “And, so my fear is that it’s going to be forgotten. I think if you’re not intentional about remembering, that’s what happens.”

So, while WWII veterans are still able, Ragsdale has made it his mission to bring them down to the museum as often as his organization can, starting with this maiden trip.

“We also do reunions,” Ragsdale added. “Plus, we archive stories for posterity.”

For Ragsdale, as one of the two chaperones phrased it, this is a “labor of love.”

And it has to be. Ragsdale is unpaid and overworked (he works a full-time job at Boeing in Huntsville while serving as pastor of a church in Gadsden as he runs Valor’s Voice by himself) but is also just about the most enthusiastic, caring organizational leader you will find in the state.

He reflected on the genesis of the organization, sharing that both of his grandfathers had been WWII veterans. While Ragsdale was able to hear about one of their experiences before he passed, Ragsdale said that he wished his grandfathers’ stories, memories and lessons could have been catalogued for future generations. From that thought, Valor’s Voice sprung.

The organization’s work could not come at a better time, too. Soon, if these stories are not captured, they will be lost forever. Veterans of the Second World War are passing away at an all-too-rapid rate, with survivors all being over the age of 90 now.

Eventually, in the next several years, the museum trips will transition from veterans to either middle or high school students from Alabama. But, until then, Ragsdale is eager to honor them and ensure their stories will live on well beyond their time on earth.

Visiting the museum

After settling into a hotel three blocks away in the Warehouse District on Tuesday evening, the group got to the National World War Two Museum ten minutes before it opened on Wednesday morning, eager to see as much as possible of the extraordinary multi-building complex that fills a city block and then some.

We were greeted by the sounds and sights of construction, with a new mega-addition to the museum starting to stretch towards the Louisiana sky already. Then, once inside, Pritchett and German, the two WWII veterans, received greetings befitting of their status as American heroes.

For those, that have not been, the museum entrance is styled to look like a typical 1940’s train station in which America’s veterans would have departed their hometowns to join the war. For Pritchett and German, entering the museum was truly like taking a trip back in time.

Adam Ragsdale addresses the group before they toured the museum. (S. Ross/YHN)

After the introductory stop past the museum entrance, Pritchett and German parted ways to embark on their own tours, matching the uniqueness of their experiences in the war.

Pritchett, who served in the Army’s 737th tank battalion, known as “Patton’s Spearheaders,” survived the Battle of the Bulge.

German was a submariner in the Navy during World War Two and, after getting an aerospace degree following that war, reenlisted as a fighter pilot to serve his country once again in Korea.

His first stop on his museum tour was the Boeing Center, which focuses on the various aircraft used in the war, as well as featuring the USS Tang Submarine Experience on the ground floor of the US Freedom Pavilion.

On the way from the Boeing Center to the Solomon Victory Theater, where we would experience the 4-D “Beyond All Boundaries” journey, German was stopped by a woman whose father had served in the war. She made German’s day, as well as his wife’s.

Such a simple display of appreciation by the woman made an extraordinary difference, with the gleam in German’s eye and the smile on his face telling the story more than words ever could.

A little bit later, Pritchett had an experience with admirers, as well.

At lunchtime, the group attended a special Christmas performance by the Victory Belles at the replica BB’s Stage Door Canteen. In between singing Christmas classics, the Belles brought Pritchett on stage, where they serenaded him and sent him back to his seat with significantly more lipstick on his cheeks.

When asked later that day whether he enjoyed that recognition, Pritchett immediately responded, “Oh lord, yeah.”

While these stand-out moments of recognition were gratifying, the entire experience was powerful for the veterans and their families. Because, at the end of the day, the museum and Valor’s Voice are shows of appreciation and respect to them. And even those closest to the veterans – their wives, children and grandchildren – said they did not nearly understand what they went through before the trip to New Orleans. Nor had they seen how it affected them.

“We’ve never seen him choked up like that,” two of Pritchett’s family members remarked afterwards.

Through alternating smiles and tears, laughter and hugs, Valor’s Voice brought these two families even closer together as Pritchett and German look back on the 77th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

They were quick to compliment the “incredible,” “wonderful” Ragsdale for making this trip of a lifetime possible.

Where are we headed?

With reflection, too, comes perspective. As Ragsdale told Yellowhammer News the evening after the trip to the museum, America is at a pivotal point and the next generation of leaders must not forgo the lessons of the Greatest Generation.

He also said he was happy with the maiden trip and that he was already planning another one for Memorial Day.

“I just worry that we’ve got a generation that’s never going to know, they’re just not. And so, I think for me, this trip has validated the need to be very intentional with remembering moving forward,” Ragsdale outlined.

“Even the families, they said that over and over today – that they didn’t understand the scope of it. That, ‘he’s never really talked about it,'” he added.

It also gives context to the difference between that era and Americans today.

One WWII veteran from south Alabama even told Ragsdale one time that two men in his hometown died by suicide because they could not serve in the war.

“Because they couldn’t go,” he emphasized. “Just contrast that now with trigger warnings and safe spaces, and I don’t know what the answer is to make us have that mindset again. To go from that generation, who came out of the Depression with absolutely nothing – and again, you just don’t think about this stuff, [the veterans] were saying that all the deer pre-World War Two had been killed off because people needed to put food on the table so badly…. it’s little stuff like that. And now the biggest thing is does somebody have on a cap that offends me. That’s how different the 18-22 year-olds in recent generations have become.”

Ragsdale continued, “I don’t know. But my hope is that you can expose them to this perspective – if they are able to see why they get to use their freedom this way, who paid the price for them to live in a country that’s accepting of them, even if it’s goofy and even if it’s crazy.”

This was driven home by Mr. Pritchett, who recounted to his son how the trip had affected him emotionally.

“You know, when you’re at war and you’re 18 or 19 and you see medics working on your friends who’ve been blown all over creation, they’re carrying bodies out by the dozens, you just don’t think about mortality. But, I realized today that I’ve lived a good life. I’m in my 90’s. I was here with my son, my grandchildren and people that love me. And people have been shaking my hand all day. While my friends are still buried over there. They didn’t get a life. They didn’t get a college degree and a career and wives and kids and grandkids,” Pritchett outlined, saying it just hit him all of a sudden, some 73-plus years after the war ended.

Ragsdale remarked, “For those guys to have a moment with their families, where their families say, ‘That’s what it costed, that’s what it costs – when he was agitated when I was growing up, that’s why. When he would go quiet around Memorial Day, that’s why.”

“These guys being here today, as the last World War Two president is being buried, was truly special,” he concluded.

How you can help Valor’s Voice

While this maiden trip was a success, Valor’s Voice needs the help of Alabamians to get as many trips funded and completed in the next few years as possible. The next such trip, where veterans and loved ones will visit the museum in New Orleans around Memorial Day, is quickly approaching.

So far, Ragsdale said he has four more WWII veterans already lined up, with the hope of taking 20-30 total people on that upcoming trip. He is also expanding the opportunity to Gold Star Wives – those whose husband served in the war.

“We want to do this as much as we can,” Ragsdale advised. “It’s lit a fire with me again… and watching that today, while we can get them here, we’ve got to get as many as possible.”

If you feel so inclined, you can donate to Valor’s Voice here. Their work is 100 percent funded by everyday people and businesses across Alabama, with zero percent of donations going towards administrative costs or salaries.

Also, if you know of a veteran who served in WWII, you can contact Ragsdale so the veteran’s story can be archived and he can work on getting that veteran plugged into an upcoming trip. Valor’s Voice also archives stories of veterans from other eras, while helping with veterans in need that suffer from PTSD, ALS, problems with the VA, etc.

On this Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, it is good to know that Alabama veterans of World War Two are not being forgotten. And as long as organizations like Valor’s Voice are around, we will never forget.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 months ago

Nominations being accepted for ‘Bama’s Best Breakfast Joint’

(Simply Southern TV/Facebook)

Alabama is well known for its Southern hospitality and cooking, and now one contest will attempt to crown the best of the best when it comes to the Yellowhammer State’s breakfast joints.

“Breakfast — It’s the most important meal of the day, and ‘Simply Southern TV’ wants to know which local restaurant butters your biscuit by serving up the state’s best breakfast,” a release from the Alabama Farmers Federation announced.

From coffee shops, downtown diners or donut dives, Alabamians can now nominate their favorite local breakfast spot in the Bama’s Best Breakfast Contest.

To make a nomination, simply comment on the Facebook post here. Comments must include the respective establishment’s name and city.

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Please note that Bama’s Best Breakfast seeks to promote Alabama-based restaurants, so national chains will not be eligible. However, specific locations of Alabama-based chains will be eligible to compete.

Nominations close November 29 at 1:00 p.m. The top eight nominees will be ranked in a bracket and then compete in daily head-to-head matchups from December 10-20.

The winner, which will be announced December 20, will receive a $300 cash prize and a commemorative plaque, along with being featured in the fifth season of “Simply Southern TV.”

This contest is sponsored by the Alabama Wheat & Feed Grain Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation. “Simply Southern TV” is a production of the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Farmers Cooperative. It airs on Sunday mornings in each media market across the state.

UPDATE, Tuesday, Nov. 27: Only two days remain to nominate your favorite local breakfast spot.

“A lot of restaurants in the state have received one or two nominations, and a handful have pulled away from the rest of the group. But, we’re still looking for a few restaurants to round out the Top 8,” “Simply Southern TV’s” Mary Johns said in an email.

She added, “To ensure your favorite makes it into Bama’s Best Breakfast bracket, comment on the Facebook post for Bama’s Best Breakfast with the restaurant name and city.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 months ago

Heroic Tuscaloosa tow truck driver receives national medal for heroism after rescuing baby from burning car

(Bambarger Wrecker Service Inc./Twitter, Facebook)

While André Harris gave God all of the credit when he rescued a baby from a burning car back in July, it was Harris who was recognized on the national stage this weekend for his incredible act of heroism.

A few months ago, Yellowhammer News highlighted Harris’ bravery, and his inspiring testimony, after his now-famous act of courage.

On Saturday evening in Baltimore, Harris was awarded the American Towman Medal in a ceremony at the American Towman Show, according to the tow service that Harris works for in Tuscaloosa, Bambarger Wrecker Services.

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Bambarger noted that the prestigious medal honors “some of the most amazing acts in the annals of human rescue.”

The company’s post added, “Indiana Jones and Superman have nothing on the American Towman. The Medal Ceremony has evolved over the years into the March of the Heroes.”

You can read Yellowhammer News’ original article on Harris’ incredible story here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 months ago

Where is your theology? An internal political assessment

(Contributed)

With the conclusion of the 2018 midterm elections, I have one question, specifically for the faith-based community: Where is your theology?

If you conduct a quick Google search you will find out the word “theology” means “the study of the nature of God and religious belief.” If theology is the study of God, then how does an individual apply theology in the real world? How does what we know about our theology affect our personal and political views? Conceivably, what we study becomes a part of our outlook, infiltrates our system of thought and helps to shape our day-to-day life.

According to the Pew Research Center (PRC), 80 percent of United States adults believe in God, 56 percent believe in the God of the Bible and 33 percent of those surveyed believe in a “higher power,” but not the God of the Bible.

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Whether we want to admit it or not, much of what we believe, and the way in which we vote, has to do with our religiosity. The majority of individuals surveyed by the PRC claim to believe in a god. Of these individuals, 84 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of people with no political party leaning consider religion to be either a “very” or “somewhat” important part of their life. Our study of God, mainly the God we serve or do not serve, influences our morals, values and belief system. And most assuredly, what we believe impacts how we vote.

Therefore, to my Democratic, Republican and independent friends, family and colleagues, I say again, where is your theology? We live in a cultural climate that is not uncommon to man. Division has always seemed to creep into our institutions. Hate has always run marathons across our landscape. Racism has always plagued our societies like a never-ending disease. With these difficult realities in mind, I say again, where is your theology? We should not be surprised by what we see in our nation or our world. Division and dissension are a part of mankind. Trouble will always find its way into the hearts of man, and bad things will always happen as long as this Earth exists. The question now becomes: What should our response be?

Should it be to treat your neighbor as yourself and to show mercy and compassion, love and respect, gentleness and kindness? Should your response be to be of good cheer when you face trials and tribulations because your joy does not come from things of this present age? Should your response be to let your light shine brightly in dark places? Should your response be to be alert and vigilant, to be set apart, to be not conformed to the behaviors and actions of this
world? The answers are obvious, which is precisely why the question is not, “What is your theology?” but where.

Many of us know what our theology should be. We know what our religious literature says about how we should operate in life. And through spiritual revelation, we know how our God has called us to live. But many of us have lost our way. Some of us have lost sight of compassion, love, and respect for our neighbor. Some of us have forgotten “The Golden Rule.” We have misplaced our theology — but there is hope.

When politics gets involved, it seems as if answering questions regarding theology becomes difficult for people of faith. It seems as if our knowledge of God begins to take a backseat to the gods of greed, malice, anger, racism, temporary pleasures and those many other things that take one’s focus off the one true God. This truth should cause us to pause and ponder.

Where is your theology? Who is your God? What do you know about him? Would your God be okay with your behavior? Would your God be pleased with how you treat the least of your community? Would your God be satisfied with the way you treat your friends, foes, and other fellows? How has your knowledge of your God influenced your vote and your life? How should it?

I ask these questions because it seems as if people of faith can sometimes find themselves expressing their God with their lips, but their hearts are far from that very thing they claim to believe and worship. In America, especially during election season, we sometimes present God in two ways: a God of love or a God of hate. Sadly, even those who serve and represent a loving, merciful, compassionate God miss the mark sometimes. And their failure is understandable, for we all are merely human. This dichotomous image of a deity continues to project itself in various forms. For Christians, a misrepresentation of God is toxic to the society we claim to love and desire to reach.

Our nation saw these images during slavery, where some who believed in the God of the Bible would use biblical references to subjugate a group of people. Instead of relaying the words of God in the way they were intended, these enslavers presented apocryphal elements of God’s divine nature and desire, which led to a bloody, bloody war between the free and slave states. We then saw these same misguided “Godly” expressions during the Period of Reconstruction and then Jim Crow. In today’s political and social climate, we still see the complicated nature of theology play tug-of-war with right versus wrong, good versus bad, love versus hate.

With this in mind, I must raise the question once more: Where is your theology?

Is your knowledge of God exegetical in that it adequately represents the God you claim to serve? Is it committed to exuding what your God would find acceptable, reasonable, and honorable? Is your knowledge of God eisegesis, in that it has consciously or unconsciously pushed out the core principles and ideals of the theology you claim to know and believe? We should all examine the way we vote, how we treat people, if we support the least of these, and ask ourselves whether or not our actions are in line with our God’s will.

Our nation is in trouble. There is hate, division and intimidation around every corner. And, though these negative and tumultuous elements are not new to our society, I fear that we are on our way to digging a pit so deep, it will be nearly impossible to climb out of in the future. I also fear that people’s theological amnesia has caused this trouble.

For generations, counterfeit religion has been used as a tool to control, oppress and intimidate people. However, I believe that rediscovering proper theology can be the solution to our nation’s problem. Peoples’ knowledge of God is mixed with numerous theological theories, hypothesis, and critical observations. As humans, we may not — and we will not — agree on everything. But one thing we should strive toward is the ability to respect each other, treating each other with dignity and showing compassion to both our supporters and dissenters.

Are we as believers in God doing that in the United States?

Democrats, Republicans, and independents: Where is our theology?

Wherever it is, I hope we find it.

Our nation’s future, our children’s future and our future depends on it.

Christian Crawford is a graduating senior at Auburn University at Montgomery from Birmingham and will be receiving a Bachelor’s in Social Science and Liberal Arts in political science in December of 2018. In 2015, Crawford conducted an impromptu prayer at his high school graduation that went viral across the country, and the world. That prayer led him to be featured in numerous news and media articles, and it also allowed him to appear on local and regional news outlets such as “Good Day Alabama” on Fox 6, “Good Morning America” on Fox and Friends, and more. Crawford has been a motivational speaker for eight years.

2 months ago

Community delivers ‘Christmas miracle’ for Alabama woman

(CBS 42/Youtube)

According to a report by CBS 42, “Christmas arrived a little early for one Hueytown woman.”

When 71-year-old Jo Ann Stone’s neighbors took notice that she did not have working heat inside her home, they showed the true spirit of the season right here in Alabama.

This week, their neighborly compassion was matched by the altruism of the workers from Brown Heating and Cooling, who came out to Stone’s house on Tuesday wearing their Santa hats, repairing the heating system at no cost. And just in time for Wednesday’s wintery weather.

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Stone explained that her heat went out months ago, but she did not pay attention to the issue in the stifling summer months.

However, as colder weather has crept in, Stone turned to using space heaters to keep warm. That is when Taylor Cater and other neighbors realized her predicament and took action.

“I just knew it was the right thing to do,” Cater told CBS 42. “I couldn’t stand the thought of her sitting over here cold when the rest of us had heat.”

Cater is a member of the Hueytown Chamber of Commerce with Jamie White, the owner of Brown Heating and Cooling, so she immediately knew who to call for expert help.

And while Cater was only seeking an estimate, with neighbors planning to pay for the repairs, White took it from there.

He sent someone out the very day after Cater called, and the repairman realized the needed repairs were extensive and expensive.

While working on the HVAC unit, White’s team member noticed some damage that could have potentially been deadly.

CBS 42 reported, “He said the damage could have released carbon monoxide throughout the home, and it’s a miracle they caught it.”

White’s help, free of charge, and the neighbors’ proactive Christmas good deed did not go unnoticed by Stone.

“I just cried when they told me they were going to do this,” Stone emphasized.

She continued, “I couldn’t imagine, because I didn’t have any extra money for a big thing, you know, heating and air is not cheap.”

For White, he just knew it was the right thing to do.

“It really makes you feel good. I mean ’tis the season. It’s that time of year, you know, it’s just what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to help your neighbors, especially in the community of Hueytown. It just makes us feel good to help someone out,” White shared.

“Everyone is family here. We are all very close and we take care of our own,” Cater added.

Then, a great closing line from CBS 42, before adding, “Stone says White is her Santa Claus this year.”

“The workers were able to turn the heat on, warming Stone’s home and the community’s hearts,” the report said.

Watch:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 months ago

Watch: Para-Commandos jump into Bryant-Denny Stadium

(Alabama Athletics/Twitter)

Before the University of Alabama’s home football game against Mississippi State on Saturday, Para-Commandos jumped from a military aircraft and landed in Bryant-Denny Stadium as part of the pregame, Veterans Day weekend festivities.

The Para-Commandos are the United States Special Operations Command’s “premier aerial parachute demonstration team.”

In an incredible video posted by the university, you can watch one of the commandos’ approximately three-minute descent into the packed stadium.

Watch:

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The Para-Commandos are members of current Special Operations Forces. They are comprised of active duty special operators, including Army Special Forces, Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Combat Controllers and Marine Raiders. Their jump into Bryant-Denny has become an annual tradition for UA.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn