The Wire

  • Nation of Islam Birmingham chapter leading Hoover boycott efforts

    Excerpt:

    The Birmingham chapter of the Nation of Islam – which is deemed an “extremist,” “deeply racist, antisemitic” “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and led nationally by the infamous Louis Farrakhan – is heading up the boycott effort in Hoover in the aftermath of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford, Jr.’s death in an officer-involved shooting at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night.

    In a recent Facebook live video posted by Iva Williams, a spokesperson and the vice president for the activist organization led by self-proclaimed Hoover protest leader Carlos Chaverst, Jr., Williams confirmed that Tremon Muhammad, the student minister (pastor) for the Nation of Islam’s Muhammad Mosque No. 69 in Birmingham, is leading the boycott.

    He also detailed that the boycott is specifically meant to harm businesses owned by white people, with the activists planning on finding ways to help black-owned businesses in Hoover until their leases are up, at which time the businesses will be expected to move into majority-black areas of Birmingham.

  • AG Marshall: Prosecution of corruption remains a priority after Matt Hart’s departure

    Excerpt:

    On Friday’s episode of Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall downplayed the departure of now-former Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart.

    Hart formerly led the AG’s Special Prosecutions Division and was perhaps best known for his prosecution of former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

    In the interim, Hart had become somewhat of a media darling, and Marshall’s critics had charged politics was a motivation in Hart’s resignation. Marshall dismissed those claims and touted Hart’s successor, Clark Morris.

  • Women’s clothier raises $4,500 for police, others with ‘#HooverStrong’ T-shirts sales

    Excerpt:

    There’s no question that the last two weeks have been trying for Hoover retailers in the wake of the tragic shooting at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night.

    With protests flaring up over dissatisfaction with law enforcement’s handling of the incident’s investigation, the circumstances have been trying for local retailers that were already dealing with the busy shopping season.

    However, one Hoover retailer is making the most of the situation.

35 mins ago

Ben Shapiro to speak at the University of Alabama in the spring

(G. Skidmore/Flickr)

Ben Shapiro, a prominent national conservative commentator and writer, will speak at the University of Alabama during the 2019 spring semester.

In an announcement Tuesday, Young America’s Foundation (YAF) said Shapiro will speak on campus in Tuscaloosa as part of the organization’s Fred Allen Lecture Series. UA will be one of six campuses to host the hot ticket speaker during the spring, on a date yet to be announced.

YAF celebrated a “wildly successful” fall lineup of campuses, adding it was “excited” to unveil the select locations hosting “the #1 requested speaker in the country” this coming spring.

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Formerly an editor-at-large for Breitbart, Shapiro currently serves as the editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, which he founded in 2015. He has spoken frequently on college campus across the country in recent years, meeting with controversy along the way, including especially prominent occasions at the University of California at Berkeley and California State University in Los Angeles.

He also hosts his online political podcast, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” which is broadcast every weekday. At age 34, Shapiro’s podcast is downloaded over 1 million times per episode, with an audience that is reportedly 70 percent under the age of 40. The Daily Wire gets approximately 140 million page views per month.

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

2 hours ago

West Alabama woman points to bullying, race after her nine-year-old daughter’s suicide

(CBS 42/YouTube)

A mother in west Alabama is grieving after her nine-year-old daughter, McKenzie Adams, died by suicide.

CBS 42 reported Monday that Jasmine Adams’ daughter was a fourth grader at U.S. Jones elementary school in Demopolis, which is close to the family’s home in Linden.

Following her tragic death on December 3, Adams reportedly advised CBS 42 that McKenzie told her teachers and her assistant principal a number of times that she was being bullied.

“She told me that this one particular child was writing her nasty notes in class. It was just things you wouldn’t think a nine-year-old should know. And my baby, to tell me some of the things they had said to her, I was like where are they learning this from,” Adams shared.

Adams also opined that race played into the bullying, as McKenzie rode to school with a white family friend every day.

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“Part of it could have been because she rode to school with a white family,” Adams outlined. “And a lot of it was race, some of the student bullies would say to her ‘why you riding with white people, you’re black, you’re ugly. You should just die.'”

Alex Brasswell, the Demopolis City Schools attorney, advised that the case is under investigation.

“We are working fully with the Demopolis and Linden police department. They are doing a joint investigation of these allegations. We are cooperating fully and I can’t comment on any of the aspects of the investigation until they conclude it,” Brasswell said.

Adams said that she believes that the school system let her daughter and her family down. She also explained that McKenzie only attended U.S. Jones in Demopolis because she had previously been bullied at the local school in Linden.

“I just felt that our trust was in them that they would do the right thing,” Adams said, “And it feels like to me it wasn’t it wasn’t done.”

“That was my angel, you know. She was a straight ‘A’ student, very smart,” Adams emphasized.

Funeral services for McKenzie are scheduled for Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at U.S. Jones elementary school.

Watch the full report:

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

5 hours ago

Hoover boycott leader defends Louis Farrakhan, talks about ‘the enemy’

(T. Muhammad/Facebook)

Student minister Tremon Muhammad, who leads the Nation of Islam’s Birmingham mosque, took to Facebook Monday evening to defend Louis Farrakhan and attack the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and “all of those that are aligned with them.”

Muhammad, who posted his thoughts in an approximately 45-minute Facebook Live video, was reacting to Yellowhammer News’ article from earlier that day that revealed he was leading the Hoover boycott efforts in the wake of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford, Jr.’s death in an officer-involved shooting at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night.

“[W]hat’s happening in Birmingham is just a sign of what’s going to be happening all across America,” Muhammad said.

He called Yellowhammer News “the enemy” and reaffirmed that the Nation of Islam’s involvement leading the Hoover boycott was part of a bigger plan.

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Locally, this is an opportunity for them to immediately advance their agenda.

“Boycott Hoover and build up black Birmingham,” Muhammad summarized.

Again using the term “the enemy,” he affirmed that the Nation of Islam’s efforts were to be a “war” against the City of Hoover and its citizens, however Muhammad emphasized they were not advocating violence.

“So, the word ‘war’ was used a few times [last week at the protesters’ organizational meeting], but of course we know that language – the English language – is not our language,” Muhammad asserted, gesturing to himself. “You taught it to us, I’m just trying to do the best I can with it.”

He then said that he has been using “war” in strictly figurative terms when it comes to unrest in Hoover, before asserting that, “You have never heard the Nation of Islam call for a race war.”

It should be noted, in context, that Muhammad said at the meeting he referenced last week that “the Nation of Islam does not subscribe to the theory of nonviolence.”

“If we go out there, we ain’t going out there to play. If we go out there, and we get engaged in combat, … If they touch one of our sisters or hit one of our young people or hit one of the brothers, we’re not out there just to fight,” Muhammad emphasized. “Everybody and everything got to die on sight.”

In the video, Muhammad then read a definition of “war” and then explained that he would continue using the word to describe the Nation of Islam’s efforts in Hoover and the Birmingham metro area.

“The creation of the City of Hoover was an act of war against Birmingham,” Muhammad reflected.

About a minute later, while talking about “white flight,” Muhammad seemed to take his definition of “the enemy” to mean white people in general. Later on, he also criticized “oreos,” which he defined as “black on the outside and white on the inside,” as well as “graham crackers,” which he referred to as “brown on the outside.”

Muhammad transitioned into a line-by-line analysis of Yellowhammer News’ article, starting with the opening line that references the SPLC calling the organization an “extremist,” “deeply racist, antisemitic” “hate group.”

“By black people – no. By the masses of white people – no. By the Southern Poverty Law Center. Stop right there,” Muhammad retorted.

The minister then launched into a tirade against the SPLC, referring to their “wicked pen” and saying if they could not prove their claims about the Nation of Islam, they should “shut [their] mouth.”

Muhammad then referenced a recent speech made by the Nation of Islam’s leader Louis Farrakhan, outlining that Farrakhan had “challenged the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ADL and all of those that are aligned with them.”

The ADL is focused on opposing anti-semitism, while working for civil rights for all. The SPLC describes itself as being “dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Just this year, Farrakhan compared Jewish people to “termites,” saying, “I’m not an anti-Semite. I’m anti-Termite.”

Muhammad, in the video, continued to defend Farrakhan, saying he was not an “extremist,” “deeply racist” or “anti-semitic.”

“I’ve got a question for you. Did Farrakhan bring you into slavery?” Muhammad asked his followers.

After asking more similar rhetorical questions, Muhammad said, “Farrakhan didn’t do none of that, Farrakhan redeemed fallen humanity.”

It should be noted that members of the Nation of Islam, Farrakhan included, hold a core belief that the white race was created by a black scientist named Yakub (it is their characterization of the biblical Jacob) thousands of years ago. The Nation of Islam refers to the race he created – white people – as “devils” while black people are the “Original People.”

The organization’s doctrine, which is shunned by mainstream Islam, also holds that black people’s destiny is to wrestle control of the world back away from these “devils” and put them in their supposed rightful place.

Indeed, Farrakhan has not been shy about this belief. When asked by Tim Russert in a 1997 appearance on “Meet the Press,” Farrakhan acknowledged his belief that “whites are blue-eyed devils,” adding the following:

In the Bible, in the Book of Revelation, it talks about the fall of Babylon. It says Babylon is fallen because she has become the habitation of devils. We believe that that ancient Babylon is a symbol of a modern Babylon which is America.

In the video, Muhammad continued, “The only thing [Farrakhan] did was raise his people up to a certain level [from what] they put us in. So, you charge a man that’s trying to pick us up from the condition that you put us in and you’re gunna charge him with hate.”

He went on to criticize Yellowhammer News’ article as trying to separate him from mainstream members of “the movement” and thanked the publication for saying he was following in Farrakhan’s footsteps, calling that a “compliment.”

Tremon Muhammad with Louis Farrakhan

“Trying to force brother Carlos [Chaverst] to say he’s not with [us], trying to force me to say I’m not with him, but we are family. … Even if we disagree, we’re not going to disagree in front of you, Yellowhammer,” Muhammad said.

He then continued to selectively go line-by-line attempting to rebut Yellowhammer News’ article, skipping over parts that quoted both he and Farrakhan in their own words, as well as a key line noting, “This group is so virulently ‘racist’ that they are founded on the belief that white people, as well as Jewish people, are ‘devils.’”

While his method of rebuttal throughout most of the video was to lash out at the SPLC, the ADL, Yellowhammer News, etc., simply saying they were lying and challenging them to “prove it” throughout, the clearest example of his struggle with the truth came during his version of Malcolm X’s assassination, which was quite unequivocally false.

Regarding Malcolm X’s death, Yellowhammer News originally wrote the following:

Many have blamed the organization for his assassination, with three of its members being convicted in his killing. The so-called ringleader of the three, who confessed to firing upon Malcolm X, was promoted to become the head of the Nation of Islam’s Harlem mosque after his release from prison.

In the video, Muhammad responded directly to this passage, concluding, “That did not happen.”

“You are a damn liar,” Muhammad said. “I want to say something else but I’m trying to be a good representative of the ‘honorable minister’ Louis Farrakhan. But I really want to tell you what kind of liar you are. And really I can say that you’re a God-damned liar. Because God damns all liars.”

He continued to say that there was “only one man that confessed to actually shooting Malcolm X” and “that man didn’t even get out of prison.”

“Prove it!” the Muhammad emphasized, ending his claims about the assassination.

The facts do not support Muhammad. Three Nation of Islam members were convicted of the murder. Talmadge Hayer (Thomas Hagan), Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson were all convicted. Hayer maintained the other two charged were innocent but a decade after his conviction admitted four other Nation of Islam members participated in the killing. Malcolm was shot 21 times.

All three of the convicted men were eventually released from prison, despite life sentences. Butler, today known as Muhammad Abdul Aziz, was paroled in 1985 and became the head of the Nation of Islam’s Harlem mosque in 1998. In prison Johnson, who changed his name to Khalil Islam, rejected the Nation of Islam’s teachings and converted to Sunni Islam. He was released in 1987. Hayer, who also rejected the Nation’s teachings while in prison and converted to Sunni Islam, is known today as Mujahid Halim. He was paroled in 2010.

Nevertheless, Muhammad decried that his followers were being misled – and not by him.

“[W]hen you throw these lies out here and then our people read it, and some are young and don’t necessarily know the history, or you may be a little ignorant, I’m not being disrespectful, ignorant of the ways or the history of the Nation of Islam and you may believe what they say, that’s why I gotta come out here and knock out the brains of falsehood,” Muhammad claimed.

He added, “I know the steps of the white man, because Farrakhan trained me well.”

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

19 hours ago

Hoover officials: ‘Individuals violating the law will be prosecuted’

(Hoover PD)

While reaffirming the right to peacefully assemble, Hoover officials are making clear through a series of arrests that “violent or otherwise dangerous actions that have the potential to threaten or injure” residents and visitors “will not be allowed.”

In the wake of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford, Jr. being shot and killed by a Hoover Police officer at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night, protests have steadily escalated. Last week, protesters stopped traffic on I-459 and allegedly injured two security guards at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa.

These two incidents have come seemingly as a line in the sand for the City of Hoover and the Hoover Police Department, who have consistently affirmed and respected the protesters’ rights to demonstrate peacefully. While continuing to recognize these foundational rights, the city and the police department issued a joint statement Monday making clear that lawlessness will not be tolerated.

Statement reads as follows:

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Regarding the protests, the City of Hoover has stated consistently our support for each individual’s right to peacefully assemble. However, some of these protests have taken an unsafe turn and violent or otherwise dangerous actions that have the potential to threaten or injure our residents and visitors will not be allowed. We continue to support the community’s right to safely protest, while at the same time maintaining the safety of our entire community. Individuals violating the law will be prosecuted.

The statement came in the context of at least three protesters having been arrested since Thursday on respective misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct.

As WBRC outlined, 48-year-old Susan DiPrizio of Vestavia Hills was arrested and charged on Thursday. She allegedly was throwing Christmas ornaments into traffic on Highway 31 in front of Hoover City Hall in protest. It has also been alleged that she attempted to climb onto the hood of a vehicle as she blocked traffic.

Then, two men were arrested Sunday for warrants stemming from the I-459 protest.

Andy Baer, an assistant professor of history at UAB, was arrested during a traffic stop on Galleria Circle. He bonded out of jail Sunday.

Mark Myles was arrested inside the Riverchase Galleria and was later extradited to Bibb County for a separate warrant in that jurisdiction. He bonded out Monday morning.

“This is a serious public safety concern for everyone,” Hoover’s joint statement added. “We have consistently stated that we will not allow roads and highways to be blocked by protesters because it is hazardous and jeopardizes the safety of all citizens and visitors to Hoover.”

While protest leader Carlos Chaverst, Jr. has claimed to have a warrant out for his arrest due to a charge of disorderly conduct in Hoover, it is not clear how many more protesters are in the same boat. Chaverst said he would turn himself in on Saturday but has yet to do so as of Monday at 2:30 p.m.

There is an investigation into the Riverchase Galleria shootings currently underway by the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), which is a division of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). Besides investigating the officer-involved shooting death of Bradford, the SBI is looking into how a 12-year-old girl was shot. Erron Brown has also been arrested and charged as part of the investigation for allegedly shooting an 18-year-old friend of Bradford in an altercation at the scene.

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

20 hours ago

Report: Birmingham one of best, most affordable cities for New Year’s Eve

(Robert Donovan/WikiCommons)

A new report by WalletHub has named Birmingham as one of the nation’s best overall and most affordable cities to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

In order to compile the rankings, “WalletHub compared the 100 most populated U.S. cities across three key dimensions: 1) Entertainment & Food, 2) Costs and 3) Safety & Accessibility.” Those three dimensions comprised “28 relevant metrics.”

After this analysis, Birmingham was recognized as the 14th best overall city for New Year’s Eve and the fifth most affordable. For entertainment and food, the Magic City was ranked 22nd, while its safety and accessibility score came in at lowly number 73.

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Source: WalletHub

At the top of the best overall rankings was New York City by a considerable margin, followed by Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Diego and Las Vegas.

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

23 hours ago

Huntsville bourbon receives highest award in national ‘Fifty Best’ rankings

(Iron's One/Facebook)

Huntsville’s Irons One Distillery was recognized with a double gold medal by “The Fifty Best” for its bourbon whiskey Char #4, making it just one of six bourbons in the nation to receive the highest recognition possible.

The website, which produces rankings including liquors, wine, food, restaurants, travel destinations and entertainment, explained that it “held a ‘blind’ tasting of 46 bourbon whiskies with eighteen members of [their] spirits judging panel.”

Irons One was listed first on the website’s reviews, which described the 90-proof bourbon’s nose, palate and finish.

The “blind” tasting process was described as follows:

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Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. The higher proof spirits (100+ prf) were tasted after the lower proof bourbons. Each of the bourbons were poured into fresh glasses from new sealed bottles, and served at slightly above room temperature. The judges wrote down their impressions of each product on score sheets. Double-Gold, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are awarded according to a set range of final point scores received from the judges. The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The states of origin, distilleries and alcohol proofs are identified for each brand.

On the distillery’s website, Irons One founder Jeffrey Irons outlined, “Because I keep each batch small and tend them personally, I can ensure the strict distilling of my unique recipe, resulting in a whiskey that is superior in smoothness, flavor and drinkability to the discerning palate… Irons ONE is the small batch, single-hand crafted whiskey for those who savor a rich, smooth flavor–served neat, with a little water or over ice. This is truly a whiskey from my hands to yours.”

Describing his philosophy, Irons added, “I am old school. I do my business based on principles.  A handshake gets it done for me, my word is my bond.  I am a man of my word.  I do not compromise my standards.”

You can read about Irons’ process here.

The company posted on Facebook Monday saying that they plan to bottle a barrel of Char #4 before Christmas. These bottles will be available for sale only at the distillery.

“Stay tuned for when this will be ready for purchase,” Irons One added.

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

1 day ago

Nation of Islam Birmingham chapter leading Hoover boycott efforts

(Tamica Banks/Facebook)

The Birmingham chapter of the Nation of Islam – which is deemed an “extremist,” “deeply racist, antisemitic” “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and led nationally by the infamous Louis Farrakhan – is heading up the boycott effort in Hoover in the aftermath of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford, Jr.’s death in an officer-involved shooting at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night.

In a recent Facebook live video posted by Iva Williams, a spokesperson and the vice president for the activist organization led by self-proclaimed Hoover protest leader Carlos Chaverst, Jr., Williams confirmed that Tremon Muhammad, the student minister (pastor) for the Nation of Islam’s Muhammad Mosque No. 69 in Birmingham, is leading the boycott.

He also detailed that the boycott is specifically meant to harm businesses owned by white people, with the activists planning on finding ways to help black-owned businesses in Hoover until their leases are up, at which time the businesses will be expected to move into majority-black areas of Birmingham.

This tracks with the Nation of Islam’s theory of “separation” between races, and also substantiates reporting by the Hoover Sun that protest efforts in the city are part of a greater “war.”

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The publication documented a recent meeting of protest leaders and activists held at the Nation of Islam’s Birmingham mosque recently, where that hate group was joined by at least one more – the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, which has been categorized as such by not only the SPLC, but the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, as well.

The Sun wrote that “speakers at the mosque made it clear this ‘war’ is about much more than Bradford’s death and is about to escalate.”

Cara McClure, a politician and activist who ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic nominee for Public Service Commissioner Place 1 this election cycle, confirmed that they were bringing in people from out of state to bolster the protest efforts.

“It’s time to go to jail. We’re going to do some arrestable actions,” McClure outlined. “It’s our time to fight. … I’m bringing in folks from all across the country to prepare for battle because we’re going to shut down Hoover.”

Muhammad mentioned that this was all part of “a bigger cause” to “build up [their] own people.” For his Nation of Islam, this means “black superiority over whites,” as detailed by the SPLC. This group is so virulently “racist” that they are founded on the belief that white people, as well as Jewish people, are “devils.”

The SPLC added the following about the organization:

The Nation of Islam has a black nationalist agenda: Its program states that blacks should be able to form their own nation. It also holds that blacks should be made exempt from taxation until they have achieved equal justice under the law and that interracial marriage and “race mixing” should be “prohibited.”

Historically, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. deemed this organization as a “hate group,” while Malcolm X, who was a leader in the Nation of Islam, came to denounce it soon before he was assassinated, calling out its “sickness and madness.” Many have blamed the organization for his assassination, with three of its members being convicted in his killing. The so-called ringleader of the three, who confessed to firing upon Malcolm X, was promoted to become the head of the Nation of Islam’s Harlem mosque after his release from prison.

Of course, the longtime leader of the organization, Louis Farrakhan, was at the center of this controversy, as he has been when it comes to some of the most heinous speeches and actions by the Nation of Islam over the last half-century.

As extreme as admitting he believes, “White people deserve to die,” to as bizarre as getting the Nation of Islam involved with the Church of Scientology this decade, Farrakhan is one of the most radical figures in American politics, and his Birmingham representative seems to follow suit.

At the recent meeting, Muhammad explained that his organization is not currently on the front lines of the Hoover protests themselves because “the Nation of Islam does not subscribe to the theory of nonviolence.”

“If we go out there, we ain’t going out there to play. If we go out there, and we get engaged in combat, … If they touch one of our sisters or hit one of our young people or hit one of the brothers, we’re not out there just to fight,” Muhammad emphasized. “Everybody and everything got to die on sight.”

While Chaverst has not publicly denounced these comments, he did take issue with the Hoover Sun reporting Muhammad’s use of the word “war” to describe the ongoing efforts.

However, it is not just Muhammad and company publicly embracing Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam’s extremist views. Williams, Chaverst’s vice president, has shared Farrakhan propaganda as recently as Sunday on Facebook. Williams also said that “in the black community, we all respect them,” referring to the Nation of Islam.

And it certainly does not help create separation when Chaverst has been referred to as being like Malcolm X when he was a leader of the Nation of Islam, while Le’Darius Hilliard, president of the Jefferson County Millennial Democrats, compares himself to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Additionally, critics will argue, Chaverst would not allow the Nation of Islam to run the boycott efforts if they were not on the same page. The boycott is viewed as a central tenet to the protesters’ plan of making the city go “broke.” Using the slogan “#HooverWrong” (as opposed to “#HooverStrong“) to draw attention to the boycott movement, Chaverst and the other protest leaders have been very open with their intentions of hurting the city’s economy, as well as the small business owners and employees that comprise it.

Of that boycott, Williams advised that their intention is for it to continue “at least a year.”

“We’re going to bring them to their knees,” Williams said.

While businesses in and around the Riverchase Galleria are already hurting, it will remain to be seen if the boycott effort is hampered in the long run by people discovering that the Nation of Islam is simply using the tragic death of Bradford to further its radical goals.

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

1 day ago

I-20/59 in Birmingham to close in January

(ALDOT)

Birmingham’s traffic could get a lot worse beginning next month.

The Alabama Department of Transportation says it will shut down Interstate 20/59 through the state’s largest city beginning in mid- to late January 2019.

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AL.com reports the move comes as crews rebuild the aging highway overpasses through downtown.

Transportation officials will lay out detours for vehicles traveling through town.

But they are asking drivers to avoid the downtown area if at all possible, particularly by using Interstate 459.

The road will close for an estimated 14 months during the construction work. That means the highway could be shut down through March 2020.

A contractor can make an additional $250,000 per day by finishing early, and it has to pay the same about in penalties if the work is late.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 days ago

Women’s clothier raises $4,500 for police, others with ‘#HooverStrong’ T-shirts sales

(Lou Lou's Women's Clothing)

There’s no question that the last two weeks have been trying for Hoover retailers in the wake of the tragic shooting at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night.

With protests flaring up over dissatisfaction with law enforcement’s handling of the incident’s investigation, the circumstances have been trying for local retailers that were already dealing with the busy shopping season.

However, one Hoover retailer is making the most of the situation.

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Lou Lou’s, a women’s clothing store located off Galleria Boulevard near the Riverchase Galleria, has created “#HooverStrong” T-shirts and is selling them, with proceeds from the sales put toward “a fund to buy food and coffee gift cards for the officers and other workers.”


The reaction was immediate with Lou Lou’s raising $900 in the first two hours of sales.

“So far between Friday and Saturday, we’ve sold 292 shirts,” Lou Lou’s clothier told Yellowhammer News in a Facebook message on Sunday. “And [we’ve] raised $4500 from sales of the shirts in those two days.”

On Sunday afternoon, the retailer announced on Facebook the shirts are available for sale online.

“We are floored by the amazing response, and we’re a bit unprepared for it,” the representative from Lou Lou’s added. “So we were literally just making shirts to order with what we had on hand at the time. A large order of shirts will be here on Monday and gives us the opportunity to make even more.”

The sale of the “#HooverStrong” shirts has drawn the ire of Carlos Chaverst, Jr., the self-proclaimed leader of the anti-Hoover protest movement.

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

2 days ago

Mark Crosswhite leads effort to return BCA to core mission, full strength

(BCA)

This past week the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) named Katie Boyd Britt its new president, an event that served as the culmination of months of work by the group’s executive committee led by its chairman, Mark Crosswhite.

Britt’s appointment to the top job in the state’s largest business organization is the first step in implementing Crosswhite’s vision for a return to the group’s core mission.

“Fundamentally, BCA exists to represent the business community and to help improve Alabama’s economy,” Crosswhite told Yellowhammer News. “We want to create jobs and support Alabama families making a good living here in the state. We want Alabama to be a place where our children and grandchildren stay to work.”

Perhaps no one is better positioned than Crosswhite to understand Alabama, its economy and the people who create and fill jobs in the state.

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As chairman, president and chief executive officer of Alabama Power, Crosswhite runs a company that has 1.4 million customers and employs more than 7,000 people.

Crosswhite leads a company that counts homeowners, small businesses and large manufacturers as its customers, while employing its own diverse workforce.

And, all the while, Alabama Power and its employees are active in communities across the state. Through that type of outreach, Crosswhite’s company maintains its connection to the people it serves.

As a result, when Crosswhite took the lead earlier this year in identifying the need to improve Alabama’s approach to its economic priorities, others paid attention.

It is Crosswhite’s belief that, while things have been good in Alabama, there exists a need for continued evaluation and improvement from the whole of the business community.

“We have an outstanding business climate,” noted Crosswhite. “And we have had a number of leaders focused on cultivating and protecting the business climate. We want to push that forward and make it better.”

Crosswhite pointed out the fact that Alabama is not enjoying the same growth as some of its neighboring states.

“One of the things we would like to have BCA assess is why is that?” remarked Crosswhite. “How do we keep young people in the state, the best and brightest? How can we attract new business and expand industries and good jobs for the people of Alabama?”

During the BCA transition process, Crosswhite and his committee have been intentional in their emphasis on coalition building in the business community.

“We think BCA ought to be the organization that takes an umbrella approach and can bring the entire business community together on significant issues that affect the community at-large and the state of Alabama’s economy,” said Crosswhite.

As evidence of the group’s inclusive approach, Crosswhite pointed out that the BCA executive committee has reached out to more than one hundred business leaders, business associations, elected officials and others from across the state.

“One thing that we have gotten over and over is we need BCA to be a unifying force, one that can bring together businesses of all sorts,” he said. “Everything from big corporations to mom and pop drug stores. There is a desire to have a central voice. One where we can have policy-makers come and have one place where they can get a fair representation of the entire business community.”

According to Crosswhite, Britt shares that same approach to coalition building.

“We have a really strong leader in Katie Britt, and she will be looking to build bridges to other organizations to reach out to all the businesses in the state to make sure BCA is bringing value to the entire business community,” said Crosswhite.

Britt comes to BCA after a successful stint as chief of staff to Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and prior to that the leader of the state governmental affairs practice for Butler Snow.

That experience, for Britt, equips her well to handle some of BCA’s substantive priorities identified by Crosswhite, such as workforce development and federal and state advocacy.

“The entire BCA leadership group is terribly excited about having Katie Britt join us,” affirmed Crosswhite. “She has a remarkable track record and great story. We know that she is the person with the energy, vision and experience to lead BCA through this next chapter. We are very excited about having her at the helm. She has the complete confidence of the BCA executive committee and the BCA board of directors.”

The current composition of the BCA executive committee is a rare collection of accomplished leaders.

And, so, for Crosswhite, there is no better time to return BCA to its core mission and rightful place as the pre-eminent Alabama business organization.

“We are at the very beginning of that process,” he said. “We have looked at things and gotten an assessment. Now that we have Katie lined up and in the chair, look for BCA to establish a strategic planning process over the next few months to make BCA stronger and the voice of Alabama business.”

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News.

2 days ago

Digi.City panel: Birmingham could be Smart Cities leader in inclusive economic growth

(Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

Birmingham has already figured out a key element in developing a Smart City and it could become an example for others when it comes to inclusive economic growth, a panel of experts said Thursday.

Digi.City Connects Birmingham Roundtable was held at Innovation Depot to allow those who are leading the Smart Cities initiative in Birmingham to discuss best practices from other cities and the way ahead for the Magic City.

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In March, the Smart Cities Council named Birmingham one of five winners of the 2018 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge Grant. The grant is intended to help cities use technology and data to tackle local challenges, and improve services and connectivity.

Digi.City was created to inspire and inform leaders as cities advance in the digital age, particularly those building on a Smart Cities designation. Digi.Cities convenes roundtables like in Birmingham to have discussions across all segments within a community.

The Birmingham roundtable included:

–George Stegall, connectivity manager with Alabama Power;
–Yuval Yoseffy, data management specialist with the city of Birmingham’s Department of Innovation and Economic  Opportunity;
–Deon Gordon, CEO of TechBirmingham;
–Dr. Anthony Hood, director of Civic Innovation at UAB; and
–Mashonda Taylor, chief community relations officer for the Woodlawn Foundation.

“What Birmingham is doing that I think is such a brilliant approach is that they’re coming at it from a three-legged stool,” said Chelsea Collier, founder of Digi.City. “So, it’s the city, it’s the University of Alabama at Birmingham and it’s also Alabama Power. From that really strong stance they’re inviting everyone from the community – from community advocates to nonprofits, startups, all of the creator community – and really focusing on, ‘Yes, we can be informed by our past, but who do we want to be going forward? What are our values and how are we going to use connected technology to lift all of our residents?’”

The discussion centered on where technology and people come together and how key components like infrastructure and the internet can help improve lives in the metro area.

That led to talk of ways Birmingham differs from other cities and identifying how Birmingham can stand out as a Smart City.

Hood suggested Birmingham use something that in the past was a source of a negative image for the city into something that shapes it as an innovator in the future.

“We’re trying to come up with a model for inclusive economic growth. What does that look like? Quite frankly, I don’t know that there is any city in the country that actually figured this out,” Hood said. “Birmingham can be that city that figures that out. When we talk about Smart Cities, talk about technology and building the city of the future, we need to make sure none of our citizens are left out.”

Others seized on that thought.

“That is so exciting I would love to see Birmingham be one of the first cities in the United States to really get that right,” Collier said.

Before Birmingham can work toward such objectives, however, the panel said there is much that has to be done in the Smart Cities process.

Stegall said Alabama Power will have a central role to play because the technology has to be powered by the electric grid.

“We’ve got to grow our communities. We’ve got to support them,” Stegall said. “We’ve done it since the beginning of our company and this is the latest frontier. We’ve got to be a solution-provider to those communities. And we can.”

Stegall said that doesn’t mean dictating what is needed, but listening.

“We’re not going to come and tell you exactly what your needs are, you are going to come and tell us,” he said.

Taylor agreed that while data should be used to serve residents and change communities through areas like public safety and transportation, the citizens need to play a role in the onset to have ultimate buy-in and successful implementation.

“We’ve got to take high-level data and share it at a lower level,” she said.

Taylor said we can’t neglect primary or secondary education as part of the process.

“At the end of the day, if we don’t have a strong K-12 system, we’re not going to be feeding students into these new positions,” she said. “If they cannot critically think and do basic reading or math – which is going to be necessary for these new jobs of the future – there’s no way they’re going to be able to compete.”

Hood agreed.

“We have to be very intentional about that. We can’t do this haphazardly,” he said. “We can’t mess this up. If we mess this up, we could set the city back for decades.”

Gordon said TechBirmingham has an initiative focused on K-12 education and sees that as a key component. He used the acronym “MAGIC” to map out his organization’s approach. It consists of marketing and promoting, alignment of assets and approaches, growing the economic base, inclusion of all in the community, and connectivity.

A Smart Cities Readiness Workshop in August helped identify some of the key needs and ways to use technology to tackle big issues in the Birmingham area.

Yossefy said the city is moving on to the next steps.

“We have gone past identifying what the problems are. That is kind of that major first step,” he said. “We know what needs to be done. There are kind of two things happening in parallel over at the city. The first is we are picking specific projects that we can do really interesting analysis on and then basically use those to influence policy in the short term. The second thing is a much more long-term pull.”

Hood said the city isn’t working alone in taking the next steps.

“It’s about collaboration. It’s about developing a shared understanding,” he said. “All of us have to be on the same page if we truly want to have a Smart City.”

The areas of emphasis can come into focus by asking one simple question, Hood said.

“If it doesn’t benefit citizens and residents, then what are we doing it for?”

Collier said from what she has seen visiting other cities, Birmingham is asking the right questions and including the right players.

“It’s how you come together and understand who you are as a community and who you want to be and really focus on what can you do well,” she said.

Which is why Hood thinks the ultimate thing Birmingham can do well is including everyone in its future growth.

“Dr. (Martin Luther) King referred to Birmingham as the most segregated city in America back in the ‘60s,” he said. “We now have an opportunity to be the most inclusive city in America. I think we’re going to do it.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 days ago

HudsonAlpha scientists link gene to developmental delay

(HudsonAlpha)

Researchers at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville have linked a gene to a set of developmental disabilities that include speech problems and muscular difficulties, clearing the way for better support services and possible treatments for the people affected.

The work, which involved contributions from researchers around the world, shows the promise of such collaboration to solve the genetic mysteries that can leave patients searching for answers, sometimes for decades.

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Scientists in the HudsonAlpha lab of faculty investigator Greg Cooper, Ph.D., led the effort, while international researchers contributed through a tool called GeneMatcher. Six groups independently submitted the gene in question for further examination. Contributions originated from Hawaii to Paris, Huntsville to Prague.

Cooper’s lab worked with the groups and found that variations on a gene called RALA are linked to a specific set of developmental delays and intellectual disabilities. The finding was first published in PLOS Genetics in November.

The patients identified with the RALA variation all showed speech problems. Ten of 11 also suffered from muscular issues, with eight unable to walk. Nine of the 11 had what are called dysmorphic facial features.

“Identifying the impact of RALA variants is important for scientists, clinicians and patients,” Cooper said. “It’s so rewarding when we can help patients and their families find the answers they’ve been searching for — often for a literal lifetime.”

Shawn Levy, Ph.D., who heads HudsonAlpha’s Genomic Services Laboratory that performed the sequencing on a number of the samples, said the work was satisfying. “It’s hard to describe the feeling of contributing to these types of findings. It changes people’s lives,” he said.

Developmental delays and intellectual disabilities affect between 1 and 2 percent of individuals worldwide. However, huge swaths of that population still don’t have answers as to the specific causes of their symptoms.

Once patients get a diagnosis, it becomes easier to find support. Doctors are able to compare notes on treatment, honing in on specific approaches to help patients with their symptoms. An explanation of symptoms can also increase the availability of some treatments for patients, who may need a specific diagnosis to get access.

“Ending the diagnostic odyssey is one of the areas where the type of genomic research we do here at HudsonAlpha truly shines,” Cooper said.

HudsonAlpha President Richard M. Myers, Ph.D., said, “These discoveries show the power of HudsonAlpha’s research, especially when paired with the resources of important collaborators like the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Clinical Sequencing Evidence-Generating Research (CSER) Consortium and the Alabama Genomic Health Initiative. All collaborators helped to provide data and insight, while Cooper’s lab synthesized it all into this new diagnostic information.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 days ago

Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School receives $1M grant to create Thriving Pastors program

(Samford University)

Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School has received a grant of $999,966 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Enhancing the Mission: Beeson Divinity School and Thriving Pastors program.

It is part of Lilly Endowment’s Thriving in Ministry, an initiative that supports a variety of religious organizations across the nation as they create or strengthen programs that help pastors build relationships with experienced clergy who can serve as mentors and guide them through key leadership challenges in congregational ministry.

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Through the Thriving Pastors program, Beeson will help pastors thrive in congregational leadership by improving the quality of peer and mentoring relationships. The program will seek to fulfill its mission by supporting, resourcing and connecting Beeson alumni who serve in pastoral roles. As the program grows, pastors with no prior affiliation with Beeson or Samford will be welcomed into the project so that they, too, may continue thriving in ministry.

“The mission of Beeson Divinity School is to prepare God-called persons to serve as ministers in the church of Jesus Christ,” said Grant Taylor, Beeson’s associate dean and project director of the Thriving Pastors program. “Through the Thriving Pastors program, we aim to enhance our mission through a deeper commitment to our graduates who serve as pastors of God’s people. We want to support and enrich them by giving them more of Beeson’s personal, face-to-face approach to theological education and ministry. At Beeson, we are working hard to do more, not less, in personal, relational and theological formation for pastoral ministry.”

Since pastors face transitions of various kinds over the course of their ministries, the program will aim to help pastors transition well through at least three phases: the transition from seminary to their first full-time ministry positions, the transition from associate pastoral positions to lead pastoral positions and the involuntary transitions that come when they face acute personal and/or family crises. Activities will include an annual conference for Beeson alumni and other pastors, the development of pastoral peer groups and the enrichment of mentoring relationships between pastors. The program also will enable Beeson faculty to enhance mentoring and peer relationships for divinity students preparing for pastoral ministry.

“This significant initiative of Lilly Endowment fits beautifully with the ongoing mission of Samford’s Beeson Divinity School, and I’m confident that the investment will provide meaningful, helpful support for ministers now and in the years ahead,” said Andrew Westmoreland, president of Samford University. “If we are interested in educating the whole person, as we say we are, that interest continues throughout all phases and transitions of life. I’m grateful for the generosity of our friends with Lilly Endowment and for the work of our Beeson Divinity School faculty and staff.”

Samford University is one of 78 organizations in 29 states receiving grants in the Thriving in Ministry initiative. The organizations reflect diverse Christian traditions: mainline and evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox.

Thriving in Ministry is part of Lilly Endowment’s grantmaking to strengthen pastoral leadership in Christian congregations in the United States. This has been a grantmaking priority at Lilly Endowment for nearly 25 years.

“Leading a congregation today is multi-faceted and exceptionally demanding,” said Christopher L. Coble, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for religion. “When pastors have opportunities to build meaningful relationships with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry and their leadership thrives. These promising programs, including Enhancing the Mission: Beeson Divinity School and Thriving Pastors program, will help pastors develop these kinds of relationships, especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”

This story originally appeared on Samford University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 days ago

Alabama Power crews, APSO help Christian Service Center Food Bank

(Brooke Goff)

Alabama Power linemen don’t only restore power.

In times of need, they put their heavy lifting skills to good use for charitable works. That was the case when several line crew personnel from the Valley/Langdale Crew Headquarters recently spent their off-time delivering 750 pounds of food to the Christian Service Center Food Bank.

The crews carried more than 1,000 cans of food and dried goods – gifts from Alabama Power employees and customers of the Valley/Langdale business offices – to the food bank in Valley.

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Food bank Director Cheryl Myers was thrilled to see the Alabama Power line crewmen walk through the doors with their large boxes. She said the gifts came just in time to feed Chambers County families at the holidays.

“To see all those men here helping us, bringing in all that food was wonderful,” said Myers, who has worked at the Christian Service Center for 28 years. “A lot of that food went to families at Thanksgiving and will help more people at Christmas.”

She said the company’s food donation helped 375 adults and 225 children in November, including many elderly in Valley and Lanett.

“We were able to feed about 60 more families in November, more than in most months,” Myers said. “We provided 19,330 pounds of food in November.”

Alabama Power linemen Chris Denney, Joseph Eldred, Clayton Huckaby, Michael Huckaby and Daniel Sides, with utility assistant Anthony Cipriano, delivered the food after they’d completed their workday.

“They not only brought in the food, they had separated much of it,” Myers said. “Then the men put it in the bins. They saved me a lot of work. It was all good.”

She said that volunteers and workers box the food, separate it and place it in bins, moving the food five times from donation to the point it’s donated to families. Through their volunteerism, the Alabama Power linemen saved Myers some leg work.

Alabama Power’s Valley Customer Service representatives Joni Hubbard, Julie Jennings and Lisa Roberts served as co-chairs for the food bank project through the Southeast Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO).

While working with customers in the Alabama Power’s drive-through lines, CSRs handed out slips suggesting holiday food donations.

“Our customers dropped by cans of food as they visited our business office,” said longtime Southeast APSO member Roberts. “There was a big assortment of food, from canned vegetables to boxed meals, to Hamburger Helper, dried beans and rice. By the end, we had so much food, none of us here could lift the box.”

While visiting her parents in Florida, Alabama Power general clerk Mary Henderson took advantage of that state’s zero sales tax to buy canned goods for donation to the food drive.

“We try to help the Christian Service Center twice a year, with a clothing drive or food drive,” Roberts said. “It’s an organization we know that helps many families in our area.”

Supported by about 40 churches, as well as businesses and individuals, Myers said the Christian Service Center is a community ministry.

“it’s the most unique ministry I’ve ever been affiliated with,” she said. “I am very grateful for the company’s donation and the assistance of the Southeast APSO volunteers.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

AG Marshall: Prosecution of corruption remains a priority after Matt Hart’s departure

(Marshall Campaign)

On Friday’s episode of Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall downplayed the departure of now-former Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart.

Hart formerly led the AG’s Special Prosecutions Division and was perhaps best known for his prosecution of former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

In the interim, Hart had become somewhat of a media darling, and Marshall’s critics had charged politics was a motivation in Hart’s resignation. Marshall dismissed those claims and touted Hart’s successor, Clark Morris.

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“It’s a very important position and the change in leadership is not a reflection in the change in priorities,” Marshall said. “We appreciate the service that Matt Hart gave to the state. He submitted his resignation and we’ve moved forward. We’ve named Clark Morris, who you know is a 20-plus-year prosecutor and an expert in white-collar crime, and somebody who has been a leader in both the Northern District and Middle District U.S. Attorney’s office. We are very confident in what she’s doing, and we have a core group that’s working in that division that is continuing to work very hard.”

Marshall maintained investigating corruption continued to be a priority despite Hart’s departure.

“Capitol Journal” host Don Dailey went on to ask Marshall if Hart’s resignation was political, to which Marshall denied the charge and pointed to his prosecutorial record.

“It’s anything but,” he replied. “You look at the Mike Hubbard case, for example – my name is on the briefs. My name has been on the pleading as we continue to enforce that conviction in Lee County.”

Marshall, who easily won his general election contest last month, acknowledged there was a lot of focus on the Special Prosecutions Division, but also said there were a lot of other components to what the Alabama AG’s office does.

“I think what they do is maybe more known to people from time to time,” he said. “Let’s also understand there 150-plus dedicated employees in the AG’s office. We’re working a mission that is important for the state of Alabama.”

He went on to say Morris would continue with that Special Prosecutions Division’s focus and pointed to her track record as evidence.

“The priority is not shifting,” he said. “I absolutely challenge anybody to look at Clark Morris’ history and experience and see we made anything other than bringing somebody in that’s an outstanding leader. I look forward to being able to work with her as well as the fine people that work in that division. They are working hard today, as they are working hard tomorrow. We will continue to make sure we have the ability going forward to be that leader in these type of cases.”

The Alabama attorney general explained that Morris’ presence allowed his office to “cement” a partnership with federal prosecutors and federal law enforcement agencies.

“I really don’t care if somebody that has engaged in corruption is prosecuted in federal or state court,” he said. “What I worry about is making sure we have accountability. And so, we’ll work collaboratively with our federal partners. I think you’ll see a better job of that over the coming months and years in a way that we can make a difference in this area.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is an editor at Breitbart News.

University of South Alabama alum protects Alabama’s marine resources

(University of South Alabama)

By Maj. Jason Downey’s best recollection, he was about 5 years old when his two grandfathers began taking him to the woods and waters of Alabama to fish, ski and hunt.

As natural as Alabama’s outdoors felt to him growing up, however, it wasn’t until he found himself on a ride-along with a lieutenant for the Marine Resources Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources that he realized with all certainty exactly what he wanted to do with his career.

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“I fell in love,” he said. “This is what I want to do.”

Sixteen years after landing his first job with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Downey has been named chief enforcement officer for its Marine Resources Division.

A 2002 University of South Alabama graduate, Downey says leading the enforcement of state laws that deal with Alabama’s waterways has only increased his conviction that conservation is essential.

“Everything we do is for the public to be able to continue to enjoy all the wonderful natural resources Alabama has to offer,” he said. “I’d like people to think about how great it is and how it would be if we did not have it.”

Downey grew up in west Mobile the son of two educators. He graduated from Theodore High School and won a leadership scholarship to another university. His initial plan was to pursue coaching, a path that would have led him in footsteps laid by father Joe Downey, a longtime football coach for Theodore High School who enjoyed a 40-year coaching career.

But being three hours from home didn’t feel right to Jason Downey. After his freshman year of college, Downey transferred to the University of South Alabama. Here, he was closer to his family — and, not coincidentally, his future wife and future South Alabama alumna, Mindy, whom he’d dated since high school.

Following that eye-opening ride-along, Downey sought input from USA’s counselors about how he could leverage the college courses he’d already taken into a degree that would best position him to quickly begin work with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. He’d already collected many of the credits needed to obtain a bachelor of science degree in sociology, so that’s what he chose.

Downey was so motivated to get to work, he landed a job as an aid with the agency in his final year of college. Soon, he rose from a laborer in the enforcement section to being named a conservation enforcement officer in 2004. Eight years later, Downey became a lieutenant, overseeing conservation enforcement in Mobile County. He spoke about his job in a 2014 video produced by the Alabama Department of Conservation & Natural Resources.

Today, he resides in Daphne with Mindy and their two daughters, ages 8 and 10. Downey’s job has taken him pretty much anywhere water goes or touches, from diving during search and rescue missions to checking fishing licenses to inspecting seafood shops. Downey is also certified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to provide firearms training to his officers and supervisors.

In his new position overseeing the division, Downey says he’s becoming reacquainted with his love of coaching. “I really enjoy dealing with the people I supervise,” he said. “It’s kind of like being head coach. You’re the leader of the team.”

This story originally appeared on the University of South Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

UAB does first-ever study of spectator injuries at sporting events

(Talladega Superspeedway)

Injuries are part of the game. That is a common refrain in sports, usually referring to the athletes. But sometimes it is the spectators who get hurt.

“You don’t expect to be injured when you attend a sporting event as a spectator,” said Amit Momaya, M.D., a sports medicine orthopaedic surgeon in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “You certainly don’t expect to die, yet there are any number of cases where spectators are injured, some fatally, at sporting events.”

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Momaya, one of the team physicians for UAB athletics, began thinking about spectator injuries after reading accounts of a young child struck by a foul ball at a professional baseball game. He realized that there was scant information on spectator injuries. A search of the scientific literature revealed that there had been no studies that documented spectator injuries.

“Without data, there is no way to judge if spectator injuries are becoming more or less prevalent,” Momaya said. “There is no way to determine if more aggressive safety measures are warranted. So, we set out to see what information we could find that would shed light on the subject of spectator injuries.”

The results of that search are now published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. The research team, Momaya and Brent Ponce, M.D., Will Brabston, M.D., Heath Hale, M.D., Kenny McCollough, M.D., and Reed Estes, M.D., combed two scholarly databases, PubMed and Embase, for studies on spectator injuries. They used a popular internet search engine to find incidents of injury. They found that spectator injuries are not common, but they do occur and can be life-threatening and life-changing.

Looking back to 2000, the team tracked 181 spectator injuries, with the vast majority – 123 – coming from automobile or motorcycle racing. Cycling experienced 25 injuries, cricket 12, baseball 10 and hockey eight. The team documented 62 fatal injuries; 38 from vehicle racing, 17 from cycling, four from hockey, two from baseball and a single fatal injury from cricket.

“Most of these injuries are ballistic in nature, meaning the spectator was struck by something from the playing area, such as a ball, puck or vehicle,” Momaya said. “There are also instances in sports such as cycling or basketball where a competitor might inadvertently leave the playing area and make contact with spectators.”

Momaya and colleagues are calling for a central database for recording the occurrence of injuries to spectators during sporting events. A database would provide the information needed to gauge whether spectator injuries were increasing or decreasing and could provide insight into whether protective measures instituted by sporting organizations were effective.

“For example, Major League Baseball recently increased the area covered by netting to reduce the risk of fans being struck by foul balls,” Momaya said. “Without a systematic way to record injuries, there is no way to measure whether that effort is sufficient or if netting should be extended.”

The research team says the findings point to some obvious measures that could be implemented, such as impenetrable barriers at racing events that prevent vehicles or crash debris from entering the spectator area. Increased use of netting at baseball stadiums and higher, transparent barriers in hockey arenas could prevent balls and pucks from striking fans.

“Cricket venues tend to lack protective netting and barriers, which places spectators at increased risk of injury from balls hit into the viewing area,” Momaya said. “Cricket venues should follow the changes implemented by Major League Baseball with extended netting to protect spectators from injuries with high-speed balls.”

The authors also noted that the majority of injuries at cycling events were caused by impacts between spectators and vehicles other than the competitor’s, including a publicity caravan, security motorcycle and a tanker truck. There were also instances in motor racing where support vehicles were involved in spectator injuries.

“This suggests that factors such as crowd control, event planning and staff training also play important roles in spectator safety,” Momaya said. “In addition to protecting spectators from injury due to the sport, attention should be given to all components of the event to ensure that sports fans can safely enjoy their experience.”

Momaya acknowledges that there are challenges to an international database, requiring the coordination of multiple governing bodies across multiple countries. Additionally, sporting organizations would need to agree on the threshold of what is considered an injury.

“There is a fine line between an enhanced fan experience on one hand balanced against spectator safety on the other,” Momaya said. “As a physician, I think safety is the top priority. We need to categorize these injuries and use that data to find tangible ways to protect fans without significant compromise to the viewing experience. Spectator injuries, be they life-ending or life-changing, have no place in sport.”

This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

Gadsden students aided by Career Academy

(Jacki-Lyn Lowry)

There’s no better time to prepare for the future than the present.

Earlier this month, a group of nearly 20 students from Gadsden City High Schoolwere taken on a two-day industry tour in their community. The Career Academy event was hosted early November and allowed these students to see opportunities for career technical programs in the area.

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It was spearheaded by Alabama Power employees in partnership with East Alabama Works, Gadsden State Community College and the Boys and Girls Club of Etowah County. The students who participated were specifically chosen by the Boys and Girls Club.

Comprehensive career learning in Career Academy

In addition to learning these career opportunities firsthand, they also learned about skill sets needed to perform specific job tasks and wages earned in these positions.

Tony Smith, Business Office manager for Alabama Power‘s Gadsden and Attalla offices, worked with the planning committee. Smith said he could see the lightbulb come on for students as they met with professionals and had an opportunity to ask questions.

“As adults, we sometimes assume students know what jobs are out there or what opportunities await them,” said Smith. “But students really don’t know all that’s available or what’s specifically required of them. This event was just one way we were able to open their eyes to career paths that are available.”

Students take industry tours

Tours were hosted at several businesses including Koller Craft, Keystone Foods, Inteva Products, Gadsden Regional Medical Center and Gadsden State Community College.

Students also received nuggets of wisdom from Gadsden State President Dr. Martha Lavender and Alabama Power Eastern Division Vice President Tony Smoke. Smoke serves on the Talent and Leadership Development subcommittee of Alabama Power’s Council on Culture and Inclusion (CCI).

“The conference marked a great opportunity to hone in on one area of the CCI’s focus – fostering relationships that help develop a next generation of diverse, talented and job-ready employees,” said Smoke.

The CCI’s mission is to cultivate a culture that leverages the talents and experiences employees from diverse backgrounds and career paths bring to the company.

This was the first year Career Academy was hosted, but Smith said he doesn’t believe it will be the last.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

Marshall: AG’s office monitoring Galleria investigation, considers protests ‘dangerous’

(Marshall Campaign)

In an appearance on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal” on Friday,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall discussed the ongoing investigation into the shooting at the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover on Thanksgiving night and the events that have followed in its wake.

Marshall told “Capitol Journal” host Don Dailey his office didn’t have any direct involvement as of yet, but he was monitoring the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s effort and receiving updates.

“We don’t have any direct involvement, but it is something that is very much in the forefront of what we’re doing right now,” Marshall said. “I’ve had multiple conversations with ALEA, talked specifically with the ALEA investigator in the case, spoke yesterday with our department of forensic science to make sure they have prioritized that evidence to make sure everything is processed as quickly as possible.”

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The Alabama AG also said he was interested in the protests that have followed the incident, given there are public safety concerns, especially as protesters closed down portions of Interstates 65 and 459 earlier this week.

“We’re also very interested in what we’re seeing for the citizens of Hoover,” Marshall added. “And when you see protests that are shutting down the Interstate – not only is that dangerous for public safety standpoint, it’s also dangerous for the protesters that are involved. I want to make sure that the citizens of Hoover feel safe as well while this investigation is ongoing.”

For now, Marshall said his office was on the sidelines as Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr was handling the effort. However, he said that could change if needed.

“It clearly could have some involvement,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons why I personally have been directly involved in what’s going on. I’ve been a prosecutor for 20 years. I’ve handled officer-involved shooting cases. I’m clearly aware of what are best practices and what we need to be able to do in those cases. And so, we’re ready, willing and able to assist in whatever capacity with the DA in Jefferson County. You know, Danny Carr has been a prosecutor for a long time, as well. I know that he is fully prepared to do what he is required to do once ALEA has finished the investigation. But we stand ready to be ready to be able to assist.”

Marshall added Carr was engaged with his state and federal law enforcement partners and that he had “great confidence” in the recently sworn-in Jefferson County district attorney.

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

3 days ago

In frigid Greenland, University of Alabama engineering student helps understand climate

(Joshua Nunn)

Joshua Nunn had never been outside the United States before graduate school. In fact, he’d never flown in a plane. That all changed on a visit to Greenland, a journey that included a flight on a C-130 military plane.

That’s a long way from his hometown of Talladega. And the weather differences during Greenland’s “summer,” as it’s technically called, and Alabama’s are vast, too. While people sweltered in Alabama’s heat, it never warmed above freezing for the two weeks Nunn and two other researchers from the University of Alabama worked in Greenland.

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“The whole experience was a lot of fun,” Nunn said. “It was a great opportunity and great experience. I would go again if I could.”

He was there to help drag a one-of-a-kind radar across the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream. Developed and built by UA professors and students, the radar helps scientists unveil ancient climate history and provides perspectives on improving climate models.

The team included Nunn, graduate student Christopher Simpson and Dr. Stephen J. Yan, who specializes in ultra-wideband radar and antenna research.

The radar is 1,000 times more sensitive than the current state-of-the-art radar used to image glaciers, operating at a higher power with a bigger, yet lighter, antenna than similar radars for ice sounding, said Yan. The research team was the first to use a radar to image the bottom 10 percent of the ice stream, which is about 1.7 miles deep, Yan said. These results will contribute to developing satellite missions to completely map Greenland and Antarctic ice.

Nunn grew up in Talladega and graduated from Victory Christian High School in Pell City, coming to UA to study electrical engineering. After earning his bachelor’s degree in December 2017, he stayed at UA to get a master’s in electrical engineering.

Nunn worked on the radar technology under Yan before the trip, and while in Greenland he used his knowledge to troubleshoot issues and back up data from the radar.

“I helped make sure the radar didn’t break,” Nunn said. “I learned how these missions generally go and learned how field work is conducted.”

The team stayed on top of the ice stream at a camp housing scientists studying its flow into the ocean. In the middle of white ice, Nunn and the UA team hunkered down at night in a tent with electricity supplied by a generator. Still, one morning, Nunn awoke to find frozen water in a cup beside his bed.

The team had internet with Netflix and could call home, too. In a common area under a domed structure, there was space for a kitchen, meals, shower and laundry. An on-site chef served up some of the best food Nunn had ever eaten.

It was an international team of scientists and engineers, but everyone spoke English, Nunn said.

“It was good to work with folks from another country,” he said. “Everyone should go, if they get a chance.”

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

O’Neal Industries gives $30 million to UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center

(UAB Cancer Center/Twitter)

O’Neal Industries Inc., a family-owned global business based in Birmingham, and its shareholders have given the largest single gift in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s history – a $30 million donation to the Comprehensive Cancer Center. The gift will allow the center to change the lives of more patients and families through transformational cancer research, patient care, education and prevention.

The center will be known as the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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“The O’Neal family has built a legacy in Birmingham, first in the city’s steel industry and now in the city’s future as a biomedical and technology hub,” said Ray L. Watts, M.D., president of UAB. “UAB’s National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center is among the pre-eminent cancer centers in the world, and we are proud and grateful that our cancer center will bear the O’Neal name.”

Members of the O’Neal family have been business and political leaders in Alabama for generations. Edward O’Neal was Alabama’s 26th governor, and his son Emmet served as the state’s 34th governor. Kirkman O’Neal was a pioneer in Birmingham’s burgeoning steel industry, founding in 1921 what was to become O’Neal Steel. The family now operates O’Neal Industries Inc., the nation’s largest family-owned group of metals service centers.

“We see this gift as an opportunity to give back in a meaningful way to a cause that is important to everyone,” said Craft O’Neal, chairman and CEO of O’Neal Industries and grandson of Kirkman O’Neal. “We hope the gift will be used in ways that will yield the greatest results, accelerating progress in research, treatment and prevention of cancer and, ultimately, eliminate cancer as a major public health problem.”

The gift and naming will be formally considered for acceptance by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees at its February meeting.

“This gift will enhance the profile and impact of the cancer center as a premier national destination for those working to end cancer, and those fighting a personal battle with the disease,” said Selwyn Vickers, M.D., senior vice president and dean of the UAB School of Medicine. “It will have lifesaving results that can serve as a catalyst for further philanthropic investment, and we are grateful to the O’Neal family and O’Neal Industries for their leadership in the fight to end cancer.”

UAB’s cancer center was one of the original eight comprehensive cancer centers established by the National Cancer Act in 1971 and has been continuously funded for 46 years.

“We have made great strides in cancer treatment and prevention in the past several decades,” said Will Ferniany, Ph.D., CEO of the UAB Health System. “In the years ahead, the promise of proton therapy, precision oncology, advanced genomics and new therapeutics should reduce the burden of cancer on individual patients and their families, and on the health care system as a whole. The generous O’Neal gift will be a driving force that transforms cancer care moving forward.”

UAB is the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in its four-state region. It also maintains joint ventures with Russell Medical Center and North Alabama Medical Center and manages the Deep South Network for Cancer Control, an outreach into underserved communities in Alabama and Mississippi. The UAB Health System maintains a Cancer Community Health Network in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.

“This truly transformational gift will have a far-reaching impact on cancer research and patient care in our community, state and region,” said Michael J. Birrer, M.D., Ph.D., director of the center. “It strengthens our clinical operation, expands our cancer research efforts, helps translate discoveries into clinical trials, and further establishes the center as a leader in cancer research and care in the nation. The impact of this gift not only will be felt in the cancer center but will be an economic driver for Birmingham and Alabama.”

The O’Neals’ extended family has been touched by cancer. Kirkman’s son and successor, Emmet, Craft’s father, died from emergency surgery associated with colon cancer, and his daughter Libby O’Neal White was a breast cancer survivor. Her husband, David White, succumbed to cancer, as did Craft O’Neal’s mother, Mary Anne, and his brother Kirk. Additional members of the O’Neal and White families have both survived and lost their lives to cancer.

“The O’Neal and White families know too well the devastating effects of cancer, and together we were motivated by the opportunity to play a role in extending the lives of those with cancer in the region, while honoring our family members who have been afflicted by the disease,” O’Neal said.

The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB is home to more than 400 scientists and physician-scientists and is involved in more than 200 clinical trials of new, promising therapeutics, many using therapies that were developed at UAB. The center treats an estimated 5,000 new patients each year.

The gift will enhance patient access and overall patient care, according to Birrer. It also will expand research efforts, potentially tripling the number of clinical trials conducted at UAB. The gift will help recruiting efforts of additional investigators and provide leverage for new grant funding.

O’Neal Industries and its shareholders have a deep history of philanthropy with UAB. Craft O’Neal is a longtime member of the cancer center’s advisory board, and over the years, O’Neal Industries and family members have supported departments across UAB, including the Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Collat School of Business, the Department of Neurology, the School of Nursing, the Comprehensive Diabetes Center and UAB Athletics.

“Our company has a nearly 100-year history here, and that will continue,” O’Neal said. “We believe in giving back to the community that has been so good to us. UAB is the economic engine of Birmingham and, to a large extent, the state of Alabama. My hope is that others will see the exciting developments at the cancer center and want to invest in its future and that of our city as well.”

Industries represents a family of six companies with a global reach. There are 80 separate business locations, including 15 international facilities on four continents, employing more than 3,200 people.

“My grandfather’s and father’s generations of O’Neal employees laid the foundation for the success we enjoy today,” O’Neal said. “This success enables us to give back in all the communities in which we are located, and do even bigger things here at our headquarters in Birmingham. I hope each of our employees, loyal customers and supportive suppliers will take pride in this gift, because without their contributions to our success, we would not be able to give back in such a meaningful way.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

You may need to ho ho hurry for holiday films at the Alabama Theatre

(Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

The Christmas rush is on. No, not the one at the shopping centers and malls, but the one at the Alabama Theatre for the Holiday Film Series.

Now is the time to rush if you want a seat at one of Birmingham’s most popular seasonal events, which last year drew 45,000 people.

The Holiday Film Series at the 90-year-old Alabama Theatre features 11 classic Christmas movies between Dec. 7-22. Also featured is the mighty Wurlitzer organ, played by house organist Gary Jones, who leads the audience in a sing-along of holiday songs and carols prior to the start of each movie.

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“All of the showings of ‘Christmas Vacation’ and ‘Elf’ will sell out,” Jones warns. “Most of ‘Home Alone’ and ‘White Christmas’ will sell out.”

The lineup is a mix of more modern productions, such as “The Polar Express,” with black-and-white classics from the 1940s and ‘50s, such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart and “Miracle on 34th Street” with Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood. “White Christmas” showcases the dancing and singing of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye.

There will be two showings of the always-popular Cartoon Matinee Triple Feature of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

While the series has shown the old staples since it started in 1988, it has changed with the times and tastes of attendees. This year, for example, will be the last showing, at least for a while, of “Meet Me in St. Louis.” The 1944 film starring Judy Garland is more about a family’s potential move to New York than the holidays, although the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” debuted. Incidentally, Birmingham-born composer, lyricist and playwright Hugh Martin wrote that song.

“It’s a wonderful film, but not as well-attended as we’d like,” Jones says.

“Die Hard,” an action thriller that takes place on Christmas Eve and stars Bruce Willis, is making its first appearance in the lineup “due to consistent and repeated requests,” Jones says.

“Our movies are selected on several criteria: past attendance, patron suggestion, nationwide popularity from year to year – there are several industry gauges to help – and studio suggestions,” he says. “But it mostly comes down to the first two: past attendance and patron suggestion. We try to rotate some amount of titles each year.”

Even buying tickets doesn’t remain the same. For the first time, the Alabama will not hold back 100 to 150 tickets to sell at the box office. Instead, all must be bought through Ticketmaster. Should a movie not sell out by showtime, those tickets will be available at the box office 90 minutes before the film begins. Tickets are $9 plus fees, except for “The Polar Express,” which is $12 plus fees and is a fundraiser for Kid One Transport.

More information is at their website or 252-2262.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 days ago

UPDATE: City of Hoover reportedly charges protest leader with disorderly conduct

(Jamiles Lartey/Twitter)

Hoover protest leader Carlos Chaverst, Jr. posted on Facebook Friday night that he is being charged in Hoover with “felony assault” on two security guards at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa.

The incident in question occurred Thursday evening. You can read Yellowhammer News’ report on the alleged assaults here.

“Hoover Police Department is charging me with felony assault on the two security guards that were ‘assaulted’ at Ross Bridge Resort,” Chaverst said, adding “#NoJusticeNoPeace.”

Yellowhammer News has reached out to the Hoover Police Department for comment.

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Chaverst has been the public face of protests in the wake of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford, Jr.’s death in an officer-involved shooting at the Riverchase Galleria on Thanksgiving night. An investigation is currently being conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), which is a division of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).

Before saying that he was being charged, Chaverst posted on Facebook Friday afternoon saying he would be attending “nonviolent civil disobedience training” later that day and on Saturday.

He also wrote on Friday that, “If they are starting to arrest we are ready!!!”

He did not elaborate on what that meant but has said previously that they would “respond and act accordingly” based on how law enforcement treated them.

Update, 8:55 p.m.:

Chaverst has updated his post, saying, “[T]he District Attorney in the Bessemer cutoff declined to sign-off on the felony charges. Hoover is exploring the options of filing the charges as misdemeanor assault.”

Update, 11:05 p.m.:

Chaverst wrote a new Facebook post, stating that Hoover PD charged him “with disorderly conduct.”

He complained that he was not “ever given a warning” and that he was not told he was being disorderly.

“I’ll fight it in court and hit them with a civil lawsuit. This lil $500 bond don’t stop no show!!” Chaverst said.

He concluded that he plans to turn himself in on Saturday, “post bail THEN protest!”

Update, Saturday, 9:30 p.m.:

The City of Hoover tweeted, “The city has not charged anyone with felony assault in reference to the recent protests.”

In an earlier tweet, the city addressed Chaverst saying he was being charged with felony assault, saying, “This is false information that was posted by the individual on his Facebook page.”

Update, Saturday, 10:15 p.m.:

When asked if “the individual” was being charged with anything, the City of Hoover responded, “In light of the injuries that have occurred, HPD is reviewing all protest activity for possible violations.”

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

4 days 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