1 year ago

Comedian W. Kamau Bell takes stereotype-busting CNN show to Alabama

For three years, comedian W. Kamau Bell had trained his sharp eye on exotic slices of America to break down stereotypes.

On Sunday, he took his myth-busting CNN show to a more familiar setting — Alabama, where he spent part of his youth. As is the show’s format, Bell spent the show interviewing a variety of strangers. But the Father’s Day airing also included time talking to someone he knows well — his own dad, former Alabama insurance commissioner Walter Bell.

The depictions of Alabama were familiar to home-state residents, particularly those in the southwestern corner. Bell showed a national audience the gorgeous beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast, told folks about Mobile’s status as birthplace of Mardi Gras in America and explained how to pronounce the Port City’s name — not like a cell phone, Bell says, but Mo-BEEL.

The program featured plenty of familiar shots of downtown Mobile, Orange Beach and the Causeway connecting Mobile and Baldwin counties.

Bell acknowledged Alabama’s past — there was an obligatory clip of segregationist Gov. George Wallace — and alluded to the nation’s “complicated relationship with Alabama.” He also talked a bit about Alabama’s controversial present, with references to former Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who nearly won a special election to the Senate last year despite facing allegations of sexual impropriety that purportedly occurred decades ago.

But overall, Bell showed a side of the Heart of Dixie that many people in the rest of the country never think about — or perhaps even know about.

“There’s always sort of a general outside-of-the-South condescension [toward] the South,” he said. “And I realize it’s like, people really don’t know what they’re talking about. I felt like I want to try to tell my truth of Alabama.”

Bell later added that he was not enthusiastic about coming to Mobile as a kid. He spent summers visiting his dad and attended high school in Mobile for a time. But as an adult, Bell said, he loves it and the South.

“And when people have never been here condescend to it, it makes me defensive of it,” he said. “Which means we don’t actually get to talk about the goodness of it.”

Much of the show was Bell’s personal journey. He took viewers to the modest house he lived in for a time. He showed off his grandmother’s house — now boarded-up —where he has many fond memories.

And Bell took care of some “unfinished” business at the downtown branch of the Mobile Public Library. He returned a book on comics that he had checked out in 1986. The clerk had to get a supervisor, who informed Bell that it was so old, it was not in the computer system.

So, Bell made a $1,000 donation to the library, instead.

“Should we hold out for two?” the supervisor joked.

Bell also went with his father to his childhood home — now a hunting camp — in rural Vredenburgh, Alabama, about 100 miles north of Mobile.

The plot of land where the family shack once stood contains a small cemetery of Bell’s ancestors. He saw the gravesite of his great-great-grandmother, who was born during slave times and had a son — Walter Bell’s grandfather — five years after slavery ended.

“You can be born anywhere, and you can end up anywhere,” Walter Bell said on the show.

Walter Bell was insurance commissioner under then-Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. As the son put it, Walter was Alabama’s highest-ranking black person at the time and the first Alabamian to serve as president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

And what would his father think of that, Kamau Bell wanted to know.

“Well, he was a union guy,” Walter Bell answered. “I mean, bled union blood. For me to have worked for a Republican governor, he probably would have had a few things to say to me about that.”

Kamau Bell ended the show with him and his father fishing in Mobile Bay.

“I have a great life here, you know? I know people. People know me,” Walter Bell said. “And making a living and making a life is two different things. And, when you make a living, you also want to make a life.”

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”


15 mins ago

Sessions: House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry like ‘old Soviet Union’ show trials

In an op-ed for Fox News published on Wednesday, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions slammed ongoing impeachment efforts into President Donald Trump by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The op-ed came the same day that public impeachment hearings commenced.

Sessions also took aim at the mainstream media for aiding and abetting the impeachment efforts, which he called “a desperate attempt to weaken a president who has deeply offended the powers that be in Washington.”

“Every day for the past month – and every day for the next several months – TV anchors will talk in very dramatic tones about the impending doom of impeachment facing America. They make it all sound so serious. But it’s not, and they are not,” the Alabamian wrote.


Sessions added that the impeachment push is coming because of Democrats having “a political disagreement” with Trump rather than the president having committed “Treason, Bribery or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

“President Trump has not been accused of anything for which he can be credibly impeached, but the dangerous ideology of the far left does not recognize legal limits or fundamental fairness,” Sessions said.

“The president’s opponents are determined to win at all costs to undo the results of the last election and to manipulate the results of the next one. That is why – regardless of the weakness of the case presented – the conclusion of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives seems predetermined,” he continued.

Sessions compared this seemingly “predetermined” impeachment effort to Communist Soviet Union tactics.

“The old Soviet Union was famous for show trials – fake trials where the result was already understood, where everything was just for show, and where the accused was already certain to be found guilty before the case was even presented,” Sessions wrote. “Ask yourself this: Regardless of the case the Democrats layout against the president, is there any chance at all that the Democratic House will not vote to impeach him? Any chance at all?”

He continued, “The conclusion of the Democratic majority in the House is predetermined and does not rely on – or have any connection to – evidence. In other words, everything you see in Washington for the next two months is merely a show.”

Sessions emphasized that history is on the verge of being made in America — but for the wrong reasons.

“Impeachment in this circumstance is a very dangerous action. It is founded on passion, hysteria, and yellow journalism – the very things that concerned our wise founders,” he remarked.

“An impeachment by the House on such shoddy grounds would be a dark day indeed,” Sessions explained. “It would create a precedent that opens the door for the political removal of a president, undermining the validity of our elections and subverting the will of the American people.”

He concluded by stressing his support of Trump.

Sessions outlined, “This is political theater, a desperate attempt to weaken a president who has deeply offended the powers that be in Washington. He refuses to play their games, and they will stop at nothing to ensure that he is defeated.”

“Every day, President Trump is achieving things that make life better for the American people and fighting hard for them,” he concluded. “It is time for responsible Democrats to stand up for law, reason and history by stopping this reckless excess. Sadly, restraint and calm judgment seem lost on Democrats as they hurtle forward, heedless of the damage they are doing to our republic.”

Sessions is running in the crowded Republican primary field to reclaim his old U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, which is currently held by Senator Doug Jones (D-AL). Other GOP candidates include former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, Secretary of State John Merrill and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs).

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

1 hour ago

General Ed Crowell appointed Montgomery County probate judge

Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced she has appointed Brigadier General Edward F. “Ed” Crowell (USAF, ret.) to serve as Montgomery County’s probate judge effective immediately.

Crowell fills the vacancy created by former Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed becoming mayor on Tuesday. Crowell was himself a candidate to be Montgomery’s mayor in the August election but did not make the runoff.

He recently was the president and chief executive officer for VT Kinetics, parent company for VT Miltope and VT MAK based in Cambridge, MA, and VT Miltope based in Montgomery County. Prior to his work in the private sector, Crowell served in the United States Air Force and the reserves for 35 years.

Crowell has become a pillar of the Montgomery community, in part because of his incredible civic leadership.


He currently serves on the board of directors of the Montgomery Metro YMCA, Auburn University in Montgomery advisory board, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival board and the Air University Foundation board. He is the recent past chairman of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100.

In a statement, Ivey said, “When I think of General Ed Crowell, the word ‘service’ is the first word that comes to mind.”

“I know that that he will carry his strong work ethic and commitment of service and duty into his role as Montgomery’s Probate Judge,” she continued. “From his long-career in the military, his work in the private sector, and his service in the community, he is more than qualified to serve in this role.”

Crowell earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Economics from Alabama State University in 1971. He later received a Master of Business Administration from then-Troy State University in 2001.

He has since served as a trustee for Troy University.

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

14 hours ago

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama investing $410 million, adding 200 jobs through new vehicle line

MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday joined Hyundai executives and local leaders on the steps of the State Capitol to announce that the automaker plans to add a new vehicle to its Alabama production lineup as part of a $410 million expansion that will create 200 more jobs at the state-of-the-art Montgomery facility, along with approximately 1,000 supplier jobs in the area.

During the press conference, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of Alabama (HMMA) president and CEO Byungjin Jin said workers will assemble the brand-new Santa Cruz compact utility vehicle at the facility, with production slated to begin in 2021.

Hyundai intends to begin filling the new positions being created by the latest expansion project during the second half of 2020.

HMMA currently produces the Santa Fe SUV and the Sonata and Elantra sedans in Montgomery. The addition of the Santa Cruz will provide the company with greater flexibility to adjust its product mix based on market demands.

Jin expressed that this announcement demonstrates continued commitment to and confidence in HMMA’s Montgomery operations and Alabama workforce.


“Bringing the Santa Cruz to HMMA demonstrates that Hyundai Motor Company is confident our more than 3,000 team members are ready to build a quality crossover for the U.S. market,” Jin said.

The Santa Cruz was first introduced as a concept crossover at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Hyundai said it’s designed for younger buyers who want the traditional attributes of a compact utility vehicle but need the day-to-day versatility of an open bed.

Business climate, partnerships made announcement possible

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield acted as the master of ceremonies for the Wednesday press conference. Introducing Governor Kay Ivey to the podium, Canfield advised that her leadership in nurturing Alabama’s world-class pro-growth business climate makes this type of job creation announcement possible.

“[T]o have the right type of (business) climate takes the right kind of leader at the top,” Canfield said. “The type of leader that governs the state with a business saviness and a knowledge and an awareness of what needs to be done to nurture business and also provide great opportunities for the people here across the state of Alabama.”

Ivey then addressed the crowd, which included workers at HMMA’s Montgomery facility.

Calling it an “exciting occasion,” Ivey reiterated that her “top priority” since taking office in the spring of 2017 has been economic development.

The state continues to shatter economic record after record under her administration, and major job announcements and new private sector investments have become commonplace.

She advised that HMMA and the State of Alabama have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship since the company came to Montgomery in 2005.

This announcement is the latest in a series of recent major investments by HMMA.

“We are so honored that in just 18 months HMMA has invested over $1.1 billion in the Montgomery area,” Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Willie Durham stated. “Partnership and teamwork are key to this kind of economic growth, and we are grateful for the impact this kind of investment will have on the entire region.”

Earlier this year, Ivey and local elected officials joined the company for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of HMMA’s cylinder head machining plant in Montgomery. That plant represents a $388 million total investment to manufacture engine cylinder heads and enhance existing operations to support the production of new Sonata and Elantra sedan models.

Even more recently, HMMA announced an additional $292 million investment in new machinery and equipment to facilitate the production of the redesigned Elantra and Santa Fe vehicles and a new, more fuel-efficient Theta engine at their North American plant in Montgomery.

This does not even account for HMMA’s philanthropic work, such as donating $250,000 to Montgomery Public Schools for STEM education.

Hyundai is already the River Region’s largest private manufacturer with 2,900 full-time and 500 part-time employees. Since it opened, the Alabama facility has produced 4.5 million vehicles for the North American market, along with more than 6 million engines.

Wednesday’s announcement underscored that the working relationship between HMMA, the state and local government entities continues to get better and better.

“Alabama and Hyundai have developed a great partnership over the years, and it’s a testament to our special relationship that this world-class automaker is expanding once again in Montgomery,” Ivey said.

Hyundai noted the $410 million investment will create 230,000 square feet of additional space in the stamping, welding and parts processing areas of the manufacturing complex. While direct employment at HMMA will reportedly increase by 200 jobs, Hyundai projects that its local suppliers and logistics companies will employ an additional 1,000 people in the River Region.

“Hyundai’s new investment is giving more Alabama families an opportunity to earn a good living while also strengthening the state’s growing auto industry,” the governor remarked.

Local leaders were also on hand to celebrate the announcement — and these individuals play a big part in the productive partnership with HMMA.

Canfield noted that Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed has only been on the job one day officially now but that Reed’s leadership has already been important with Hyundai, as he traveled to South Korea recently with then-Mayor Todd Strange to meet with company executives.

Reed spoke during Wednesday’s press conference and stressed his commitment to the relationship and appreciation for Hyundai.

“I recently had the honor of experiencing first-hand the long-standing partnership between Hyundai and Montgomery on a visit to Seoul as part of an economic development delegation including former Mayor Todd Strange,” Reed said.

“With the addition of the Santa Cruz, Hyundai is again choosing to launch a new vision. I look forward to continuing to strengthen this vital relationship in the coming years and working with our partners to support this tremendous investment,” he concluded.

Among U.S. states, Alabama ranks as the fifth largest producer of cars and light trucks. It is home to more than 150 major auto suppliers and over 40,000 automotive manufacturing jobs.

Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean said that companies become family when they locate in Alabama and that the state’s leaders, along with local officials, take it upon themselves to go above and beyond in making sure companies are successful in the Yellowhammer State.

“Our commitment to our partnership with Hyundai continues to deepen, and we are so honored by this significant investment,” he added. “Together, we are charting the course for success and opportunity in the River Region.”

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

15 hours ago

Shelby’s leadership paves way for authorization of Southwest Alabama Regional Airport

The historic leadership of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has paid off in a major way for his home state once again.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has authorized a new regional airport in Thomasville for residents across the southwest region of the Yellowhammer State. According to a Wednesday announcement from Shelby’s office, local airports will merge to become the Southwest Alabama Regional Airport.

This has been a longtime project spearheaded by Shelby, with support from local leaders in and around Clarke County like Thomasville Mayor Sheldon Day.


Dr. John Eagerton of the Alabama Department of Transportation stated that “the project would not have advanced without the support and effort of Senator Shelby and his staff to gain final FAA approval for the new airport.”

The 2005 Alabama Statewide Airport System Plan revealed that southwest Alabama is underserved in terms of access to aviation infrastructure. As a result, the Alabama Department of Transportation’s Aeronautic Bureau worked with FAA and the Southwest Alabama Regional Airport Authority to conduct studies outlining an approach to meet the region’s aviation needs. These studies confirmed that the area was underserved and recommended the construction of a new general aviation airport in Clarke County.

“North Clarke County is located 60 miles from the closest interstate. The new Southwest Alabama Regional Airport is vital in closing the transportation gap for business and industry in our rural region,” Day said in a statement. “We want to sincerely thank Senator Shelby! He has been a strong advocate of this new airport and has long recognized the need for vital infrastructure in rural areas to accommodate new and expanding industries. We would also like to thank Gov. Ivey and Dr. John Eagerton for their unwavering dedication to seeing the vision for this airport become reality.”

Over the past decade, various companies have been or are in the process of investing over $550 million in facilities and infrastructure to support business operations in the Thomasville area. These investments have and will continue to support hundreds of jobs, and these businesses, as well as their vendors, suppliers and customers, rely on general aviation aircraft to support their commercial needs.

The new regional airport will allow local companies to enhance operations while also attracting new business to the area.

“The recent growth and economic investment in Thomasville and the surrounding areas have created an ideal environment to host the new Southwest Alabama Regional Airport,” Shelby said in a statement.

“I am grateful for the efforts of Mayor Day, Dr. Eagerton, and Gil Gilmore over the years as we have worked to make this vision possible. I am also proud that the Federal Aviation Administration has recognized the need for this airport, and I am confident this project will contribute to the economic vitality of the region for generations to come,” he continued.

Governor Kay Ivey especially highlighted Shelby’s work and outlined that the news is another major win for rural Alabama.

“It is always encouraging to see rural areas in our state take bold, giant steps and I congratulate Senator Richard Shelby and Mayor Sheldon Day for their work in getting the Southwest Alabama Regional Airport approved by the FAA,” she commented.

“Projects like this take a long time, a lot of patience and even more persistence,” the governor added. “My Administration is totally focused on helping rural Alabama compete whether it is in infrastructure, broadband or economic development, and we’ve recently seen several major developments come to rural Alabama.”

Ivey concluded, “Special thanks to Senator Shelby and our Federal Delegation for their help. As one who grew up in Alabama’s Black Belt, helping our rural areas is top priority of mine. I’m especially grateful for the leadership of Dr. John Eagerton, chief of the Aeronautics Bureau, at the Alabama Department of Transportation. John has been working for years to help Alabama’s airports and he worked tirelessly on this project as well.”

This comes the week following Shelby’s leadership as the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee helping Alabama secure three U.S. Department of Transportation BUILD grants worth a total of approximately $30 million — one each for Madison County, Gulf Shores and Lauderdale County.

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

15 hours ago

Episode 34: Does Arkansas want Gus back?

During this week’s episode, DrunkAubie discusses Arkansas firing Chad Morris and the never-ending rumors of Gus going back to Arkansas. The guys also react to the LSU-Alabama game, predict UGA/Auburn and hate on Georgia. Shout out to Bo Jackson.