6 months ago

Local philanthropists pave the way to expanded healthcare in Baldwin County

On a glorious fall afternoon — their favorite time of the year — Louis and Melinda Mapp pull up a pair of rocking chairs on the front porch of their Fairhope home.

They sit down to trace a family history that begins with business roots in Mississippi and ends with hospital philanthropy in Alabama. Both of them are volunteers as well as donors. They have the easy rapport of a couple who have been married 61 years.

He starts most of their stories. She finishes many of his sentences.

The Mapps are from Hattiesburg, Miss., where his grandfather founded the Faulkner Concrete Pipe Company in 1915. Years later, after selling the family business, Louis started a second career in finance at the company that became Regions Bank.

Since then, he and his wife have shared their good fortune with neighbors in both states. The Mapp Family Foundation has given away more than $6 million. The couple has made several six-figure donations to USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital, where Louis has volunteered in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

He’s a certified NICU cuddler, using his body warmth and a gentle rock to soothe premature infants. “To hold one of those babies in your arms,” he said, “is just amazing.”

This summer, the Mapps gave eight acres to USA Health for a Baldwin County medical campus that is proposed to include outpatient surgical care.

“Communities can’t make it without good healthcare,” Louis says. “And it’s needed here. Why should a young family with a critical-need child have to drive to Mobile, when you can have a doctor with a subspecialty right here?”

Owen Bailey, the CEO of USA Health, has known the Mapps for 30 years. They’ve served on local boards and committees. As volunteers, they’ve offered their time as well as their money.

“I can’t say enough good things about them,” Bailey says. “They’re kind, caring and selfless. They’ve made a difference in countless lives.”

Years ago, when the Mapps donated to a new heart center in Fairhope, hospital administrators planned the usual ground-breaking ceremony of VIPs with hard hats and shovels. Louis suggested a program featuring local heart patients and their families.

This year, when USA Health was looking at land for a campus near Fairhope, the Mapps owned two suitable tracts. Louis insisted that the hospital group accept the more desirable one, a $2 million corner parcel at the intersection of Alabama 181 and Alabama 104.

Bailey calls him a mentor and counselor who is gracious and humble.

“Louis is one of the most talented business people I know, but you would never hear that from his mouth,” he says. “He’s a servant leader.”

Sunshine on the Eastern Shore

For a front porch chat, Melinda Mapp wears dress shoes, black slacks and a matching print blouse. Louis is more casual, in a gray long-sleeve T-shirt and faded blue jeans. He’s taller than his wife. His hair is shorter and whiter. His drawl is more syrupy.

Louis doesn’t jog anymore, thanks to his 83-year-old knees, but he still wears New Balance running shoes. An iPhone peeks from his shirt pocket.

“I love technology,” he says. “I’m an Apple guy.”

“He’s a good geek for me,” Melinda says.

“Yes,” he agrees, laughing. “I’m her Geek Squad.”

The Mapps have three children, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Their daughter’s family lives in Fairhope, while one son is in Mississippi and the other is in Florida.

“We don’t go to visit much anymore,” Louis says. “They come here.”

Joining the Mapps on their front porch is a five-year-old dachshund. Animal welfare is another one of their interests. Sunshine is part of that story.

“She’s a rescue,” Louis says.

“Our second rescue dog,” Melinda says.

“From ‘The Haven,’” Louis says. “A Fairhope-Mobile animal shelter.”

“We found out about her from a friend,” Melinda says. “We had just lost another dog.”

“I got this e-mail saying ‘you need to go and see this dog,’” Louis says. “Then they brought her to the house.”

“She went through that door,” Melinda says, “like she’d lived here her whole life.”

“And the rest is history,” Louis says.

Mississippi Natives

The Mapps knew each other growing up in Mississippi. They started dating when she was a sophomore and he was a senior at Hattiesburg High School.

“He was nice – very nice,” Melinda says. “And my older brother was so particular about who I dated. Mother and dad would always say, ‘Is it OK if she goes out with so-and-so?’ Then they said, ‘What about Louis Mapp?’ And he said sure.”

Louis went on to college at Southern Mississippi, where the football field, Faulkner Field, was named for his grandfather. He was not an academic success, though, and never graduated.

“I didn’t flunk out, but I didn’t do well,” he says with a hangdog grin. “I enjoyed myself.”

His father told him that leaving school meant that he was either going to work or joining the military. Louis enlisted in the Army – “I was a slick-sleeved private, about as low as you can get” – before marrying Melinda and returning to college at Louisiana State University.

They were big football fans in those days. The Ole Miss and LSU teams were often ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation. In Tiger Stadium on Halloween Night, 1959, they watched Billy Cannon become a legend by returning a punt 89 yards on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy.

“They were playing Ole Miss and I got blamed for it,” Melinda says, laughing. “I had just said, ‘Well, I don’t know what’s so great about Billy Cannon. …’”

The Mapps returned to Hattiesburg and Louis took over the family business after his grandfather died. He jokes that he earned his MBA on the job. Years later, he took his business experience to the banking industry.

He makes it sound simple.

“The basics are the same,” Louis says. “Treat your customers right, treat your employees right, and you’ll be all right.”

A Commitment to Service

In Baldwin County, the Mapps remain active in the Fairhope Christian Church, where Louis offers computer support. He helped the pastor set up livestreaming so quarantined members can join Sunday services from home. He also took a series of photographs for a church display, using his iPhone as a technical and artistic challenge.

He has a passion for automobiles that is also related to engineering and technology. He loves to drive his Audi Q8, especially at night.

“I’ll tell you what it’s got,” Louis says. “This Audi has night vision with infrared cameras and thermal imaging. If I’m going down the road in the dark and there’s a jogger or bicyclist, they light right up.”

For many years, Melinda volunteered at hospitals in Mississippi and Alabama. She preferred working with staff and patients in the emergency room.

“It was always interesting,” she said. “If there was a family that was worried or distressed, I could run errands or do whatever they needed me to do.”

At Children’s & Women’s Hospital in Mobile, a tour of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit touched Louis’ heart. Like Melinda, he wanted to work in the busiest wards of the hospital. Last year, he also volunteered to work with the families of patients in the Trauma Center at University Hospital in Mobile.

“I knew there were some really sick people and they were getting great care,” he says. “I wanted to be a part of that.”

Closer to home is their land grant to USA Health. The couple don’t often lend their names to a project, but this is an exception. They’re invested in the Mapp Family Campus.

They see a need for everyone in Baldwin County, themselves included.

“We’re at an age where it’s not so easy to go back and forth across Mobile Bay,” she says. “I’ve had so many people tell me, since the announcement was made, how excited they are to have this in Baldwin County.”

This story originally appeared in the fall 2020 edition of South Magazine.

(Courtesy of the University of South Alabama)

8 hours ago

Jim Zeigler considering ‘exploratory’ effort for Alabama governor in 2022

After much speculation, Gov. Kay Ivey announced her intentions to seek another term as governor in 2022 earlier this month.

Despite what were perceived to be controversial positions on pushing the Rebuild Alabama Act that raised the gasoline tax, her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in determining what could remain open and closed and a failed Mobile Bay/I-10 toll bridge proposal, Ivey is still riding high in polling with strong approve-disapprove numbers.

However, State Auditor Jim Zeigler, whose term as auditor will be over after 2022 and is ineligible to run again because of term limits, told Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” on Friday that he was considering a run for governor in 2022.

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“I believe it’s very important for Alabama taxpayers, for the state government, for our future to have a viable opponent who has been raising issues and trying to hold the Ivey administration accountable,” he said. “And that is why I am considering myself setting up an exploratory campaign to test the waters for a gubernatorial run. Who else is there — who else took the lead in blocking the toll bridge over Mobile Bay? Who else took the lead in blocking Amendment One that would have taken away your right to vote for school board members and have them all appointed by the Governor? Who else took the lead in blocking this prison rental plan that would have had us paying over $3 billion over 30 years and then owning zero equity in the prisons, a terrible business plan?”

“I don’t know,” Zeigler continued. “If not me, then who?”

If Zeigler runs against Ivey in 2022, it would not be the first time the two of their names appeared on a ballot in a race against one another. In Alabama’s 2020 Republican primary, Zeigler took on Ivey in a race for state delegate for the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Ivey prevailed with 7,182 votes to Zeigler’s 1,729 votes — a margin of 80.6% to 19.4%.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

12 hours ago

Alabama’s May unemployment rate drops to 3.4% — Post-pandemic rate at lows; Record high wages

Alabama’s post-COVID pandemic economic recovery seems to be humming along based on data released Friday by the Alabama Department of Labor.

According to a press release, Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington revealed Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted May unemployment rate is 3.4%, down from April’s rate of 3.6%.

The 3.4% rate tops the May 2020 number of 7.9%.

“May’s rate represents 75,458 unemployed persons, compared to 79,319 in April and 174,680 in May 2020,” the release said. “May’s unemployed count is the lowest in 2021.”

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(ADOL)

“Our record-breaking streak is continuing in May, and we hope that it continues throughout the rest of the year,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in the statement. “Yet again, we’ve dropped our unemployment rate and each month we are getting closer and closer to our pre-pandemic record low unemployment rate of 2.6%. Our economy is adding jobs, and earlier barriers to joining the workforce have been significantly reduced. In fact, there are more job postings than there are people counted as unemployed! Alabama is, once again, open for business.”

Data showed that wage and salary employment grew last month by 4,700.

“Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+5,000), the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+2,500), and the education and health services sector (+1,200), among others. Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 123,000, with gains in the leisure and hospitality sector (+37,100), the professional and business services sector (+23,000), and the manufacturing sector (+22,900), among others,” the release said.

Average weekly earnings for the private sector rose to a new record high of $974.12, up $66.91 over the year, according to the Department of Labor.

“As we continue to see improvement in nearly all sectors of the economy, we’re also seeing record high wages in Alabama,” Washington added. “Once again, our average weekly wages are at new record high, representing an almost $67 per week over-the-year increase. Both the leisure and hospitality and manufacturing sectors are showing record high wages as well, with significant yearly increases. The economy is responding as we expected to labor force fluctuations brought about by the pandemic.”

Broken down by county, Shelby County led the way with a rate of 1.8%, followed by Blount, Marshall, Franklin and DeKalb Counties.

Wilcox County topped the highest in the state with an unemployment rate of 8.8%.

When broken down by municipalities, Alabaster had the lowest rate at 1.7%. Selma had the state’s highest, coming in at 7.0%, followed by Prichard at 6.5% and Bessemer at 5.2%.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

13 hours ago

Shelby warns Biden on defense cuts — ‘Military investments in China and Russia … outpace U.S. investment’

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) fired his own warning shots over what he views as an inadequate defense budget proposal from President Joe Biden.

During a full Senate Committee on Appropriations review of Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Department of Defense budget request, Shelby expressed his concern that the administration’s defense spending plan placed the nation at a disadvantage compared to its adversaries.

“The National Defense Strategy provides a road map for what the Department of Defense needs – at a minimum – to meet the challenges posed by a re-emergence of long-term strategic competition with China and Russia,” explained Shelby. “Anything less jeopardizes readiness, the recapitalization of capital assets, and necessary investments in new and emerging technologies.”

Shelby, who currently serves as vice chairman of the powerful Senate committee, believes that not meeting current national defense demands sends a dangerous message to the rest of the world.

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“This year, the budget proposal signals to the world that this administration is not committed to investing in readiness, training, state of the art equipment, and technological overmatch,” Shelby stated. “With military investments in China and Russia continuing to outpace U.S. investments, I find it hard to believe that the requirements outlined by General Dunford just four years ago are no longer instructive.”

This critical assessment from Alabama’s senior senator comes less than a month after the highest-ranking U.S. military officer described the nation’s relations with China and Russia as “fraying.”

In an address to graduates of the United States Air Force Academy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said, “Right now we are in a great power competition with China and Russia. And we need to keep it at competition and avoid great power conflict.”

Milley and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Shelby addressed both officials in his remarks, stating, “The world is a complex and dangerous place and I know that you both understand the magnitude of the challenges we face from our near peer adversaries who seek to undermine the United States’ position as a world leader and dominant military power. China and Russia are formidable adversaries and China, as you have acknowledged Secretary Austin, is proving to be a true pacing threat. China seeks hegemony – militarily, technologically, economically, and geopolitically – and is making unprecedented investments to see that to fruition.”

“Meanwhile, Russia is nearing the end of a massive military modernization program that saw its defense spending increase 30 percent in real dollars over the last 10 years,” he added.

Shelby concluded that he could not support an effective cut in defense spending in 2022.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

13 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl urges Biden to undergo tests for ‘mental impairment’

U.S. Representative Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) joined 13 of his congressional colleagues in urging President Joe Biden to undergo an examination to determine his mental fitness to serve.

The group cited a string of embarrassing verbal gaffes by the president as the basis for their request.

In a letter sent to Biden on Thursday, the Republican members of Congress explained, “We write to you today to express concern with your current cognitive state. We believe that, regardless of gender, age, or political party, all Presidents should follow the precedent set by former President Donald Trump to document and demonstrate sound mental abilities.”

They continued, “Unfortunately, your mental decline and forgetfulness have become more apparent over the past 18 months. In March, you forgot the name of the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, and the Defense Secretary, though you had said ‘Secretary Austin’ just a few minutes prior.”

In addition, the letter cites Biden’s telling of an Amtrak story with an inexplicable timeline, forgetting the first line of the Declaration of Independence and obvious disorientation during a visit to Texas as examples for why they believe Biden is in need of cognitive testing.

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The list of gaffes attributable to his mental acuity seems to be piling up for the 46th president.

During the G7 Summit in England recently, he asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to introduce the South African president.

RELATED: Biden lashes out at media member and Alabama native Kaitlan Collins over Putin — ‘You’re in the wrong business’

Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce has questioned whether Biden’s cognitive state is a national security liability.

Biden has received criticism in the early stages of his administration for calling on only a predetermined list of reporters during press conferences. The most recent instance of this occurred while Biden was in Geneva, Switzerland, for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Carl and the other letter signers pushed for transparency with any medical assessments being made, as well.

“We encourage you to follow the example set by President Trump by undergoing a cognitive test as soon as possible and immediately making the results available for the American people,” they concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

14 hours ago

ALGOP chair John Wahl: AEA resurgence ‘a concern’; Reminds GOP candidates ‘not a good idea’ accept their campaign contributions

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) seemingly flexed its muscle at the end of the 2021 legislative session by successfully pushing through a two-year delay to the Literacy Act, which mandates children be able to read at a third grade level before proceeding to the fourth grade.

Gov. Kay Ivey vetoed the delay, but it left political watchers wondering if this was just the beginning of the AEA’s return to the forefront of Alabama politics.

During an appearance on FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” on Thursday, Alabama Republican Party chairman John Wahl said it was indeed a concern for the party.

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“[I]t’s funny you bring that up because at one point in the past, there was actually a resolution passed by the state party, I believe, that was saying Republican candidates should not take money from the AEA because of their influence and the concern they would have over direct policy,” he stated. “So, of course, that’s a concern. That type of influence from anybody pushing to regulate themselves is never — you don’t want a group regulating themselves. That’s not good for policy.”

While there was a resolution in place that pertained to AEA campaign contributions to Republican candidates, Wahl said it was not an outright ban but a “strong recommendation” not to accept their money.

“I need to go back and look at the resolution in-depth,” Wahl said. “But I believe it was a resolution, so it’s not a direct ban. There’s no teeth to it. But it was a very strong recommendation to candidates — that it is not a good idea to take that money.”

“[T]here were jokes about how the AEA controlled the state and had a vast amount of control over policy and what would happen with the Governor’s office, the state legislature,” he explained. “So much of that has gotten better since Republicans have taken control. But you’re right — we’re seeing a resurgence, at least of their involvement. Hopefully not their influence.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.