6 months ago

Power and Influence: Alabamians in D.C.

The state of Alabama has over the years sent leaders to Washington, D.C. who have etched their names on the country’s history in a myriad of ways. Merely a few include Justice Hugo Black, Sen. Howell Heflin, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the continued powerful presence of Sen. Richard Shelby.

The Yellowhammer State’s influence is not limited to elected and appointed leaders, though.

There exists an entire class of Alabamians who have descended on the nation’s capital to shape policy, serve their government and fuel public discourse on the most pressing issues. Some have done so in public view, most have not.

Yellowhammer News has compiled a list of native Alabamians, and those who have spent appreciable time living in the state, exerting power and influence in the seat of American politics.

Abe Adams, managing partner, Targeted Victory: Adams tests the boundaries of what it means to be well-rounded. He is a multi-lingual lawyer with an engineering degree from the University of Alabama. A top-tier Republican campaign strategist, he also delves into corporate branding. Adams will continue to make his mark in D.C. well into the future.

 

Michael Allen, managing director, Beacon Global Strategies: Allen is one of the country’s foremost experts on national security policy and foreign affairs. The Mobile native and graduate of the University of Alabama Law School worked in the George W. Bush White House with national security and legislative responsibilities. In addition, he held the position of staff director for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. In private practice, Allen advises his clients on an array of complex global issues.

 

Britton Bonner, economic development team leader, Adams & Reese: Bonner is a frequent tip of the spear on economic development projects involving foreign direct investment. This work often originates out of his relationships and knowledge in D.C. Bonner has frequently led trade missions to Europe and Asia on behalf of Alabama’s aerospace, defense and shipbuilding industries. When there are economic development issues that need momentum in D.C., this Troy University graduate is usually involved.

 

Brent Buchanan, founder, Cygnal: Buchanan is Alabama’s homegrown pollster. He made such a name for himself in Montgomery that some were calling him Alabama’s Nate Silver. Now he has opened up shop in D.C. and is prospering. Cygnal has worked in 43 states and conducts more than 500 surveys per year for a variety of clients in politics, business and public policy.

 

Ray Cole, vice president, Van Scoyoc: Among the long list of highly influential individuals in D.C. who graduated from “The University of Richard Shelby,” Cole may be the valedictorian. His practice areas include some of his home state’s most important industries, such as aerospace, defense, agriculture, energy and financial services. The perception has existed for quite some time that if you need certain things done in D.C. and Alabama, Cole is the guy you need to hire. Cole serves on the University of Alabama President’s Cabinet and the Advisory Board for the Blackburn Institute.

 

Michael Davis, government relations expert, Balch & Bingham: Davis’ biography page on the firm website describes him as “a connected strategist and problem solver.” We could not have said it any better ourselves. The Mobile native long ago established himself as one of Alabama’s most effective people at getting things done in D.C. Davis’ relationships are built to last.

 

Rick Dearborn, Cypress Group/Adams & Reese: This Birmingham resident has been a fixture in D.C. for more than three decades. He is a partner at The Cypress Group and a senior policy advisor at Adams & Reese. Before entering the private sector, Dearborn held premier jobs in government as deputy chief of staff to President Donald Trump and chief of staff to former Senator Jeff Sessions. His wife Gina is a state lobbying stalwart, making them a true Alabama power couple.

 

Billy Godoy, director of federal affairs, General Motors: General Motors employs more than 86,000 people across the United States and has invested north of $27 billion in American facilities since 2009. While the enormity of its impact on the nation’s economy is apparent through numbers like those, the extent to which its health is tied to public policy decisions in D.C. is more difficult to describe. Regardless, the job falls on the shoulders of Alabama native Billy Godoy who has established a strong profile in the nation’s capital.

 

Brittney Godoy, co-founder, Socko Strategies: A productive fundraising apparatus is essential to any successful political operation. Raising money, though, is not nearly as easy as it sounds. That’s why a firm like the one Brittney Godoy has built is in such high demand in D.C. politics. The Alabama native and University of Alabama graduate has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for candidates and committees.

 

Stewart Hall, chairman, Crossroads Strategies: Hall has built a career in D.C. upon decades of experience, and his work for Richard Shelby has served as a rock-solid foundation. There are few issues that he has not tackled over the years, and he has maintained a foothold in the world of campaigns and strategy. Hall knows the ins and outs of the D.C. game like few others do.

 

Susan Hirschmann, chairman and CEO, Williams & Jensen: If there was such a thing as a super-lobbyist, this University of Montevallo graduate would be considered one. A former chief of staff to the House majority whip, she now runs one of the oldest independent lobbying firms in D.C. She served as one of three U.S. delegates to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women in 2005. As a visiting fellow at Harvard University, Hirschmann wrote Skirting Tradition: Women in Politics Speak to the Next Generation.

 

Mike House, founder, Oak Grove Strategies: Politics and law have been House’s currency in Washington going all the way back to when he served as chief of staff to legendary Alabama political figure Howell Heflin. An Auburn University undergrad, with a law degree from the University of Alabama, he managed Howell Heflin’s Senate campaign in 1978. House has taken up permanent residence on lobbying power lists in D.C. He occupies the 10th spot on Washingtonian’s 50 Top Lobbyists and is a top three legislative lawyer by Chambers USA.

 

Mary Pat Lawrence, senior vice president for government affairs, Protective Life: Lawrence is one of those rare individuals whose name elicits near universal respect and admiration when brought up in conversation with her peers. An East Alabama native, with undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Alabama, she now oversees all government and regulatory affairs for the Alabama insurance juggernaut Protective Life. That’s a huge job considering the company, headquartered in Birmingham, maintains $120 billion in assets and employs more than 3,000 people across the country. The sky is the limit for Lawrence.

 

Walton Liles, co-founder, Blue Ridge Law & Policy: Liles’ government service could not have prepared him any better for a practice focusing on providing clients strategic legal advice and advocacy. Liles served as Senior Counsel for the House Committee on Financial Services. In addition, the University of Alabama Law School graduate learned from one of Alabama’s finest federal judges as a law clerk to Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Joel Dubina.

 

Torrie Miller Matous, chief of staff, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board: Matous is a Montgomery native who has worked for several notable members on Capitol Hill, including serving as chief of staff to Martha Roby and communications director for Richard Shelby. Aimed at bolstering investor confidence, the PCAOB oversees auditing of public companies and SEC-registered brokers and dealers, creating a web of regulatory interaction that Matous is tasked with managing.

 

Alex McCrary, director of federal governmental and corporate affairs, Alabama Power Company: The instability of today’s political and public policy climate can be difficult for any company to handle. The energy industry, in particular, has to continually monitor the proceedings in D.C. McCrary is charged with making sure Alabama Power Company’s voice is heard on Capitol Hill and throughout federal agencies. The Auburn University graduate has excelled in that role. McCrary’s work is particularly noted for his grasp of policy nuances as well as an ability to develop relationships that count.

 

Kasdin Miller Mitchell, partner, Kirkland & Ellis: Mitchell is a partner in the prestigious law firm Kirkland & Ellis. She held not one but two of the dream jobs for conservative jurists. She served as law clerk to Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court of the United States and Bill Pryor on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Mitchell also worked as a spokesman for former First Lady Laura Bush and at the U.S. Department of Energy. If you went into a lab to build a resume for a high-powered D.C. lawyer, Mitchell’s would be the one you would want to copy.

 

Leroy Nix, director of federal government affairs, Southern Company: Southern Company’s operating revenues total $23.4 billion. It has nearly 9 million utility customers while employing more than 29,000 people. As director of Federal Government Affairs, Nix is charged with protecting those vast interests with policymakers and agency personnel in D.C. He is a University of Alabama Law School graduate, and his connection to his home state persists as a member of the University of Montevallo Board of Trustees. Nix’s star continues to rise.

 

Chuck Penry, vice president for federal government relations, Tyson Foods: The Auburn graduate has been an advocate for rural America for many years. Previously, he worked on behalf of electric cooperatives, and now he is tasked with keeping the poultry industry prosperous. Penry’s time in D.C. goes all the way back to his service on Sen. Howell Heflin’s staff and as the senator’s representative on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

 

Gina Rigby, director of federal government affairs, AFLAC: Rigby heads up the D.C. government affairs operation for Columbus, Georgia-based AFLAC. The Fortune 500 company provides insurance coverage to more than 50 million people worldwide. Rigby, a Smith Station native, deals with Congress and the Trump administration on a myriad of issues including trade, taxes, healthcare and insurance.

 

Ed Rogers, founding partner, BGR Group: Rogers successfully completed the career journey to which so many young political operatives aspire. Old political hands in Montgomery still recall a young Rogers engaging in the kind of mundane tasks assigned to entry-level campaign workers such as putting out signs and coordinating volunteers. What seems like a lifetime later, he has reached legendary status in Republican power circles. A veteran of the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, he also worked alongside the late Lee Atwater during the 1988 campaign. Rogers co-founded the powerhouse BGR Group with former Republican National Committee chairman and Mississippi governor Haley Barbour. He currently serves on the president’s cabinet at the University of Alabama and as a visiting professor.

 

Alex Schriver, executive vice president, Targeted Victory: Schriver is a political speedboat. A former College Republican National Committee chairman, he quickly ascended to serve as chief of staff to Congressman Bradley Byrne. After navigating the treacherous waters of Capitol Hill, he took up work in the private sector where he captains a large part of Targeted Victory’s strategic political work.

 

Amos Snead, executive vice president, Adfero: There is an unwritten rule in D.C. that you pay forward the help you received at the start of your career. Perhaps no one has taken up for young Alabamians searching for entry points onto Capitol Hill more than Snead. So much so that he even authored a book titled, “Climbing the Hill: How to Build a Career in Politics and Make a Difference.” A communications expert and graduate of the University of Montevallo, he is a co-founder of FamousDC, a digital media company and social network for life inside the Beltway.

 

David Stewart, partner, Bradley: Stewart is a seasoned veteran of D.C. governmental affairs. The Alabama native and former Jeff Sessions staffer assists his clients on Capitol Hill and the executive branch. Stewart’s practice includes advising clients on the intricacies of federal campaign finance laws. His practice fits seamlessly into the full-service approach of a law firm such as Bradley.

 

Bill Stiers, director of federal government relations, Maynard, Cooper & Gale: This University of Alabama graduate has logged more than thirty years in D.C. Stiers has worked as a congressional staffer, political consultant and as a fundraiser. He has solidified his stature in D.C. through his involvement in so many different parts of politics. Stiers’ advocacy delves into the areas which matter most to the state, including national security, aerospace, biotechnology, healthcare, financial services and manufacturing.

 

Steve Still, partner, Balch & Bingham: Still is a partner in the firm’s Public Policy and Government Relations practice. He has spent decades representing clients in front of Congress and federal agencies to the point that his name is now synonymous with law firm-based federal advocacy. In addition, Still is the only attorney in Alabama who is a member of the Federation of Regulatory Counsel.

 

Goodloe Sutton, director of government affairs, Boeing: Few industries require a more comprehensive federal affairs strategy than companies in the aerospace and defense industries. Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace contractor, employing more than 153,000 people across the U.S. It is unsurprising that the company would call upon Sutton to lead its government affairs. He has seen just about everything as a key Richard Shelby aide and member of the Senate Appropriations Committee staff.

 

Madeline Barter Vey, senior director political and public affairs, Equinor: After gaining ample experience on Capitol Hill and in private lobbying practice, Vey now directs political and public affairs for Equinor. The international energy company employs more than 30,000 people worldwide and counts on Vey to represent it in the formulation of U.S. energy policy. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama and a member of the Alabama State Bar.

 

Brad Wilson, vice president, Highwood Capital: A Dothan native, and University of Alabama graduate, Wilson is a key figure in the national political and business consulting firm Highwood Capital. He specializes in fundraising and development for political campaigns and non-profits. He’s a veteran political operative of the Alabama Republican Party from a time before the GOP enjoyed majority status in the state. Bolstering his impressive resume is his eight-year stint as state director for Richard Shelby.

Heather Caygle, Politico: Caygle is a Congress reporter for Politico. The UAB graduate and Crimson Tide fan previously covered the Hill for Bloomberg BNA. Her byline became nearly perpetual during impeachment as she captured the story from every conceivable angle. Her frequent television appearances include C-Span and PBS.

 

Kaitlan Collins, CNN: From Prattville to the White House press corps is quite a journey. This University of Alabama graduate has never been one to shy away from controversy. That approach has served her well and helped her become a fixture on cable news coverage. She was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 in news media in 2019. In 2018, Mediaite recognized her as the 50th most influential person in news media.

 

Jan Crawford, CBS: Crawford has registered a storied career in legal journalism. She is one of the news media’s most prominent observers of the nation’s highest court. With previous stops at the Chicago Tribune and ABC, Crawford now covers the legal system for CBS. Interviews with Supreme Court justices are rare, however, Crawford obtained two of the most notable in recent years when she sat down with Chief Justice John Roberts and the late Justice John Paul Stevens in separate interviews. Even after enjoying an abundance of fame and influence, the Baileyton native has maintained her priorities as evidenced by a profession of her love for fried okra and the Crimson Tide in her social media profile.

 

Alex Pappas, Fox News: Pappas is a senior politics editor for FoxNews.com. If there was big news on the presidential campaign trail this election cycle, Pappas probably wrote it. The Mobile native has worked at Daily Caller and has covered everything from the White House to congressional and local news and politics. Pappas has become a mainstay in D.C. news media.

 

Elaina Plott, New York Times: Plott joined the Times as a national political reporter late last year. To her new audience, she quickly affirmed her reputation as a gifted writer. Plott has brought unique insight into the chaos which has ensued in D.C. the past few months. Prior to the Times, she wrote for The Atlantic, National Review and Washingtonian. The Tuscaloosa native was named to Forbes 30 under 30 in news media for 2020.

 

Joe Scarborough, MSNBC: A University of Alabama alumnus and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Scarborough has been ubiquitous in D.C. politics since the mid-1990s. Once a colleague of former Governor Bob Riley in the House, Scarborough hatched the name of his first show after hearing the slogan Riley used during his 2002 gubernatorial campaign. “Riley Country” became “Scarborough Country” on MSNBC, and a star was born. It remains to be seen what type of reception Scarborough would receive at Bryant-Denny Stadium these days. This mystery comes not as a result of a shift in his political beliefs, but rather based on the fact that he committed the unpardonable crime of getting married on the same day as the Iron Bowl in 2018. The #StopFallWeddings movement in Alabama is real.

Dayne Cutrell, chief of staff, Senator Richard Shelby: Cutrell’s climb of the ladder in D.C. has been textbook. The Mobile native, who played baseball at Samford University, began his career in Richard Shelby’s office as a legislative assistant before becoming legislative director. He then moved on to become a top aide to Shelby on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. Cutrell’s trajectory continues to be a steep one.

 

Dana Gresham, chief of staff, Senator Doug Jones: Gresham has built an impeccable resume in D.C. He served as assistant secretary for Government Affairs at the Department of Transportation, chief of staff to former congressman Artur Davis and as a staffer to former congressman Bud Cramer. A Birmingham native who attended the historic A.H. Parker High School, Gresham brings a vast knowledge of both Alabama and the D.C. machine to his job.

 

Wells Griffith, managing director and senior advisor to the CEO for energy, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC): There are some of us for whom becoming known as “Trump’s climate guy” would be a career apex. For Griffith, he might as well be just getting started. Until late last year, he served as special assistant to the president and senior director for international energy and environment on the National Security Council. He made his home state proud when he boldly espoused the virtues of coal power at a European climate conference. Now at DFC, Griffith has developed the kind of staying power in D.C. which will allow him to remain on lists like these indefinitely.

 

Willie Phillips, chairman, Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia: The person in charge of energy policy for the city where energy policy is made is in an uncommon position of influence. That person is Willie Phillips, and he happens to be from Alabama. A University of Montevallo graduate and member of the Alabama State Bar, Phillips is highly influential in public policy for regulatory matters for utilities and federal energy policy.

 

Kevin Turner, vice president and general counsel, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC): Check out this list of previous employment positions: senior vice president and general counsel for the Export-Import Bank of the United States, chief of staff to former Senator Luther Strange and chief deputy attorney general for the state of Alabama. Those all belong to Turner who is now a high-ranking executive at DFC, an agency which partners with the private sector to provide financing solutions to the developing world.

30 mins ago

Judge reduces Hubbard’s prison sentence to reflect overturned convictions

A Lee County circuit judge on Wednesday issued a ruling that significantly reduced former Alabama House Speaker Michael G. “Mike” Hubbard’s prison sentence.

Hubbard in 2016 was convicted on 12 of 23 ethics charges brought against him by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office; he was then sentenced to four years in prison.

One of those 12 convictions was reversed by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in August 2018. An additional five convictions were tossed by the Supreme Court of Alabama earlier this year.

This meant that although half of the original convictions were subsequently overturned, Hubbard was still facing the full original prison sentence.

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Hubbard’s legal team in recent months, after he began serving that sentence, requested resentencing. They argued, in part, that the “changed circumstances” of the overturned convictions warranted such an action.

“[I]n the interest of justice, Hubbard respectfully requests that this Court resentence him… The convictions in this case alone have resulted in a wide range of punishments which include his removal from office, the loss of his right to vote, the divestment of his business interests, and his current incarceration,” they wrote.

In his Wednesday order, the Lee County judge noted the overturned convictions in reducing the sentence from four years to 28 months. This represents a sentence reduction of 41.67%.

In a statement, Attorney General Steve Marshall expressed disappointment with the decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence.

“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” said Marshall.

“Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law,” the attorney general concluded. “Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”

According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, Hubbard is currently serving his time at Limestone Correctional Center. He has already served two months and sixteen days of his sentence.

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

54 mins ago

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne: Timeframe on I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge ‘not unlimited’ — State, local leaders ‘need to do it in the next several months to a year’

Last week, state and local officials in the Mobile and Baldwin County areas had reportedly resumed discussions about a new I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge.

A now-infamous proposal came to a halt last year after the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to remove the bridge from the organization’s Transportation Improvement Program, which resulted in Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL) calling it off.

Questions remain about the future. However, according to U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), the clock is ticking if the state wants to use available federal money.

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During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Byrne, who has a little over a month remaining in office until U.S. Rep.-elect Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) is sworn in, said it was up to state and local leaders to agree on how to proceed because the federal component had already been settled.

“The real center of gravity here is with local leaders and state leaders,” he said. “It’s really not federal leaders. Jerry Carl doesn’t have to worry about that money that’s been put out there going away in the next couple of years. It’s still going to be there. This is really off federal government, and really on state and local government.”

“It won’t be there forever,” Byrne added. “Now, it might be enhanced if we get some big infrastructure bill comes out in the next year or so. I still think the onus with coming up with most of the money has got to be on the state and local governments here. The state has a lot of money that it gets from the federal government every year from the national highway fund. And it could bond money. You know, I’ve been saying we should bond some of this [Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) funds] to do it, etc. There is a way to set all this together and make it work. The federal end is done, ready to go. There is state money that can be used for it, that comes from the federal government, including GOMESA money, and there’s a way to put it all together. But it is going to require these local leaders, the new local leaders, working with the governor.”

Byrne urged local and state officials to put a proposal forth within the next year.

“Our timeframe is not unlimited here,” he said. “If they’re going to do something, they need to do it in the next several months to a year — come up with a plan that’s approved, etc. I think the U.S. Department of Transportation will help them to find some way to make this happen because one thing we have accomplished — we’ve got the Department of Transportation, going back to the Obama administration — so it’s not a Democrat or Republican thing — the Department of Transportation has said this is critical for the United States of America. So, we’re teed up with the federal government. We’ve just got to get the state and locals together.”

@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.

2 hours ago

This month marks 20 years since all humans were on Earth at the same time

NASA and its international partners — including the many in Alabama — this month marked a new milestone in human spaceflight. It has now been 20 consecutive years since the last time all humans were on the planet Earth at the same time.

Indeed, November 1, 2000, was the most recent day humans dwelled only on our planet. The Expedition 1 crew – NASA astronaut William Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko – launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on October 31 of that year, arriving to become the first crew to live aboard the orbiting laboratory on November 2.

NASA and its partners have successfully supported humans living in space aboard the ISS ever since, including Boeing — which has been the lead industry partner for the ISS since 1993.

Boeing has partnered with NASA to help design, build, integrate and — now — manage operations for the ISS. Just this summer, the company received a $916 million contract extension through September 2024 to continue supporting the space station.

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In Alabama, Boeing employees work closely with NASA at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center and perform sustaining engineering and manufacturing support for the ISS. This work is reportedly critical to proving deep-space technology for future NASA missions and providing a cornerstone for developing and operating commercial enterprises in low Earth orbit.

“Men and women have been working in space for 20 years, an accomplishment that speaks to Boeing and NASA’s commitment to crew safety and widening access to space,” stated John Mulholland, ISS vice president and program manager for Boeing. “The space station is the realization of a dream that has inspired countless generations to reach for the stars, and we will continue to increase its uses as our imaginations catch up with its extraordinary capabilities.”

In its history, the ISS has hosted more than 240 individuals from 19 different countries. Astronauts have conducted 231 spacewalks totaling more than 1,400 hours to build and maintain the station.

The scientific research performed aboard the ISS has come from and affected 108 nations around the world. More than 3,000 experiments have taken place aboard the space station so far.

In the present, the ISS is also newly receiving missions powered by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Boeing is one of two companies selected as prime contractors on this program. The Boeing Starliner spacecraft used for this program is powered by an Atlas V rocket built by United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Alabama. The Starliner was also designed at Boeing’s Huntsville operations.

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

3 hours ago

Bruce Pearl: ‘I felt terrible’ telling players about self-imposed postseason ban

Auburn University head men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl spoke remotely to the media on Wednesday ahead of the team’s first game of the season.

The Tigers are scheduled to face Saint Joseph’s at 3:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving in the Fort Myers Tip-Off event.

However, the opening contest has been overshadowed this week by Sunday’s announcement that Auburn will forgo postseason competition this season.

Pearl on Wednesday revealed that his players were not made aware of this decision to self-impose a postseason ban before the public was informed.

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“We made them aware as we were announcing it,” he advised. “We just felt like it was something the university wanted to get out in front of. I was telling the players as it was being announced.”

“I had a zoom call set up with their parents for as soon as I finished up with my players. They probably had heard something about it, but they knew they had a call from me, so when they saw it, I’m sure they realized this is what the call was about. It all took place on Sunday afternoon,” Pearl continued.

He also commented on the team’s reaction to the news.

“It’s been a really difficult time. It was a difficult few weeks leading up to the announcement because it was something we had talked about,” Pearl said.

“If there was any comfort, it was their reaction. I got more guys coming up and hugging me because I felt terrible for them. We kept some things in perspective and reminded ourselves – I asked the question beforehand of why did you come to Auburn, and I got a lot of answers about graduating, being an Auburn Man, getting better, maybe have a chance to play professionally, wanting to be part of the Auburn Family – all those things. I was then able to say right before I gave them the information that they’re still going to be able to accomplish almost all of those things,” he added. “This year, we’re not going to be able to compete in the postseason. A couple years ago, after we won the regular season [SEC title], postseason was only a couple of games. Without minimizing it, because it is important and we all work and strive for it, I tried to keep their focus on what they’re trying to get accomplished and why they’re at Auburn as student-athletes. All I can tell you is, it was an amazing response from my players and their parents how we’re going to get through this together.”

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

6 hours ago

Spend Black Friday shooting clays at Selwood Farm

Play a round of 18 with the family over Thanksgiving weekend — but we’re not talking about golf. Selwood Farm is a family-owned hunting preserve in Alpine, Alabama, that has the state’s first sporting clay course. Thanksgiving weekend is a busy one for Selwood Farm (they’re closed on Thanksgiving Day), including its annual Black Friday event that has become a tradition for many.

For $60 per person, you’ll receive 100 sporting clays, a golf cart to take you through the 18-stand course (and eight additional stands for experienced shooters), and lunch from 2 Men And A Pig barbecue. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in drawings for prizes including Orca Coolers, Russell Boots, Selwood swag, restaurant gift cards, Dirk Walker Shooting shirts exclusive to Selwood Farm, and more.

“Our Black Friday event is something we started several years ago after discovering that several of the same families made it a tradition to visit Selwood annually the day after Thanksgiving,” says Judith Jager, creative director of Selwood Farm. “We always joke that spending Black Friday at Selwood is much better than spending it at the mall — especially this year with COVID-19. We have loved being an outdoor escape for folks during this time.”

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shooting clay selwood farm
Craig Godwin/Contributed

If you can’t make it for the Friday event, Selwood Farm is open daily except Sundays and offers multiple activities. In addition to the sporting clay course, you can also shoot at the 5-stand, play the only Helice ring in Alabama (a European simulated live bird game), and hunt for quail and pheasant in the preserve’s 800 acres. Currently owned by Dell and Carolyn Hill, Selwood Farm has been a licensed hunting preserve since 1984.

The history of Selwood Farm began in 1834 when James Mallory moved from Virginia to Alpine and settled Selwood. He prospered as a farmer and community leader and the land remained in his family until 1948.

Dell’s father, O.V. Hill, purchased the property and raised cattle, sheep, poultry, and turkeys at Selwood. After Mr. Hill’s death, Dell and Carolyn continued the cattle operation and a smoked turkey mail-order business for more than thirty-five years. The Hills decided to turn the farm into a recreational space when the cattle business was no longer profitable. Selwood was officially designated as a hunting preserve in 1984 and the sporting clays course opened in 1990.

Selwood, which means “the king’s hunting forest,” has become a destination for those both in-state and out. Thousands of people visit Selwood Farm each year to shoot, hunt, host events, or take a vacation. If you’re looking for something to do with the family this Thanksgiving weekend, visiting Selwood Farm is a fun, socially distant outdoor activity that you can feel safe participating in. Plus, it’s something the whole family can enjoy.

“There truly is something for everyone,” says Jager, “even if it is just sitting on our front porch drinking a glass of sweet tea watching the sunset over the Selwood hills.”

clay shooting selwood farm
Selwood Farm/Contributed

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at julia@yellowhammernews.com.