George Washington Carver AGRICULTURAL SCIENTIST . TUSKEGEE . 1864-1943 By all accounts George Washington Carver was a man of many tal-
al talents and referred him to what is now Iowa State University to
ents. He had a thirst for knowledge from a very young age and, as a
study Agriculture. In 1891 he became the school’s first African-
young African-American man, had a hard time finding an educational
environment that would challenge him. Born close to 1864 – his
Carver excelled at what was then The Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts and not only graduated with honors, but saw his paintings hang in the Worlds Fair and had some of his poetry published. Still, he stayed on as a graduate student and became the school’s first African-American faculty member. After having several academic papers published, Carver started to receive national attention, and in 1897, Booker T. Washington, wrote to Carver and convinced him to come to the South and serve as the Director of Agriculture at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute for Negroes – the school Washington founded which is now known as Tuskegee University.
Through agricultural chemistry, he discovered three hundred uses for peanuts and hundreds others for pecans, soybeans, and sweet potatoes. SAVING THE SOUTH It was during his time in Tuskegee that Carver developed his crop rotation method. He educated farmers how to rotate their cotton crops with soil enriching crops of peanuts, peas, pecans, soybeans, and sweet potatoes. It was his work at Tuskegee that helped the region rebuild from the devastation of the Civil War and dependence on a failing cottonbased economy. He gave farmers not only more types of crops to grow, but hundreds of more ways to market them – due to his hundreds of discoveries of uses from many different plants. By 1938, peanuts had become the chief product of Alabama and had soared to a $200 million industry. A seemingly self-effacing man, he only applied and received three exact birth date is unknown – his early life was filled with tragedies
patents during his lifetime. He donated most of his life’s savings in
that may have brought a lesser man down. His father died prior to his
1940 to the George Washington Carver Foundation and willed his
birth in Diamond Grove, Missouri, and as an infant, his mother was
estate to the organization so that his work would be continued.
kidnapped by people involved in the slave trade and was never heard
HONORS AND AWARDS Carver received many more awards and
from again. His quest for knowledge reportedly started at age 10,
honors that there is room here to list. Among the most notable are:
and he could have been known as an expert in many fields. However,
two honorary Doctor of Science degrees – the first from Simpson
the Library of Congress lists George Washington Carver as an
College in Indianola, Iowa, and the second from Selma University,
Agricultural Scientist. Through agricultural chemistry, he discovered
Alabama; the Roosevelt Medal for Outstanding Contributions to
three hundred uses for peanuts and hundreds others for pecans,
Southern Agriculture; the first monument dedicated to an African-
soybeans, and sweet potatoes.
American was erected in his honor at his Missouri birthplace, and
EDUCATIONAL LIFE Tremendously gifted in both art and music, after trying several educational communities across the Midwest, he
after his death his image graced both a stamp and a half dollar coin. George Washington Carver began his life as an orphaned slave in
entered Simpson, a small college in Indinaola, Iowa, to study paint-
Alabama. Yet, due to his life’s work and ingenuity; he left this world a
ing and piano. His art instructor somehow recognized his horticultur-
much better place for all of us. I
HOME SWEET HOME
John Croyle FOOTBALL PLAYER/HUMANITARIAN . GADSDEN John Croyle seems to have always been a man on a mission. He
Boys. He would become more famous for his humanitarian efforts
was born in Gadsden, Alabama, on March 9, 1951. At Gadsden
than his athletic success.
High School he was a prep All-America in football and basketball.
On March 6, 1974, at John Croyle Day in Gadsden, he received a
At the University of Alabama he played on a national championship
check from the Alabama Alumni Association for $5,000 toward his
team, and after college he dedicated his life to helping kids in des-
dream. A Birmingham businessman followed with a $15,000 dona-
tion, but Croyle was well short of the funds needed. Then former
FOOTBALL DAYS John Croyle played football at the University of
Tide teammate and first round draft pick of the New England
Alabama under Paul “Bear “Bryant. When Bryant talked, people lis-
Patriots, John Hannah, stepped up. He pledged his $30,000 signing
tened. Croyle listened and the words of wisdom not only paid divi-
bonus and the ranch opened its doors to four boys. Since then, sev-
dends for John but for hundreds of children.
eral new houses designed to be homes to eight boys and house
Standing six feet six inches and weighing 210 pounds Croyle
parents have been constructed with the first new structure named
looked more like a basketball star than a football standout. However,
the John Hannah House. Among the many other homes honoring
he excelled as a defensive end in the tough Southeastern
ranch supporters are the Paul Bryant House, the Gaylon McCollough
Conference. During a knee injury plagued tenure at the Capstone, he
House, and the Ray Perkins House.
garnered second team All-SEC honors in 1972 and won the “Jerry
Through the years, children who have suffered from every form of
Duncan-I Like to Practice Award” in 1973. Versus Mississippi State
abuse imaginable have found shelter – and a chance at Big Oak
in 1973 he recorded 11 tackles including a quarterback sack for a
Ranch. By his side has been his wife, Teresa. They raised daughter,
32 yard loss. To cap off a stellar performance that day he blocked a
Reagan, and son, Brodie, at the ranch. Reagan played basketball at
field goal attempt and returned it 40 yards.
the University of Alabama where she was crowned Homecoming
HELPING OTHERS IN NEED Croyle visited with Bryant to discuss the career path he had contemplating and if playing in the NFL could help fund his plan. Bryant said, “Don’t play professional ball
Queen and married a Tide quarterback. Brodie starred as quarterback at Alabama and plays with the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL. The Big Oak Ranch has been featured in many publications,
unless you’re willing to marry it.” Right then the seed that had been
including Time and Reader’s Digest. The ministry has expanded over
planted during a summer job began to take root. At the age of 19,
the years to include the Big Oak Girls Ranch and Westbrook
Croyle worked in Lumberton, Mississippi, at the King’s Arrow Ranch
for boys. He saw the need and realized he could be a ray of hope
John Croyle has been quoted as saying, “I tell new kids three
for boys in bad situations. He decided to forgo professional football
things. First, I love you. Second, I will never lie to you. Third, I will
and started work on what would become the Big Oak Ranch for
stick with you until you are grown.” I
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ALABAMA VISIONARY | 47
Courteney Cox TV & MOVIE STAR/PRODUCER . BIRMINGHAM
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HOME SWEET HOME
IN THE ROLE OF MONICA GELLER on the TV sitcom Friends (1994-
with Jim Carrey in the big-screen hit, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
2004), she was a twenty-something chef struggling to make a name
(1994). That same year, the NBC sitcom Friends debuted, and
for herself in New York. But, long before the hit series ended pro-
Courteney Cox soon emerged as an international celebrity.
duction, the name of Courteney Cox Arquette was known in millions
“FRIENDS” FOR LIFE
of homes across the country and beyond.
Co-starring with Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc,
Her riches-to-even-greater-riches story began on June 15, 1964,
Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer, Cox played Monica Geller.
when she was born into Southern family headed by wealthy busi-
As the seasons progressed, she began exploiting her comedic tal-
nessman, Richard Cox, (1930-2001). She was named for her moth-
ent, eventually earning an American comedy Award nomination.
er, who gave birth to three other children.
“I know I’m not a method actress, but I do believe in being physi-
Brought up in Mountain Brook, Alabama, near Birmingham, the
cally and emotionally prepared for the role,” she said in an interview.
younger Courteney was the baby of the family. She turned 10 the
“If I have a scene where I’m supposed to be emotionally drawn out,
year her parents divorced, in 1974, and her father moved to Florida.
then I’ll think of the saddest thing in my life.”
In school Courteney plunged into sports, joining the swimming,
In 1996, while appearing in Scream, a teen slasher film that would
cheerleader, and tennis teams at Mountain Brook High. In her senior
spawn three sequels, she met co-star David Arquette. They would
year, she modeled in an advertisement for a local store, Parisians.
marry three years later.
Brought up in Mountain Brook, Alabama, near Birmingham, the younger Courteney was the baby of the family. MODEL CITIZEN
During the nation’s Friends frenzy, she was named “Hottest Babe”
Enrolling in Mount Vernon College in Washington, D.C., she stud-
by Playboy magazine in 1995; “9th Sexiest Woman in the Word” by
ied architecture and interior design. She dropped out after one year
readers of FHM magazine in 1997 and 1998; and the 18th “Sexiest
and headed to New York when the Ford Modeling Agency signed
Woman in the World” by Stuff magazine in 2002. Forbes magazine
her to a contract.
ranked her number 41 on its Celebrity 100 list of 2003.
Soon, the face of Courteney Cox adorned the covers of such teen magazines as Tiger Beat and an assortment of romance novels. While modeling, she also studied acting, snaring roles in TV com-
CAUSES FOR CONCERN Over the years, she spoke out for an array of humanitarian causes. She and David Arquette raised money for children with a rare
mercials for the New York Telephone Company, Maybelline, and
genetic condition that affects the skin, epidermolysis bullosa. In
2005, she organized an auction to collect money to pay legal fees
Bit parts on several TV series, including the soap opera, As the World Turns (1956-2010) and The Love Boat (1977-1986), followed. But she made her biggest pop-culture impression to date in 1984, when she was paid $350 for a music video with Bruce Springsteen, Dancing in the Dark. As a commercial spokeswoman for Tampax, in 1985, she was the first person on American TV who dared to utter the word “period.” Cox appeared in Misfits of Science (1985), Masters of the
and travel costs for the family of fellow Alabamian, Natalee Holloway, the teenager who disappeared while vacationing in Aruba. Three years later, she autographed bath ducks for a fund-raising auction during an annual breast cancer awareness campaign. Throughout her career, she has produced or co-produced several TV projects. For two seasons, starting in 2007, she starred in the FX network drama, Dirt, as a tabloid magazine editor. Beginning in the fall of 2009, she joined ABC Studios as executive
Universe (1987) and other films before scoring the role of Lauren
producer and star of the comedy-drama, Cougar Town, playing a
Miller – Alex Keaton’s (Michael J. Fox) girlfriend for 21 episodes on
40-year-old single mom. The role does not imitate her life: She and
the TV sitcom Family Ties (1982-1989).
David Arquette remain married; they have a five-year-old daughter,
For next few years she saw meager success, until she co-starred
Coco, born the year of Friends’ farewell. I
ALABAMA CELEBRITY | 71
Fannie Flagg COMEDIAN, ACTRESS, AUTHOR & SCREENWRITER . BIRMINGHAM
FANNIE FLAGG FELL IN LOVE WITH THE MOVIES at a young age and says she knew by age five she wanted to write and act in the movies. She wrote her first play in the 5th grade and at 19, started writing for television’s highly rated Candid Camera and made frequent appearances with the show’s host, Allen Funt. She’s had enormous success in seemingly everything she has set out to do – both acting and writing for films and television, and her novels have won numerous awards. Born in Woodlawn, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham, on September 21, 1941, she doesn’t consider herself as being from a small town although Woodlawn had it’s own main street – complete with a
“When my dad came home from the war he had a very unusual job – he was a motion picture machine operator. So, I’d go to work with my dad and see every movie I could” drug store, theater, and cafes. Her father was in the U.S. Army’s Air Corp during World War II, so she spent her childhood living with her grandparents in a big white house on 1st Avenue South in Woodlawn. “When my dad came home from the war he had a very unusual job – he was a motion picture machine operator. So, I’d go to work with my dad and see every movie I could,” she said during a phone interview with Spirited Woman, an online e-zine which features conference calls with famous authors. “I became so enamored with the movies; I knew what I wanted to do. In the 5th grade, I wrote my first play, The Whoopee Girls, which was set in New York City and centered around several young women sharing an apartment which was located above the Copacabana.”
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HOME SWEET HOME
At the age of 19 she was writing for a come-
Coming Attractions, was written about something
dy club in New York. One evening a stand up tal-
she knew well – a gregarious girl growing up in the
ent didn’t show up and she filled in as understudy. Allen Funt, host of the extremely popular Candid Camera television show was in the audience and she was soon hired on as a writer and actress for the show. She says her
South helping her father run the local movie theater. It was an expanded version of her short story and received some good reviews. Her second novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, was the one that put her on the
favorite episode was the one in which
map as one of the best Southern writ-
she literally drove through fake walls of
ers alive today. The novel was made
banks assuming she was following
into a movie, Fried Green Tomatoes –
directions for the bank’s drive-thru win-
staring Kathy Bates, Cicely Tyson,
Mary-Louise Parker, Mary Stuart
Tin the early 1970’s Flagg made
Masterson, and Jessica Tandy. The film
appearances on several television sit-
garnered Academy Award nominations
coms and made her feature film debut
for Tandy as best supporting actress
in Five Easy Pieces, in 1978 she played
and for Flagg and her co-writer, Carol
Nurse Wilkin in Grease.
Sobieski, for the screenplay.
1978 was also the year that Flagg
Flagg received an honorary doctor-
attended the Santa Barbara Writer’s
ate from Franklin Pierce College in
conference to see the writer she con-
Rindge, New Hampshire where Fried
sidered to be her idol, Eudora Welty.
Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop
Later diagnosed with both dyslexia and
Café is part of the freshmen curriculum.
ADD, Flagg submitted her short story
Today, she spends time at both
to the conference – which featured an
homes in California and Alabama. She
11-year-old girl with a learning disability
still frequents Irondale Café in
– and won first place in the competi-
Irondale, Alabama, the establishment
tion. Flagg thought by developing her plot – concerning a protago-
she considers the inspiration for the Whistle Stop Café. If you’re
nist with dyslexia – she had devised as a way to cover up her prob-
lucky enough to plan your visit to the Irondale Café at dusk, on a
lems with spelling and assumed another story was not within her.
late summer or early autumn evening, you’ll be treated to the sound
Book agents told her that editors would correct her misspellings
of cicadas and be able to partake of the best fried green tomatoes
and grammatical errors. They also let her know that the public was
of the year. Then, and only then, you’ll truly understand what it
ready to read her down home, Southern-fried humor. Her first novel,
means to love Sweet Home Alabama. I
If you’re lucky enough to plan your visit to the Irondale Café at dusk, on a late summer or early autumn evening, you’ll be treated to the sound of cicadas and be able to partake of the best fried green tomatoes of the year.
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ALABAMA CELEBRITY | 77
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Greater Tuscaloosa Convention & Visitors Bureau Not so long ago, the mention of Tuscaloosa brought on hours of conversation about one thing – the University of Alabama’s great sports tradition that has captivated the world for generations. But as Crimson Tide legends have evolved through the years, so has news of the area’s diverse list of growing attractions and opportunities. I Since its founding in 1990, the Greater Tuscaloosa Convention & Visitors Bureau has been getting the word out about the many features that make their favorite town a premier tourist destination in the South. Today, Tuscaloosa, which has appeared in Money magazine’s annual list of the country’s best places to live, is a nexus of educational, cultural, and recreational attractions that draws tens of thousands of visitors every year. “We are certainly proud of being associated with all of the University of Alabama sports programs,” says Robert Ratliff, executive director of the Greater Tuscaloosa CVB. “But we also have some of the country’s best parks and museums, and we’re just an hour away from an international airport. People here feel a real sense of community, and that’s something that makes Tuscaloosa special.” SUPPORTING GROWTH AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Located along the banks of the Black Warrior River in west central Alabama, the Tuscaloosa Metro area is home to more than
179,000 residents as well as a thriving business community. A key component to Tuscaloosa’s success in recent years is the productive and supportive working relationship the Greater Tuscaloosa CVB shares with city leaders. The bureau works to help create a favorable community environment through advocacy, addressing issues critical to economic prosperity and providing information and services that enhance tourism in the region. “Our team contributes to the area’s economic growth just like the local chamber of commerce and organizations responsible for recruiting industry,” says Ratliff. “We are a part of the whole mix of economic development and are fortunate to have a great working relationship with the city.” The impetus behind much of the organization’s support is a unique team of experienced professionals and a solid marketing strategy that targets groups and families who may be interested in the many different tours and activities available in Tuscaloosa. The Greater Tuscaloosa CVB helps plan half-day
Alabama tours or full-day excursions and is experienced in customizing family or group tours upon request. Event planners handle all steps in the process, including soliciting lodging and venue proposals, scheduling entertainment opportunities, establishing itineraries, and arranging visits to local attractions. An added bonus is a remarkable range of hotel options all within reach of most everything visitors will want to do. The Tuscaloosa CVB provides special-event attendees with visitors guides and maps, which include a complete list of area attractions, restaurants, entertainment venues, and general information about the area. Making it even easier to obtain information about the city is the bureau’s own radio station. Listeners can set their radio dials to Welcome 103.3 LPFM – the only one of its kind in the state – to hear about community events, Tuscaloosa history briefs, and road and weather conditions.
HOME SWEET HOME
“Tuscaloosa is a very accommodating city with the seeds for growth in place,” says Ratliff. “Whether you’re planning a trip for business or fun, traveling with the kids, or looking for a romantic getaway, provides special-event attendees with visitors guides and maps, which include a complete list of area attractions, restaurants, entertainment venues, and general information about the area. you’ll find it here where our rich mix of cultures, ideas, and accomplishments make up a city that is unlike any other in America. Come check us out.” I
Year-round events and attractions make Tuscaloosa a popular
ATTRACTIONS FOR EVERY AGE AND INTEREST In addition to University of Alabama athletics, Tuscaloosa visitors can choose from a variety of recreational attractions and entertainment options. Points of interest include a historic theater, 33 public parks and multiple galleries, museums, and antebellum homes. Fans of water sports relish Tuscaloosa’s beautiful lakes and rivers while golfers tee it up on the area’s many gorgeous golf links. More than 500 works of American art spanning from 1775 to the present are located at the Westervelt Warner Museum of American Art. The museum includes a top collection of American paintings, sculptures, furniture, and decorative arts from the late 18th to the early 20th century. Murphy African-American Museum is a must-see for black heritage scholars and amateurs alike. African-American contractors built the two-story bungalow in the late 1920s with brick and hand-hewn sills salvaged from the old State Capital building in Tuscaloosa. Paul W. Bryant Museum on the University of Alabama campus takes visitors through 100 years of Crimson Tide history and features photographs, artworks, sports memorabilia, and touch-screen computer displays. Also on the university campus, the Alabama Museum of Natural History highlights the natural diversity of Alabama through exhibits from the Age of Dinosaurs, the Coal Age, and the Ice Age. The museum resides in historic Smith Hall, one of the finest examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the region. Located in downtown Tuscaloosa, the Children’s Hands-On Museum is a dynamic learning experience that stimulates curiosity, creativity, and shared discovery in all ages.
getaway for visitors of all ages.
Troy University’s enrollment includes more than 700 students from 55 foreign nations.
Tuscaloosa provides visitors a variety of restaurants to choose from, featuring some of the tastiest cuisine anywhere.
A PROMISING FUTURE While history plays an important role in Tuscaloosa’s tourism industry, so does its future. City leaders are in the process of developing the riverfront. Meanwhile, the Downtown Tuscaloosa Urban Renewal and Redevelopment Project is revitalizing the heart of the city with improved infrastructure, expanded parking, an amphitheatre, a market, and several other attractions.
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