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mall little patches of corn and cotton, my roots go back to the days of mules, when most of us owed for 40 acres or so.

I planted the cotton; I chopped the cotton, and I picked the

cotton. I gathered the corn, the eggs, and plowed the fields. Nothing touches me like the smell of a freshly plowed field and seeing the satisfaction in the farmer’s eyes of a hard job well done. I can still remember the stain of the cotton dust on my tanned skin, and the cotton pick

My Home’s In Alabama

sack, and the scales that hung on the back of the pickup truck that told me how much the cotton weighed. I can still hear the old dinner bell that grandma rang for everyone out in the field signaling it was time to eat. It was a cold December night when my mother told my father it was time for their first born to come. My nervous father carried my mother to The Guest Clinic in Fort Payne,Alabama, DeKalb County, where that next day Dr. Noble delivered me, their only son, weighing seven pounds, 11 ounces. ➤





When Daddy carried Mama, he drove her in a new Chevrolet pickup, which he would later have to give up and let one of his brothers “take up the payments,” so he could afford me and have the money “to make a crop” that Spring. He bought a $50 Dodge pickup to get by. My mother, an auburn-haired, dark-eyed beauty, is from Cherokee County around the Rinehart community. She went to school at Rinehart and then on to Gaylesville High School where she was an excellent student. She met Daddy, Gladstone Yeuell Owen, a dark-skinned, dark-eyed, dark-haired, handsome dude, at a singing school on Lookout Mountain at The Wesleyn Church near Adamsburg. He was one of 12 children; she was one of seven. They were married July 25, 1947. Martha Alice Teague, my mother, was a miracle child. She was born with the cord wrapped around her neck and not breathing.A lady named Alice did mouth to mouth until my mother started breathing, thus, the name Martha Alice. I lost my father in 1980 just as success in the music business was coming my way. The fever he had at the age of 13 had damaged his heart, and he told me many times what saved him was an all night prayer vigil held at Papa and Grandma Owens’s house while grandma Owen rubbed coal oil on his chest. ➤

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He was a great example for me to follow. He loved the outdoors, especially telling me about the trees and teaching me by example how to conserve the land and love the soil that made our living. Mama totally supported my dad and they loved one another. They raised three children. Mama is still living almost the same traditions as she and Daddy did. She still raises her own garden. She doesn’t milk the cows, but she still churns the butter from the milk she gets from one of my cousins out in the country; she has “city water” and “central heat and air” instead of a wood stove and fireplace. When I started the first grade at Adamsburg Junior High School, I was already home schooled and could do most everything we were doing in the first grade. I went two weeks in the second grade before Mrs. Blake called in my mother to suggest I move up to the third grade, namely, because I was a disturbance and seemed bored in the second grade. I graduated from Adamsburg Junior High, dropped out of school, only to be inspired to go to Fort Payne High School by Mrs. Ellis, one of the many ➤

A BEAUTIFUL VIEW OF WILLS VALLEY near Fort Payne, from Lookout Mountain. Martha Alice and Gladstone Yeuell Owen (right).




wonderful teachers and professors I have known in my life. I graduated from Fort Payne High School, went on to Northeast State Junior College, which is now Northeast Community College, and received my BA degree from Jacksonville State University. None of this was easy because I was the first in my family to get a college degree. I’m very grateful to the education system in Alabama, which gave me the opportunities to get through all the hurdles and tough times that a very poor farm kid had to endure. Alabama’s farmers and ranchers do an amazing job in order to supply food and fiber to the world. I’m a cowboy that grew up with my dad who raised livestock. I grew up going to the auction barns and learning how to treat my fellow man honestly. The moral fabric of the folks in Alabama is second to none. I’m very proud to say, “I’m an ALABAMIAN.” The state of Alabama is so diversified and so special in such a variety of ways. I can’t even write about all of them, but from my perspective, I’ll give you a small view of my state. In northeast Alabama, where I was born and raised, you have Little River Canyon, DeSoto Falls, and Lookout Mountain; you have some of the most pristine water in the world. The Little River Canyon Preserve is one of the ➤

LITTLE RIVER CANYON is an immeasurable wealth to residents, visitors and future generations. It is said to be among the cleanest and wildest waterways in the South.

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most unique areas I’ve ever seen; it was my playground when I was growing up. Most of my weekends were spent fishing, swimming, or hunting around the Canyon. I still go there for inspiration. I’ve been so fortunate because of the music industry to own several acres of land joining the Preserve. I love to vacation around Point Clear,Alabama, and the Bay and the beaches of Alabama.The most beautiful, sandy beaches, and the beautiful charm of the ‘Old South’ still exists along the Coast.The Grand Hotel is one of my favorite places in the world to relax.The food prepared by the many fine restaurants in the Fairhope, Mobile, Orange Beach, Perdido Beach, and Gulf Shores areas is truly amazing. How could I ever forget about the fun at the FloraBama, a landmark that even hurricanes couldn’t destroy! My first drive through the tunnel to Mobile Bay was a thrill I’ll never forget. I was there during Mardi Gras, and just so you know, the folks at Mobile originally started Mardi Gras.All the beautiful coastal areas around Mobile make up a very uniquely diverse region. Mobile has its own distinct character, and it’s a much warmer climate during the winter months than where I’m from in northeast Alabama.A friend told me jokingly that there are only two or three days ➤

FAIRHOPE’S MUNICIPAL PIER, the Yardarm provides a backdrop of beautiful sunsets over Mobile Bay. The Flora-Bama (right) was originally constructed in 1964, after the road connecting Orange Beach, AL with Perdido Key, FL was completed.






during the year that it’s too cold to play golf in the Mobile area.And we cannot forget the beauty and charm of Ono Island, Dauphin Island, Bon Secour, Bay Minette, and the fishing industry, which is so vital to our state’s economy. The city of Montgomery is a historical encyclopedia just waiting to ignite your intellect. So much history has been made at our beautiful State Capital. ALABAMA had the pleasure of performing the National Anthem at many inaugurations there on Dexter Avenue and also performing at the Inaugural Balls. Hank Williams, Sr., my daddy’s favorite singer/songwriter, is also one of my musical heroes. He was born in Alabama and is buried in Montgomery. There’s little that I can say that would adequately show his tremendous influence on all kinds of music. In the Muscle Shoals area, there are acres and acres of cotton.Among that setting, the greatest songwriters, musicians, producers, and artists have emerged. From the historical Fame Studios, the likes of Wilson Pickett, ➤

THE ROBERT TRENT JONES GOLF TRAIL at The Shoals is home to two 18-hole championship courses. It overlooks the Tennessee River and historic Wilson Dam in Florence.

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Mac Davis, Paul Anka, Osmond Brothers,Aretha Franklin, and Bobbie Gentry have recorded many worldwide hits as well as many, many others. Rick Hall and The Hall Family still operate Fame Studios. So much of the music still heard today has influence and backgrounds that started from Muscle Shoals. Many other musicians, songwriters, and publishers, like the late Buddy Killen, got their start in Alabama. The Muscle Shoals Sound, the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and The Swampers are musical terms known throughout the world. The Alabama Music Hall Of Fame, which I’m very proud to say, I helped to get started with the help of some great visionaries and politicians, is a “must see” attraction. And located in Tuscumbia is the home of Helen Keller, another amazing Alabamian. Jimmie Rodgers, who was the singing brakeman, was born in Alabama. His influence on the world of music is truly amazing. To truly appreciate the Shoals area music, just visit, and don’t get in a hurry to learn about the musical heritage. ➤

DESOTO STATE PARK is accented by rushing waterfalls and fragrant wildflowers. The best time to see this small five foot waterfall is in the Spring or Winter seasons.




From the Shoals, travel to Paint Rock, home of renowned songwriter Curly Putnam, and on towards Sand Mountain where the Delmore Brothers, Louvin Brothers and the Gospel Music of Vestal Goodman and so many more originated.There’s also music sung acappella in small country churches. This music has become popular all over again and popularized in the movies.The thousands of churches with great heartfelt, soulful music doctor the landscapes of ‘My Alabama.’ If you get a chance to listen to The Alabama Symphony, please do so, as it is an incredible musical experience.The many high school bands and university bands like the “Marching Southerners” of my alma mater, Jacksonville State University, are all supremely well-trained and presented. W.C. Handy, the father of the Blues, is one of the musical heroes in Alabama. Only recently, two winners of American Idol, Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks, call Alabama home. Bo Bice came close. Thank God for Birmingham with its incredible medical facilities that make us all proud. Also, one of my fondest memories is singing the National Anthem before a packed crowd at Legion Field before a football game ➤

THE ALABAMA THEATRE, “Showplace of the South.” Each year the Theatre hosts over 300 events attended by a half million Birmingham area citizens.

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between the University of Tennessee and the University of Alabama.To say that football is important to the people of Alabama is an understatement. My daughter is currently attending Auburn University, studying to become a veterinarian and follow in the footsteps of becoming a university graduate like her sister Alison, a Jacksonville State University graduate, and her brother Heath, a graduate of Samford University. The new Jacksonville State University Field School is an amazing addition to the spectacular adventures of Little River, Lookout Mountain, and Little River Canyon. It is a must see educational attraction. Education is extremely important to my family. I get truly excited to see our youth become graduates of our fine schools and universities. Here in Alabama, we also have some of the most modern and sophisticated industries, especially the auto industry. I truly appreciate every job created because I’ve worked most every kind of job there is. I love and respect the working men and women in Alabama.They make me proud and they make our state great! The space industry in the Huntsville area takes us to greater heights in technology than my grandparents ever dreamed possible.When you visit ➤

The 125 year old JACKSONVILLE STATE UNIVERSITY is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians and surrounded by 375,000 acres of the lush Talladega National Forrest. Randy Owen’s JSU graduation photo (right).




Alabama, you must see The Space and Rocket Center. It will dazzle you what people with brilliant minds can do. The Military Installations in our state are home to the finest soldiers in the world. My state has given far more than its share to keep America free. I truly admire our men and women in uniform, and I thank them for the jobs they do for Alabama and for our great nation. Only a few months ago, we saw our local National Guard Unit from Fort Payne, Alabama, off to Iraq. A huge crowd was there. I was asked to sing the National Anthem and that was a special moment for me and my wife Kelly because she knows the price of freedom as a sister and a daughter of two officers in the U.S.Army. Our prayers are with all the men and women who serve in Iraq and with their families for a safe return to their homes. I’m a fan of NASCAR. It’s something me and my dad enjoyed, listening to it on the radio. Now,Alabama has the world’s fastest track,Talladega International Raceway, which is also the home of the International Motor Sports Hall Of Fame. A definite must see. If you’d like to see a race, that’s even better. ➤

A PROUD AMERICAN — Randy strumming his guitar. Photo courtesy of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

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The economic impact of the Superspeedway is truly amazing, and I’m proud to say, I’ve been Grand Marshall of a race at Talladega. I watched as my friend Dale Earnhardt won his last race there.The day I’ll never forget. The Allison brothers, Donnie and Bobby, and Neal Bonnet, Red Farmer, the Flock Family, Davey Allison, and many others, have had a huge impact on NASCAR and are sports heroes and friends.All have Alabama roots. I love everything from the dirt tracts to the drag strips. We have 67 unique counties in Alabama, and every one of them has something special to see.We still have dusty, dirt roads that lead to home places with screen doors, and old porches with memories that bring us back to our roots in Alabama - The Beautiful. There are farmers driving their tractors and trucks on county roads, and professionals driving their luxury automobiles. It takes all of us to make up my home state of Alabama. There’s nothing quite like the sound of rain on a tin roof, and thunder and lightning as you look out at the summer sky. These natural happenings seem so special to me. I remember a porch swing where I sat and dreamed and imagined what could be, while smelling the biscuits that Mama was making for breakfast on her woodstove with the fire crackling. ➤

A view of LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN from Wills Valley near Colbran (left). The biggest, fastest and most competitive superspeedway in the world – Talladega Superspeedway.




I remember drawing a bucket of fresh freestone water that quenched the thirst like nothing I ever tasted before or since. We still have country stores, small towns, and God-fearing folks; men who respect the ladies; kids who say,“Yes sir and No sir”; family gardens; and people with big hearts.Yet, we’re modern, and in some respects, our traditions are important to us all. We like syrup and butter, watermelons, biscuits and gravy, vine-ripened tomatoes, sweet tea, fried squash and okra, and Mama’s fried apple pies. We pay tribute to our loved ones who have passed before us by having annual decorations at the cemeteries. We still have family reunions, baptizings in the river, and swimming holes with inner tubes and tire swings. We still have trees to climb, and we still enjoy the outdoors and nature. We still stop on the roadside when a funeral procession passes by to show our respect for the loved ones who have passed away and to their families. ➤ THE MENTONE WEDDING CHAPEL atop Lookout Mountain is a lovely romantic setting. In a unique and touching ceremony. LIFE-SIZE BRONZE STATUES of the group Alabama were unveiled and now stand forever in their hometown of Fort Payne.

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I usually celebrate Thanksgiving by the huge fireplace with my mama and sisters and their families at our cabin on the canyon. It makes my mama happy and that’s important to me. We usher in the holidays by playing Alabama’s Christmas Albums/CDs. It is,“Christmas In Dixie.” It is a tradition to take my family out in our woods and cut a cedar tree for Christmas just as my daddy and grandpas did, and we always hope for snow! I thank God I was born here, that I grew up here, that I still live here, and that I made the choice in life to do something with my talents. My favorite times are spent on foggy misty mornings; sittin’ on my porch, with a handmade quilt sewn by my grandmother; the swing built by my cousins, from lumber that was cut off my land; with my cats and dogs close by, as I’m listening to the birds singing and the rooster crowing; and watching the Hereford and Angus mama cows with their babies grazing the lush green grass.Then I’ll take a good cup of coffee, ride down to the canyon, and thank God that I was born here,

my home’s in Alabama.

raised my family here, and that




William Christenberry ARTIST . TUSCALOOSA


graphs of Ku Klux Klan rituals and imagery. Although repulsed by

Alabama, has spent much of his life admiring, recording, recreating,

the hate group, he believed that these feelings and the group’s

and displaying the sites, scenes, and natural beauty of Alabama. To

actions should not be ignored. Christenberry still makes his annual pilgrimages to Hale County,

his surprise, photographs he took

Alabama, recording many of the same sites and scenes he has

over decades of yearly pilgrimages

recorded every year since he began taking photographs of the

to his family’s home county of Hale

area. Many of his most heralded collections are photos of the same

County, Alabama, have been recog-

area or structure over several years and even decades depicting

nized by fine art patrons and shown

the changes in the physical structures over time. Collections such

in museums around the world,

as “Church, Sprott, Alabama,” “Green Warehouse,” and “Coleman

including the Smithsonian Institute.

Café,” allow patrons to view history, decay, and progress of Hale

Christenberry began visiting Hale

County Alabama sites and scenes.

County as a young child when his

Even though most well known for his simple snapshots of Hale

family would visit his grandparent’s

County, his work also includes paintings as well as sculptures. The

farms there. As a young artist and

sculptures are often built upon the very Alabama land the original

faculty member of the University of

subjects sit upon. While visiting the site to photograph the struc-

Alabama art program from 1959 to 1960, he would recall the sites from his Hale County sojourns to use as subjects for his paintings. Working in this vein, he began to

Even though most well known for his simple snapshots of Hale County, his work also includes paintings as well as sculptures.

record or photograph scenes throughout Hale County with a simple, inexpensive camera, the

tures, he would take dirt from the location on which to build the

Kodak Brownie, to aid his painting process.

sculpture. One of his most recognized sculptures is named simply,

In 1960, Christenberry happened upon a copy of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a book about Hale County sharecroppers during

“Green Warehouse.” Christenberry is quoted speaking to Michell Norris on “All Things

the Great Depression. The book, written by James Agee with photos

Considered” on National Public Radio in August 03, 2006: “What I

from the great Alabama photographer, Walker Evans, resonated with

really feel very strongly about, and I hope reflects in all aspects of

Christenberry due to his ongoing ties and interests in Hale County. He

my work is the human touch, the humanness of things, the positive

soon began to relate in his paintings what he felt Agee’s prose por-

and sometimes the negative and sometimes the sad.”

trayed to readers of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Christenberry relocated to New York in 1961 and eventually met

According to The Encyclopedia of Alabama, “Christenberry’s work is represented in museums throughout the United States and

fellow photographer and Alabamian, Walker Evans. After Evans

internationally, and many publications have discussed and analyzed

viewed Christenberry’s photos, he encouraged and inspired him to

his art and vision. His work was the subject of the 2006-07 exhibi-

focus more on his photography. With a renewed interest in photog-

tion “Passing Time: The Art of William Christenberry,” mounted by

raphy, Christenberry moved back to the South and took a position

the Smithsonian Institution at the Smithsonian American Art

as assistant professor at Memphis State University. During his time

Museum in Washington, D.C.

in Memphis, he would create some of his most controversial and thought provoking art: sculptures, paintings, drawings, and photo-

Christenberry presently works as the professor of drawing and painting at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C. ■

Building with False Brick Siding, Warsaw, Alabama, 1991. House and Car, Near Akron, Alabama, 1981 (Photos by Christenberry) William Christenberry (Photo by Chan Chao)



Photo courtesy of Celebrity Sensation

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IN THE ROLE OF MONICA GELLER on the TV sitcom Friends


with Jim Carrey in the big-screen hit, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

(1994-2004), she was a twenty-something chef struggling to make

(1994). That same year, the NBC sitcom Friends debuted, and

a name for herself in New York. But long before the hit series ended

Courteney Cox soon emerged as an international celebrity.

production, the name of Courteney Cox Arquette was known in millions of homes across the country and beyond. Her riches-to-even-greater-riches story began on June 15, 1964, when she was born into a Southern family headed by wealthy businessman, Richard Cox (1930-2001). She was named for her mother who gave birth to three other children. Brought up in Mountain Brook, Alabama, near Birmingham, Courteney was the baby of the family. She turned ten the year her parents divorced in 1974, and her father moved to Florida. In school Courteney plunged into sports, joining the swimming, cheerleader, and tennis teams at Mountain Brook High. In her senior year, she modeled in an advertisement for a local store, Parisians. Enrolling in Mount Vernon College in Washington, D.C., she studied architecture and interior design. She dropped out after one year

Co-starring with Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer, Cox played Monica Geller. As the seasons progressed, she began exploiting her comedic talent, eventually earning an American comedy Award nomination. “I know I’m not a method actress, but I do believe in being physically and emotionally prepared for the role,” she said in an interview. “If I have a scene where I’m supposed to be emotionally drawn out, then I’ll think of the saddest thing in my life.” In 1996, while appearing in Scream, a teen slasher film that would spawn three sequels, she met co-star David Arquette. They would marry three years later. During the nation’s Friends frenzy, she was named “Hottest Babe” by Playboy magazine in 1995; “9th Sexiest Woman in the Word” by readers of FHM magazine in 1997 and 1998; and the 18th “Sexiest

“If I have a scene where I’m supposed to be emotionally drawn out, then I’ll think of the saddest thing in my life.” 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 commercials for the New York Telephone Company, Maybelline, and Noxzema. Bit parts on several TV series, including the soap opera, As the World Turns (1956-2010) and The Love Boat (1977-1986). 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

Over the years, she has spoken out for an array of humanitarian causes. She and David Arquette raised money for children with a rare genetic condition that affects the skin, epidermolysis bullosa. In 2005, she organized an auction to collect money to pay legal fees 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 the next few years she saw meager success until she co-starred

Coco, born the year of Friends’ farewell. ■





PERCY SLEDGE IS CONSIDERED to be a pioneer of both Southern

one of the best pop and soul songs of the 20th century.

Soul and Country Soul music. The “Golden Voice of Soul” was born

Continuing to work with Atlantic Records, and Ivy and Greene

in Leighton and grew up working in the fields near his home. After

as producers, Sledge followed with several other hits: “Warm and

high school, he began working as an orderly in what is now Helen

Tender Love” (1966), and two hits written by Muscle Shoals song-

Keller Hospital in nearby Sheffield. Sledge’s dream was to become

writers Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn, “It Tears Me Up” (1966)

a professional baseball player and considered himself “a pretty

and “Out of Left Field.” In 1969 he followed up with “Take Time to

good second baseman.”

Know Her,” “Any Day Now,” and “Cover Me,” co-written by Muscle

He began singing for a popular vocal combo, the Esquires, which

Shoals songwriters Marlin Greene and Eddie Hinton. In 1974, he

performed for local clubs and frat parties. He spent much of his

signed with Capricorn Records and released “I’ll be Your

time in the fields and in the hospital humming a song that he was

Everything,” which made it to number 15 on the R& B charts.

making up in his head. The song, inspired by a girlfriend who left Sledge for another man, “Why Did you Leave Me, Baby?” evolved into “When a Man Loves a Woman.” The patients, doctors, and nurses at the hospital were very impressed with Sledge’s singing. One patient even told music pro-

“When a Man Loves a Woman” is considered by many to be one of the best pop and soul songs of the 20th century.

ducer Quin Ivy that he should consider recording Sledge. At the “When a Man Loves a Woman” has turned into a timeless

first audition, Ivy signed Sledge to a recording contract. Sledge showed up for his first recording session in his baseball

masterpiece and the song’s popularity has resurfaced many times.

uniform – still dreaming of playing for the Cincinnati Reds. “When

Michael Bolton’s version of the song made it to number one in 1991,

a Man Loves a Woman,” was released in 1966 as a single on an

and the original has been used on movie soundtracks and in televi-

independent label and was later licensed to Atlantic Records. The

sion commercials.

song was co-produced by Ivy and Marlin Greene. Within three

In 1989, Percy Sledge became the first person to be inducted

months, the song rose to number one on both the pop and R & B

into the Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s Career Achievement Hall

charts and remained on the charts for four months. “When a Man

of Fame. In 1993, he was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of

Loves a Woman” became the Muscle Shoals music industry’s first

Fame and was presented a Lifework Award. In 2005, he was

number one hit and the first gold record in Atlantic Records’ history.

inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Louisiana

Baseball plans were put on hold. Upon Sledge’s induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, his introduction stated

Music Hall of Fame in 2007. Sledge still tours with his band the Aces and averages about

he would have earned his induction if he never recorded another

100 dates a year throughout the U.S. and Europe. He and his wife

song. “When a Man Loves a Woman” is considered by many to be

Rosa live in Baton Rouge. ■

Photo by Mark McNulty






During their run in the 70’s and 80’s, Captain and Tennille were

Captain & Tennille, achieved chart-topping success from 1975 to

said to have sold more than 25 million records, making them one of

1980 with a collection of hit songs. As one of the most successful

pop music’s most successful acts. Throughout the 90’s, the duo

duos in history, they garnered an impressive five gold albums, six

performed at various concert dates around the world.

gold singles, two platinum albums and one platinum single. Their

Tennille also enjoyed a successful run as the star of the Broadway

single hit “Love Will Keep Us Together” (1975) earned them a

tour of Victor/Victoria in 1998-99. She received rave reviews for her

Grammy in 1975 as record of the year. It was number one on the

starring role in the Los Angeles production of Stardust in 1992. She

Billboard pop charts for an extraordinary four weeks.

has also enjoyed a second career as a big band and pops standard

Singing was in Tennille’s genes. She was raised in Montgomery,

singer. She has released several albums and still sings with orchestras

Alabama, as part of a talented family of entertainers. Her father Frank was a big band singer, and her mother Cathryn hosted Montgomery’s fist daytime television talk show. “From the time I was very young until I started high school, my family and I lived in a modest house on the fourth fairway of the

In July1976 during the Bicentennial Celebration, First Lady Betty Ford requested Captain & Tennille perform at the White House.

Montgomery Country Club. What I remember most about those years was picking pecans off the ground from the nearby pecan

throughout the country. Tennille has performed in several events,

groves and bringing them home to mother who would drizzle them

including a sold-out benefit concert at the August 2009 Prescott

with butter and roast them in the oven. I remember being out in our

Arizona Jazz Summit.

yard in the early evening, trying to catch fireflies in a mason

While living in northeastern Nevada, Tennille had the honor

jar.....long languid summers with the smell of steaming pavement

of serving as the Ambassador of Arts for the state. Tired of large

after a rain....” says Tennille of her youthful days in Alabama.

amounts of snow-fall, the couple moved to the foothills of Prescott, Arizona. These days, Parkinson’s dis-

Early in her career, Tennille studied classical piano and while a student at Auburn University,

ease has made Daryl less inclined to public

she sang with Auburn University’s big band – the

appearances. Tennille spends many of her days

Auburn Knights.

running canine agility with her Australian Shepherd,

In 1971, Tennille was performing in a musical she

Smoky, and visiting local hospitals as part of a

had written called Mother Earth. Dragon was playing

Pet Partners Therapy team. Toni and husband

in a back-up band for The Beach Boys. Tennille

Daryl enjoy a much simpler life now, which

called him in to audition as a replacement key-

according to Toni in her Blog (Toni’s Take),

boardist and hired him on the spot. Dragon in turn

seems to “suit them just fine.” Toni Tennille will always be considered one of

got Tennille a gig on the next Beach Boys tour as part of the backing band. Tennille was and has been

the most versatile singers and entertainers. Her

the only ever “Beach Girl.” When the tour was over, Tennille and Dragon

rich, contralto voice and powerful stage presence continues to

began performing as a duo and eventually married in November 1975.

enchant audiences. She is well-loved by fans from around the

In July 1976, Captain & Tennille performed at the Bicentennial Celebration for First Lady Betty Ford and Queen Elizabeth II. In 1980,

world – many from Alabama. Says Tennille: “I am grateful for my Alabama upbringing. I believe

“Do That to Me One More Time” reached number one. Tennille con-

it taught me how kind, warm and welcoming southern people can

tinued her work as a session singer and performed backup on no

be. My husband, Daryl (the “Captain”), told me that he always knew

fewer than three Elton John albums, an Art Garfunkel album, and

he would marry a Southern Belle even though he had never met

Pink Floyd albums.

one. I like to think it was the Alabama in me that he loved.” ■ Photos courtesy of NAA Productions, Las Vegas, Nevada


John Croyle FOOTBALL PLAYER & HUMANITARIAN . GADSDEN John Croyle seems to have always been a man on a mission. He

would become the Big Oak Ranch for Boys. He would become more

was born in Gadsden, Alabama, on March 9, 1951. At Gadsden High

famous for his humanitarian efforts than his athletic success.

School, he was a prep All-America in football and basketball. At the

On March 6, 1974, at John Croyle Day in Gadsden, he received a

University of Alabama he played on a national championship team,

check from the Alabama Alumni Association for $5,000 toward his

and after college he dedicated his life to helping kids in desperate

dream. A Birmingham businessman followed with a $15,000 donation,


but Croyle was well short of the funds needed. Then former Tide

John Croyle played football at the University of Alabama under Paul

teammate and first round draft pick of the New England Patriots,

“Bear” Bryant. When Bryant talked, people listened. Croyle listened,

John Hannah, stepped up. He pledged his $30,000 signing bonus

and the words of wisdom not only paid dividends for John but for

and the ranch opened its doors to four boys. Since then, several new

hundreds of children.

houses designed to be homes to eight boys and house parents have

Standing six feet six inches and weighing 210 pounds, Croyle

been constructed with the first new structure named the John Hannah

looked more like a basketball star than a football standout. However,

House. Among the many other homes honoring ranch supporters

he excelled as a defensive end in the tough Southeastern Conference.

are the Paul Bryant House, the Gaylon McCollough House, and the

During a knee injury plagued tenure at the Capstone, he garnered

Ray Perkins House.

second team All-SEC honors in 1972 and won the “Jerry Duncan-I

Through the years, children who have suffered from every form of

Like to Practice Award” in 1973. Playing against Mississippi State in

abuse imaginable have found shelter – and a chance at Big Oak

1973, he recorded 11 tackles including a quarterback sack for a 32

Ranch. By his side has been his wife, Teresa. They raised daughter,

yard loss. To cap off a stellar performance, he blocked a field goal

Reagan, and son, Brodie, at the ranch. Reagan played basketball at

attempt and returned it 40 yards.

the University of Alabama where she was crowned Homecoming

Croyle visited with Bryant to discuss the career path he was con-

Queen and married a Tide quarterback. Brodie starred as quarter-

templating and if playing in the NFL could help fund his plan. Bryant

back at Alabama and plays with the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL.

said, “Don’t play professional ball unless you’re willing to marry it.”

The Big Oak Ranch has been featured in many publications, including

Right then the seed that had been planted during a summer job

Time and Reader’s Digest. The ministry has expanded over the years to

began to take root. At the age of 19, Croyle worked in Lumberton,

include the Big Oak Girls Ranch and Westbrook Christian School.

Mississippi, at the King’s Arrow Ranch for boys. He saw the need

John Croyle has been quoted as saying, “I tell new kids three

and realized he could be a ray of hope for boys in bad situations.

things. First, I love you. Second, I will never lie to you. Third, I will

He decided to forgo professional football and started work on what

stick with you until you are grown.” ■

John Croyle on deck (left photo) with children at the Big Oak Ranch for Boys.

186 |




Morris Dees LAWYER, AUTHOR, SOCIAL JUSTICE & CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST . MONTGOMERY As the co-founder and chief trial council of the Southern Poverty

The Center is currently fighting for immigration rights with its

Law Center (SPLC) in Montgomery, Morris Dees is known for his

Immigrant Justice Project to address the legal needs of migrant

groundbreaking legal work in which he battles hate groups and

workers and for children with the Youth Justice Project seeking to

social injustice. Since its inception in 1971, the Center has grown to

reform the juvenile justice system.

be internationally known and honored for its legal victories that have resulted in landmark decisions in the U.S. Supreme Court. Morris Dees has spent his career fighting for minorities, protecting constitutional rights, and promoting democratic ideals. Dees was born December 16, 1939, in Shorter, a small town in Macon County east of Montgomery. His parents, Morris Seligman Dees and Annie Ruth Dees, were tenant farmers. Dees’ father wanted him to be a lawyer, but as a child, Dees pictured himself as a preacher or a farmer. Dees’ father set him on the path to litigation when he asked his son to help a friend and employee. “The event that led me to become interested in civil rights cases occurred when I was 16 and ‘defended’ a black man who was wrongly charged before a justice of the peace,” Dees explained. He lost the case but learned about injustice. Dees’ father advised him to go to law school if he wanted to do something about it. While in law school at the University of Alabama, he met Millard Fuller. The two formed a highly successful publishing company. Fuller left the business in 1965 and later formed Habitat for Humanity. Dees sold the publishing business in 1970 to a national firm and formed the SPLC. Dees filed his first civil rights case in 1967. “The judge saw the case as we saw it – a question of freedom of speech,” Dees explained. “We won the First Amendment case, and I learned that if I did a good job with the facts and presented the legal issues, I would win even when I faced well known lawyers.” Dees and Joseph Levin, with whom he founded the SPLC, took on pro bono cases that led to, among other things, the desegregation of recreational facilities, equal representation in legislature and juries for African-Americans and women, and the integration of the Alabama State Troopers. The Center has had a long list of successes and has received

The author of three books and the impresario of many ground-

accolades from many organizations for its ongoing anti-bias litigation

breaking court decisions, Dees is most proud of founding the Center

and tolerance education, but has had its share of troubles. SPLC

and of the establishment of the Morris Dees Justice Award. “The

was fire bombed in 1983, and there have been and continue to be,

award is given each year by the University of Alabama Law School

threats on both Dees and the Center.

and the Skadden Arps Law firm and honors a lawyer who has

SPLC is also well known for its tolerance education programs: The

devoted their career to serving the public interest and pursuing jus-

Intelligence Report, for law enforcement, civic and community groups

tice and whose work has brought about positive change,” Dees

which helps target and combat hate and terrorist crimes, and Teaching

said. “I hope this award will honor those who have done great work

Tolerance, a magazine and online service targeted to K12 teachers to

for the least among us and will inspire other lawyers to devote time

help them teach respect and understanding in their classrooms.

to social justice activities.” ■

Photo by Penny Weaver


Jim Hudson’s passion for science has fired Huntsville’s biotechnology industry while his “big picture” vision has sparked the interests

of DNA found inside human cells. Hudson headed Research Genetics until 2000 when the company

and imaginations of business leaders and young professionals alike.

merged with Invitrogen, an international firm, in a deal valued in

His affection for those who have the heart and business plan to launch

excess of $138 million.

their own dreams is evidenced by the city’s growing biotech sector. His passion to improve quality of life also includes enhancing his

Saddened by Invitrogen’s move to shift work away from Huntsville, Hudson and longtime friend and business entrepreneur, Lonnie

hometown. He and his late wife, Susie, envisioned a more vibrant

McMillian, renewed a dream they had floated years before. In 2005,

downtown. Numerous projects reflect their love of Huntsville from

Hudson and McMillian announced plans for the HudsonAlpha Institute

restaurants and entertainment venues to an eclectic arts district.

for Biotechnology, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving human health, stimulating economic development, and inspiring the next generation of scientists.


Hudson is especially proud of the local biotech business owners he mentored and noted, “They are the reason there is a biotech industry in Huntsville,” he said. Many started at Research Genetics either working for Hudson or accepting his offer of space, a phone, and a fax. “Although biotech is still in its infancy in Huntsville, we have the inspiration and innovative spirit to make significant contributions to improving human health and the quality of life for all citizens,” Hudson added. With every discovery and scientific application, Huntsville’s contributions build Alabama’s knowledge-worker economy. About a mile from the center of Huntsville is Lowe Mill Hudson was born in Charleston, South Carolina. The family moved

– a popular arts, cultural, and entertainment district. Originally built

to Chattanooga, Tennessee, when he was five. When he was ten years

as a textile mill in 1900, it has had a varied industrial past. Hudson

old, he was given a Gilbert chemistry set for Christmas. “From that

bought the mill and surrounding buildings in 2001 and gave new life

time on, I knew I wanted to be a mad scientist,” he recalled. Lucky

to what was Huntsville’s first suburb.

for North Alabama, the Hudson family moved to Huntsville, Alabama,

Lowe Mill is Hudson’s personal passion. Enamored with working galleries, examples of which he saw at the Torpedo Factory in

within the next year. Hudson received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s

Alexandria, Virginia, Hudson set out to create an environment that

degree in physics from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and

would welcome and inspire an eclectic mix of artisans. Lowe Mill

a master’s degree in biology from UAHuntsville. He served three

has become a new community in Huntsville and features several

years in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War and was awarded

entertainment and exhibition events each month. Jim Hudson has spent most of his life supporting and promoting

the Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1987, while working on his biology degree, Hudson founded

Huntsville. He considers it home and has no desire to live anywhere

Research Genetics with an initial investment of $25,000. Eventually,

else. “I believe Huntsville is a special place. It’s a place that helped

the company became the world’s largest supplier of genetic linkage

send man to the moon and has launched the dreams of many

products and was a chief partner in the Human Genome Project –

entrepreneurs,” he said. “Huntsville thrives on possibility thinking.

the international effort coordinated by the National Institutes of

It is truly an extraordinary city.”

Health and the U.S. Department of Energy to identify the sequence

The same can be said of Jim Hudson. ■

Photo by Dennis Keim, dK Studio

192 |




Helen Keller HUMANITARIAN, EDUCATOR & AUTHOR . TUSCUMBIA . 1880-1968 Helen Keller was one of the most widely known humanitarians of the

newly formed American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). She and

20th century. An author, public speaker, promoter of workers’ and

Sullivan dedicated most of the next 20 years raising funds for the

women’s rights, anti-war activist, and unofficial U. S. ambassador to the

AFB and lobbing for the disabled.

world, Keller dedicated her life to making life more productive for every-

Anne Sullivan died in 1936 at their home in Forrest Hills, New York.

one. She overcame adversity to ultimately alter the public’s perceptions

Keller became the unofficial U.S. ambassador, and by 1957, she had

of disabilities while widening the limitations set for the deaf and blind.

traveled to 35 countries on five continents.

Helen was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. A quick learner, she could speak at the age of six months and was walking by her first birthday. At the age of 19 months, she contracted what was

“I am filled with the wonder of her knowledge, acquired because she was shut out from all distractions. If I could have been deaf, dumb, and blind, I also might have arrived at something.” – Mark Twain diagnosed as brain fever – today thought to be scarlet fever or meningitis. When the fever broke, Helen was totally blind and deaf. Her parents sought help for their daughter and were eventually led to Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, who was currently working with deaf children. Bell referred the Kellers to the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston; the school soon sent a recent graduate, Anne Sullivan, to work with Helen at Ivy Green – the family home in Tuscumbia. It was at Ivy Green where the much-documented miracle (The Miracle Worker) at the water pump took place when Helen said “water,” her first word in years as Sullivan pumped cool water in one hand while spelling the word in her other palm. By the end of the day’s lesson, Helen had learned 30 words. She and Sullivan spent years in Boston and New York studying

She suffered several strokes in 1961 and spent most of the rest of her life at her home in Connecticut. She died on June 1, 1968, and is

speech and communication. In 1900 she was accepted to Ratcliff. By

buried in the Washington National Cathedral in the country’s capital.

this time, Keller was communicating in multiple languages via Braille,

Among the many awards Helen Keller won were an Oscar for

finger spelling, typing, and speech. While at Ratcliff, she worked on an essay assignment, which even-

her participation in a documentary about her life, Helen Keller in Her Story (Originally titled The Unconquered) in 1955; the Presidential

tually evolved into The Story of My Life (Dover Press); her 1903 auto-

Medal of Freedom in 1964; election to the Women’s Hall of Fame in

biographical account of her first 22 years. The book was tremendously

1973; and she was listed in Gallup’s Most Widely Admired People

successful and was published in many languages. She graduated with

of the 20th Century in 1999.

honors in 1904 and was the first deaf-blind person to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree. After college Keller became active in politics and social issues. She

Her legacy continues through the 19 books she authored and the many organizations dedicated to her causes. “I believe that all through these dark and silent years, God has been

joined the Socialist Party in 1909 and became one of the country’s

using my life for a purpose I do not know,” Alden Whitman, journalist

most recognized advocates for voting rights, legalized birth control

for the New York Times and personal friend, quoted Keller as saying

for women, and unemployment benefits. In the 1920’s, she helped

shortly before her death. “But one day I shall understand, and then

form the American Civil Liberties Union and joined forces with the

I will be satisfied.” ■

Keller at age 8 with her tutor Anne Sullivan on vacation in Brewster, Cape Cod, Massachusetts in July 1888. (Photo courtesy of New England Historic Genealogical Society)


FLORENCE HISTORIC BUILDING one of the beautiful,

historic homes in the city’s downtown area. (Photo courtesy of Alabama Bureau of Tourism & Travel)

The LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN SCENIC PARKWAY, Mentone, Alabama. (Photo courtesy of John Dersham, DeKalb County Tourist Association)


Huntsville is very tranquil, yet full of life for major outdoor events.

208 |





The beautiful LAKE TUSCALOOSA in west central Alabama is a 5,885-acre water supply reservoir with 177 miles of shoreline. (Photo courtesy of Alabama Department of Tourism)



STAIRCASE IN ROCK TOWER of Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores.

(Photo by ©Tad Denson,

Civil War reenactment at historic BLAKELEY STATE PARK in Spanish Fort.

(Photo courtesy of Alabama Bureau of Tourism & Travel)

ARCHWAYS AT FORT MORGAN in Gulf Shores. Fort Morgan

is known for its extraordinary military architecture. (Photo by ©Danny E. Hooks/Shutterstock)


O’NEAL BRIDGE Spanning the Tennessee River between Florence and Sheffield Alabama.

(Photo by ©Wayne James/Shutterstock)

372 |







Alabama Home Sweet Home/ Introduction by Randy Owen ISBN 0-9747037-3-7

COPYRIGHT@ 2010 by IMAGE PUBLISHING, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No part of this work may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any means, except for brief excerpts in conjunction with book reviews, without prior written permission of the publisher.


Publisher: Gigi Phillips, Image Publishing, Inc. Editor: Mila Borden Editor: Nina Lockard Project Manager/Consultant: Nancy White Perkins Creative Director/Designer: Jencie LaVae Escue Profile Designer: Ann Ward Writers: Annie Austin, Patrick Collins, Ken Gaddy, Susan Goldsmith, Checky Herrington, Mary Mack Jones, Nina Lockard, Buffy Lockette, Tim Lockette, Sybil Mitchell, Gary Pettus, Niki Sepsas, Randall Williams, Billy Watkins Proofreading: Nina Lockard Contributing Photographers: Tad Denson, John Dersham, Jencie LaVae Escue, Danny E. Hooks, Seth Laubinger, Alec Woodward, Craig Woodward Marketing Representatives: Nina Lockard, Laura Haney McCready, Leah Wiggins, Susan Wood Digital Color Supervisor: CueCreative


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Alabama Home Sweet Home  

Alabama Home Sweet Home captures the stories of noteworthy individuals who call Alabama home. This 384-page coffee table book contains rare...