Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Alabama History & Culture News: August 21 edition

For a number of years I've been posting links to just-published Alabama history and culture articles in the "alabamahistory" group at Yahoo!Groups. Most of the articles are from newspapers, with others from magazines and TV and radio websites. You can subscribe to the emails there if you wish; I send out two or three a week along with relevant meeting announcements and so forth. 

Here's the latest batch:

On this day in Alabama history: NFL great died
Harry Vincent Gilmer (1926-2016) was a native of Birmingham who played halfback for the University of Alabama before becoming a player and coach ...

On this day in Alabama history: Historical commission founded
Alabama followed suit as Gov. George C. Wallace signed a law establishing the Alabama HistoricalCommission on Aug. 19, 1966. Today, the AHC ...

On this day in Alabama history: Gene Bartow was born
Gene Bartow was the first men's basketball coach and the first athletic director at the University of Alabamaat Birmingham. During his 18 seasons as ...

ARTS AND HUMANITIES: Georgia hamlet resurrected by a movie
Although Flagg's novel was inspired by a restaurant in Irondale, Alabama, it is ... The book and the movie center around two sets of memorable female ...

Birmingham author on US quarters praises choice of Tuskegee Airmen featured on Alabama coin
“It respects our World War II veterans (whose numbers grow smaller every day), gives a nod to Alabama's(still growing) role in aviation history, and ...

Remembering Nancy Parker: Devoted journalist, loving wife and mother
Nancy is a native of Opelika, Alabama where she graduated with honors from ... Both books are available on and local bookstores.

Trussville Historical Society Museum Open on Aug. 17
Visitors will be able to see treasures from Trussville's history. Take a walk back in time and see an Alabamafossilized tree that was found in Trussville.

US Mint unveils final six America the Beautiful quarter dollar designs
... and the final coin, for 2021, representing the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site in Alabama. The final six coin designs and their designers are:.

On this day in Alabama history: Alabama was first state to ratify 16th Amendment
Alabama became the first state to ratify the new amendment on Aug. 17, 1909. Western and Southern states offered the strongest support for the tax in ...

Older than Alabama: Mt. Hebron Baptist Church in Leeds marks 200 years
Older than Alabama: Mt. Hebron Baptist Church in Leeds marks 200 years ... about its history, which interweaves and reflects the history of Alabama.

The first gay president?
In that spirit, we turn to the life of our nation's only bachelor president and his intimate personal relationship with William Rufus King of Alabama (vice ...

First-timers tune in to Sacred Harp at North Alabama Agriplex
... used in the iconic Sacred Harp hymn book — was just part of the lesson that locals got Thursday night at their North Alabama Agriplex singing class; ...

On this day in Alabama history: Francis Bartow Lloyd began syndicated column
Francis Bartow Lloyd was a reporter and city editor with The Montgomery Advertiser and also was the state representative to the Legislature for ...

PRESERVING HISTORY: Photographer shares images of 'forgotten treasures'
PRESERVING HISTORY: Photographer shares images of 'forgotten ... Wills is a photographer and keeper of Alabama's forgotten and vanishing ...

Alabama's Margaret Renkl, writer for New York Times, launches first book, 'Late Migrations'
A couple of years ago, Alabama native Margaret Renkl, who had made a career out of writing and editing, was stressed. Really stressed. Living in ...

GM of first Black owned radio station in Alabama inducted in to AlabamaBroadcasters Association ...
GM of first Black owned radio station in Alabama inducted in to Alabama ... Malone said Batts has always been an unconditional open book.

Residents try to save historic theater in Tuscumbia
Residents try to save historic theater in Tuscumbia ... “It's a piece of Alabama historythere aren't many of these things left it's rare to find an intact solid ...

The Hot Spot recognized on State Register of Historic Places
In late June, Marvin opened his mail to find a letter from the Alabama Historical Commission. It reads in part: “Considering its long service to the ...

On this day in Alabama history: LBW Community College named in Andalusia
Lurleen B. Wallace Community College was founded in Andalusia and named for the first female governor of Alabama. The Alabama State Board of ...

Fred Gray honored by Alabama Humanities Foundation
Gray's legal career has lasted more than 60 years, taking on some of the most famous civil rights cases in history. Early in his career, he represented ...

Living History series continues at Confederate Memorial Park
By J.R. TIDWELL / Editor. The Alabama Historical Commission and Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury will host a “Drill, Drill, Drill!” program as ...

INSIDE THE STATEHOUSE: The story of the legendary Floyd Mann
One of the legendary figures in Alabama political lore is Floyd Mann. Col. ... the Patterson administration that Mann made his mark in Alabama history.

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Doctor, His Son the Spy & The Police

Did you know Alabama has a direct connection to the rock group The Police? Let's investigate.

I jumped down this rabbit hole recently when I consulted the Wikipedia entry for that group's drummer, Stewart Copeland. Dianne and I had been re-watching a favorite TV show, Dead Like Me, and I realized he had written the music that opens each episode [and very catchy it is!]. Since The Police disbanded, he's composed for a number of films, TV shows, and video games. 

As noted in his entry, Copeland is the son of Miles A. Copeland, Jr., who was born on July 16, 1916 in Birmingham. Both his father and his Scottish mother Lorraine worked for intelligence agencies during World War II. After the war Miles Jr. and family settled in the Middle East; he worked on many covert operations for the CIA until his retirement in 1957. Lorraine became an archaeologist specializing in the region.

The family remained in the Middle East until moving to London in 1970. Miles Jr. sometimes returned to the agency on special assignments. Before his death in 1991 he kept busy writing articles for magazines and newspapers, books on foreign policy and an autobiography. Copeland was prominent enough to rate an obituary in the New York Times. He is buried in England.

The Wikipedia entry for Miles Jr. simply notes his birth in Birmingham as the "son of a doctor". So, what was his father's story? Since I've done a bit of medical history on this blog and elsewhere, that little tidbit caught my interest. So here we go...

Miles (Meter) Axe Copeland was born July 24, 1868, in Illinois. He died on March 9, 1958, and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery. I have yet to find out what he did in the first three decades of his life, but by the early 20th century he was in Alabama. He graduated from the Birmingham Medical College in 1903 and was certified by the Jefferson County Board of Medical Examiners in that same year. You can see the school's faculty and graduating students for 1902-1903 here. Copeland's instructors there included some of the state's most prominent physicians at the time, including William E.B. Davis, his brother John D.S. Davis, and Edgar P. Hogan

I have traced some of the family's residences and Copeland's medical offices through entries in the U.S. Census and the annual American Medical Directory [AMD]. In 1912 they were living at 721 South 20th Street [AMD]. The 1920 Census shows them at 2208 17th Avenue. The AMD shows them living at 2128 16th Avenue South in 1929 and 1931, as does the 1940 census. The Census listings note that Copeland owned his homes. 

His office was in the Farley Building in 1912, the Watts Building in 1929 and at 1927 1st Avenue North in 1931 [all AMD]. The BhamWiki entry on the Farley Building shows Copeland's office in room 406 in 1909, which is the date the building opened. He may have had his office there until the Watts Building opened in 1927. For some reason he moved yet again to the 1st Avenue North location by 1931. 

I have yet to find Copeland's date of marriage to his wife Leonora (1890-1966); she is also buried in Elmwood Cemetery. His parents were Miles Copeland (1829-1891) and Catherine Magdaline Axe Copeland (1835-1914). That explains where the "Axe" name enters the family line.

In the 1920 census they were living at the 2208 17th Avenue address. Son Miles was 3, their younger son Hunter was 1. A couple boarded with them. In 1940 Miles was 23 and Hunter was 21. Both were living again with their parents and are listed in the census as divorced. Miles' occupation was given as "sales manager", Hunter's as "office salesman". We know what happened to the younger Miles; I wonder about Hunter. The family had two young men as lodgers. 

One of Stewart's brothers, Miles Copeland III was born in London and graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 1966. He has been active in the business end of music; his various ventures have included founding I.R.S. Records and various talent and booking agencies. He managed among others such bands as  Wishbone Ash and The Police, as well as Sting's solo music and acting careers. One of his agencies was Copeland International Arts or CIA. 

A third brother, Ian Copeland, was a music promoter and booking agent who helped launch the New Wave movement in the U.S. His memoir, Wild Thing: The Backstage, On the Road, In the Studio, Off the Charts Memoirs of Ian Copeland, was published in 1995. He died the following year. 

Some further comments are below. I wonder where Sting's father was born?

Miles (Meter) Axe Copeland, MD [1868-1958]


Dr. Copeland with his wife Leonora G. Armstrong Copeland and their sons Miles Axe Copeland and Hunter Armstrong Copeland. Perhaps they are posing on the porch of one of their Birmingham homes. 


Miles A. Copeland, Jr. [1916-1991]

Source: BhamWiki

Miles A. Copeland, Jr., as a young man


After graduating from the Birmingham Medical College, a private institution, Dr. Copeland joined the faculty of the school. This photograph dates from that period. BMC closed in 1915. 

Birmingham Medical College in 1912. Dr. Copeland both studied and taught here. This building stood on the same block as Hillman Hospital and Jefferson Tower, an historical area I have called "Birmingham's heaviest medical block." 

Source: BhamWiki

Farley Building on Third Avenue in a postcard around 1910

Source: Troy Libraries via Alabama Mosaic

Watts Building postcard

The building is located at 20th Street and Third Avenue North

Source: Troy Libraries via Alabama Mosaic

Friday, August 16, 2019

Alabama History & Culture News: August 16 edition

For a number of years I've been posting links to just-published Alabama history and culture articles in the "alabamahistory" group at Yahoo!Groups. Most of the articles are from newspapers, with others from magazines and TV and radio websites. You can subscribe to the emails there if you wish; I send out two or three a week along with relevant meeting announcements and so forth. 

Here's the latest batch:

Fifty to 150 graves are located at the historic Eli Jackson Cemetery, which is in such a remote .... children, fled from Alabama to the banks of the Rio Grande because they were being persecuted under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

On the Beat with Harper Lee
How do you write the history of a book that was never written, by an author ... In Nixburg, Alabama, in the 1970s, friends and family of the charming ...

'200 Years Of Forgotten Alabama' Author To Present Program Thursday
The book features photographs of abandoned structures from all 67 of ... Wills has two other books – Forgotten Alabama and Forgotten Alabama 2.

Historic Home Atop Shades Mountain Listed At $2 Million
It is registered on the National Register of Historic Places, the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage and on the Jefferson County Historical ...

Watch the trailer for 'The Crown', directed by Alabama photographer
Netflix finally dropped our first look at season three of the popular historical drama series, this time starring Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman as ...

The story behind Alabama barn quilts
All that history is documented in “Pieced Together,” a documentary about ... Anthony and Kitty Hackney, install the blocks on barns around Alabama.

UAH Archives and Department of History to Erect Historical Marker on Campus
The University of Alabama in Huntsville History Department, in conjunction with M. Louis Salmon Library Archives & Special Collections, plans to erect ...

On this day in Alabama history: Satchel Paige struck out nine Kansas City Monarchs
Mobile native Satchel Paige had signed with the Chattanooga Black Lookouts in the semi-pro baseball leagues in 1926 but that team sold his contract ...

On this day in Alabama history: Albert James Pickett was born
He wrote about science, agriculture and history. His definitive work was his “History of Alabama and Incidentally of Georgia and Mississippi from the ...

On this day in Alabama history: Earthquake shook Huntsville and north Alabama
An earthquake centered in Hazel Green in Madison County shook Huntsville and was felt over a 25-mile radius on this day in 1959. There were no ...

Were you Rosie the Riveter? Alabama-founded group wants you
Then an 18-year-old fresh out of high school in Kimberly, Alabama, she did her part during World War II taking shorthand and typing for military officers ...

My Turn: Betty Cotter: The evolution of Miss Alabama [Hannah Brown]
My Turn: Betty Cotter: The evolution of Miss Alabama .... Contestants who reveal something about their family or dating history are praised for being ...

On this day in Alabama history: Julia Smith Oliver was born
Julia Oliver was a social worker and head administrator of what now is the AlabamaDepartment of Human Resources. She was born on this day in ...
Anniston library hosts author of 'Forgotten Alabamabooks
The summer is winding down but there's still time for vacations. If you're on a “stay-cation” instead, why not take time to read a book? Here are two I ...

Inside the Statehouse: The Story of Floyd Mann
One of the legendary figures in Alabama political lore is Floyd Mann. ... the Patterson administration that Mann made his mark in Alabama history.

On this day in Alabama history: First-ever blues record by a black singer was made
Perry Bradford was born in Montgomery and left a legacy as a songwriter, bandleader, promoter and composer. Bradford is credited with breaking ...

Hartselle farmer makes history with new breed of sheep
Alabama will make culinary history with the debut of the Australian White USA Sheep Aug. 14 at Fagerman Farm in Hartselle. Owner Daniel Fagerman ...

On this day in Alabama history: Marla Townsend became UAB's first softball coach
Marla Townsend became UAB's first softball coach on this day in 1998 when Athletic Director Gene Bartow announced her hiring. The team played its ...

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Movies with Alabama Connections: Mister Roberts

"Mr. Roberts" began life as a novel by Thomas Heggen first published in 1946. The story subsequently appeared in a 1948 play, 1955 film, 1965-66 television show, and a 1984 live broadcast TV movie. The most famous of all is no doubt the 1955 film that starred James Cagney, Henry Fonda, Jack Lemmon and the great William Powell in his last film role. I recently watched it again for the first time in a while and naturally my ears perked up at a couple of mentions of Alabama.

Heggen served on board two cargo ships in the South Pacific during World War II. He developed his novel from short stories he wrote based on that experience as an assistant communications officer on the USS Virgo and the USS Rotanin. His novel was an immediate hit and quickly sold over a million copies. Heggen collaborated with producer-director Joshua Logan on the play two years later. Henry Fonda starred as the title character, and the play was also a major success. Heggen and Logan shared the first Tony Award for Best Play.

Heggen did not live to see the film's success; he drowned in his bathtub after a sleeping pills overdose in May 1949.

The film's two mentions of Alabama are related to the crew's shore leave toward the end of the film. To put it mildly, through most of the story the crew has been kept on a tight leash by the unpopular captain of the USS Reluctant. When finally given shore leave, the crew indulges in some serious drinking and high jinks. You can read about some of it below. 

Mister Roberts is a funny movie with great performances by all and well worth watching if you haven't seen it. You can read the plot details at the Wikipedia entry

I have no idea if these Alabama references below appear in the novel or the play or how they ended up in the film instead of, say, Georgia. Original director John Ford had to bow out due to health issues. The film was finished by Joshua Logan, co-author of the play and director of the Broadway production. Logan was born in Texas and grew up in Louisiana, so there's a least a southern connection there.  

Here are the four main characters: Ensign Pulver [Jack Lemmon], Captain Morton [James Cagney], Mr. Roberts [Henry Fonda] and Doc [William Powell]. Also in the cast are a number of other well-known names and character actors including Betsy Palmer, Ward Bond, Ken Curtis, Nick Adams and one of John Wayne's children, Patrick Wayne. 

Shore Patrol Officer: A little while ago, six men from your ship broke into the home of the French Colonial governor. They started throwing things through a plate glass living room window. We found some of the things on the lawn. Large world globe. Small love seat. A lot of books. A bust of Balzac. The French writer. We also found an Army private first class. He was unconscious at the time. He claims they threw him, too.
Lt. j.g. Douglas A. Roberts: Through the window?
Shore Patrol Officer: That's right. It seems he took them there for a little joke. He didn't tell 'em it was a governor's house. He told 'em is was, uh... well, what we call in Alabama...
Lt. j.g. Douglas A. Roberts: Yeah, we call it the same thing in Nebraska.
Shore Patrol Officer: Well, that's about all, Lieutenant. If it makes you feel any better, Admiral Wentworth says this is the worst ship he's ever seen in his entire naval career.

Quote Source: IMDB

Near the end of the movie Ensign Pulver is going through his pieces during mail call. He picks up the first item, smells it, smiles and says, "Ahh, Alabama, I'll save that one for later."

Presumably "Alabama" is the woman Pulver met on shore leave; he comes back to the ship in a rather dreamy, satisfied mental state!