Many Atmore talents excelled statewide in ‘75

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 25, 2009

By By Lowell McGill
Several from our area were feted with awards and honors in the spring of 1975.
Patricia Byrd, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Troy Byrd, was the winner of a $3,000 college scholarship. Funds for her scholarship came from The National Gannett Newspaper Association of, which “The Pensacola News Journal” was a member. The Escambia Academy scholar grad used her award very wisely to obtain a college degree in education. As most know she has been teaching locally for several years, and, she is in fact now near retirement.
Susan Tennant, Miss South Alabama, gained the opportunity to participate in the Miss Alabama in Birmingham. She represented nine counties in south Alabama.
Buford Coon and W.D. Driskell of McCullough raked in honors as top cotton growers in the County.
Former Atmore radio station owner Dale Gehman was selected first-place winner in TV and electronics at the Alabama Electronic Convention in Birmingham. The senior at Atmore Vocation Center, in later years, drew on his knowledge to build and operate a successful radio station here. The station was recognized for its diverse programming and talented announcers.
Amelia Solomon, pretty daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Preston Solomon of Walnut Hill, Fla., captured a coveted baton-twirling award at the Escambia Florida Talent Show in Pensacola.
Local angler, Robert Hughes, scored a Top 5 fishing award in the Evenrude Bass Fishing Tournament at Millers Ferry near Camden. His string of fish weighed in at 7 pounds, 7 ounces.
A sad note in the news that year was the passing of popular and successful businessman Dee Gibbs. Not only was he a success as the Pure Oil distributor, but he served the city well as a councilman.
I knew Dee from the time I was a small boy when he delivered gasoline to our service station in Perdido. I developed a fond relationship with him in the years that followed. When I worked at WATM in the early and mid-1950s, he would come by often and we talked about radio and other things of interest. He became interested in auctioneering and he would tell me how he wanted to develop his voice, use of the microphone and proper phrasing when speaking. He actually attended an auctioneering school and later engaged in a weekend auction arena here. I was impressed that he really developed his auctioneering skills. You can understand why his favorite song back then was “The Auctioneer,” which was sung by Leroy Van Dyke.
The county, especially Brewton and Flomaton, experienced a devastating flood in the spring of 1975. Downtown Brewton was under water for almost two days and damage was estimated at $5 million.
Have you ever thought about that “terrible” highway we must travel when motoring to Tuscaloosa? I was up that way recently. With the exception of a 15-16 mile four-lane span between Grove Hill and Thomasville that highway, with its two lanes most of the way, looks exactly like it did in 1954 and 1955 when I traveled it each weekend as a University of Alabama student.
I would take a left on Hwy. 25, a few miles northeast of Thomasville (dodging sleeping cows on the highway) go right through Thomaston, Dayton, Faunsdale, Greensboro and Moundville right into Tuscaloosa.
You could travel through Linden and Demopolis, but traffic congestion was much greater on that route.
It really gets “under my skin” that Alabama governors never really “pushed” for a four-lane route for us living in south Alabama. It seems each governor had his or her own agenda, everything from building personally owned pay toll roads to fighting for or fighting against gambling.
Right now. college student from our area can safely drive to several other schools without having to travel many two-lane roads.
The easiest school to get to from here is Auburn University. Many probably fail to realize interstates and four-lane highways literally take you to the “front doors” at LSU, Florida State, AUM, UAB and Southern Mississippi. Getting to Troy only requires 40 miles of two-lane roads from Greenville.
Even those living near Dothan have four-lane access up US 431 to Interstate 85. They can then travel west to Montgomery where they will need to make a “Les Miles” decision and turn on to US 82 or travel north on I-65 and then turn west toward Centreville.
Even those living in the Mobile area have four-lane US 43 to Thomasville.
But for us it is the still the same old two-lane route.
I scratch my head sometimes and ask myself “why did I elect to attend a college so far away and so hard to get to?” Today, I worry about my grandchildren and my friends’ children and grandchildren having to travel that narrow road to Tuscaloosa. We need to air our concerns and ask these politicians, especially those running for the office of Governor, to give us safer and wider roads to Tuscaloosa.
Next week, I am not sure what I’ll be writing about. I may be answering emails from those who don’t approve of my comments about our Governors. Seriously, I really appreciate all that our Governors have done for us over the years and are still doing good for us today. Alabama can be proud of our Governors.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at

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