State making national headlines

Published 9:47 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2012

In years past, you never heard much about Alabama in the national news. And news pertaining to Atmore usually had to do with the prison farm.

But, for the past year or so Alabama has been depicted in a favorable light on the national scene.

Take, for instance, Sweet home Alabama. This is a hit TV show, a somewhat reality production, that has brought recognition to the state especially in the lower Baldwin County and Fairhope area. Weekly episodes keep you engrossed to the theme of either a young man or young lady finding their proper match. The “cliffhanger” theme has been a winner for the CMT Network and for the entire state of Alabama.

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Another Alabama product that has soared nationally is “Alabama Rig”. This is a fishing lure which has five trailing wires to which five lures can be attached giving an appearance of a school of fish swimming through water driving bass crazy.

The lure has become so popular that many stores have sold out and fishermen are paying as much as $150 for them on eBay. reported in an internet story last week that “Paul Ellis stood the fishing world on its ear last October when he won the Walmart FLW Tour open on Lake Guntersville using an Alabama Rig”. “No lure has ever caused such a commotion in fishing” according to the internet article.

Alabama Shakes, a contemporary band and vocal group, are currently sweeping the musical world off its feet.

The Athens based quartet features the amazing singing voice of Brittany Howard. The Alabama born group has been in constant demand on national TV shows and was recently featured on the late -night Conan O’Brien Show. Alabamians Zac Cockrell, Steve Johnson and David Bowie are the band’s musical accompanists. The group is one of the most watched performers on YouTube.

Jack Blankenship’s “The Face” is another hit that is drawing interest to our state. He is a student at the University of Alabama.

Blankenship’s unique “snarl” was captured by a TV cameraman at a UA basketball game this past season. He, too, went to Youtube, but not before the nation began calling for more TV shots of his face. It became in such demand that NBC’s Today show invited him for a guest appearance. This young man I am sure has patented his rights to his discovery and appears to be on his way to a successful career.

A movie “October Baby,” which was shot entirely in Alabama, debuted last Friday in theatres (some say theaters) across the country. My reported some of the stars of that show returned to Birmingham for the premier last week. Dothan native Rachael Hendrix, who is a graduate of the University of Montevallo, was the lead actress. Birmingham film- makers Jon and Andrew Erwin were the producers of the film.

An unusual story of sorts that brought recognition to our state was about frogs. That’s right, University of Alabama researchers “had a role in identifying a new species of frogs” according to Thomas Spencer of the Birmingham News. Usually found in wooded and tropical areas these frogs were discovered in New York City. I am not sure what is different about this species other than being referred to as leopard frogs. Staten Island seems to be the main area of discovery. But the discovery has drawn attention to Alabama researchers and scientists.

As I stated, stories of such accomplishments back then in Alabama were very few. About the only thing drawing attention were the antics of “Railroad Bill.” He was a notorious railroad thief who some say was believed to  have lived in the Brewton-Flomaton area and robbed L&N trains in south Alabama.

Now taking at some news from 1966, George Scoggins, the manager of Thompson’s Fine Clothing, was elected president of the Atmore Jaycees. George and I were classmates at Baldwin County High School in the early 1950s. He worked with the Thompson group for quite a number of years. His son Mike, as many of you know, was the Advance Publisher for several years and later took a promotion with a sister newspaper in our Boone group. Mike was an excellent writer and did some highly regarded stories while he was here.

W.M. Horton retired as principal of Davisville School and moved back to his former Union, Miss. home.

My aunt, Norma McGill, retired from that school a few years later. Having lived here for a number of years she left to live with family members in Florida prior to her death. For you old time baseball players you may remember Early Wynn who won over 300 games in his major league career. Aunt Norma was raised up with Early in the Hartford, Alabama area. Knowing of my interest in baseball she often talked with me about this outstanding ball player. At one time he was one of the Cleveland Indian’s “Big Four,” which included Wynn, Bob Feller, Mike Garcia and Bob Lemon. Ray Narleski and Don Mossi were top American league Cleveland relievers.

That year Andalusia edged out our Little League All-Stars in a district Tournament held here. Some members of our team were Randy Hall, John Bachelor, Clint Smith, Curt Donaldson, Frankie Dailey, Gilbert Gorum, Larry Smith, Freddie Troutman, Mike Garrard, Don Ward, Julian Thomas, Jimbo Walker, Damon Bell and Charles Woods. John Bachelor, Sr. and Heron Hall were the coaches.
Next week we take a look at people, places and events from years gone by.

Lowell McGill can be reached at