I admit it. There's a lot I don't know about the state where I was born and raised. How about you? Alabama has a lot of surprising natives who had certain talents that may have flown under the radar, so to speak.
If I were to ask you to name one of Alabama's most accomplished women, you might say Helen Keller.
Born in Tuscumbia, Alabama on June 27, 1880, she overcame a childhood illness that left her deaf and blind. Thanks to her life-long companion and teacher, Anne Sullivan, Miss Keller went on to have a spectacular career and served as an inspiration to people living in similar circumstances.
But did you know included in that incredible long list of her accomplishments you would find that she was a suffragist, a pacifist and a radical socialist. I was also surprised to read that she helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920.
Another well-known Alabamian with deep political roots in our state was Tallulah Bankhead, a stage and screen actress known as much for her flamboyant lifestyle off the screen and stage as on. When it came to politics, her father, a Democrat, served as the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1936 to 1940. He spent a total of 11 terms in the House, the final two terms as Speaker. Two of Tallulah's uncles were United States Senators. The Bankhead Tunnel in downtown Mobile is named after Tallulah's grandfather, Sen. John H. Bankhead. And she was the niece of U.S. Sen. John H. Bankhead II. (Is that enough of a political lineage or not?)
Starting in their childhood, Tallulah was friends with Montgomery native and socialite Zelda Fitzgerald, who was two years Tallulah's senior. Zelda was an artist, dancer and writer who was perhaps best known as the wife of world renowned novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Zelda met Scott at a dance for World War I soldiers stationed at Camp Sheridan in Montgomery at the Montgomery Country Club. Once they wed, their time together was tumultuous — marred by excessive drinking and other corrosive issues. When Scott's career took off with the publishing of "This Side of Paradise" and subsequent successes, Scott and Zelda's relationship was on and off life support. He died unexpectedly at age 40. She outlived him by seven years, dying in a hospital fire in Asheville, North Carolina.
Jumping generations, one of the most successful pop singers has deep roots in the wiregrass in Dothan. It's Bobby Goldsboro, the singer that brought us the smash hit "Honey" in1968 — the biggest selling record for that year. It was No. 1 on the Billboard chart for five consecutive weeks. He also penned and sang his first hit, "See The Funny Little Clown," in 1964 (reaching No. 9 on Billboard's pop chart). I was told the song was written about his father ... although I have yet to verify that as fact. His mom and dad lived just down the street from my mother and father in Dothan back when things were just getting started for Bobby.
Bobby has an Auburn connection. He dropped out of the university after his second year to go on the road with Roy Orbison's backup band, the Candymen (which started out as The Webs — a local Dothan band). You may remember a 1967 song by the Candymen, "Georgia Pines." A great tune.
The bulk of the Webs/Candymen went on to become The Atlanta Rhythm Section under the leadership of writer/producer Buddy Buie, also from Dothan.
A final listing of a few more famous Alabamians you may recognize would include song writers/singers Hank Williams (Sr. and Jr.), Nat "King" Cole and Lionel Richie. Then there's Civil Rights pioneer Rosa Parks. And surely you've seen ABC network morning anchor Robin Roberts ... but did you know that she's from Tuskegee? That's what I'm told.
Until our next conversation, take care and be good to yourself.