Wednesday, September 13, 2017—Elnora Spencer
“Jazzy Blues—Her Way”  

Award-winning singer, Elnora Spencer, will open the Comer Library’s SouthFirst Bank Lecture Series accompanied by piano, bass and drums.  Elnora calls her style the ‘jazzy blues’ and her repertoire of songs—gospel, jazz and R&B—will feature favorite oldies from several eras.   Music in Elnora’s home was a family affair.  She has been singing since the age of four and the roster of musical family members includes her mother—a noted gospel singer during the ‘50s—as well as a grandfather who was musical and an aunt who performed on the ‘Morning Show’ out of Birmingham.
In 2014, Elnora was inducted as a Master Blues Artist in the Alabama Blues Hall of Fame.  She has been featured in the Living Legends Performing Live Series at Moonlight on the Mountain in Bluff Park and has sung with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.  Many of the participants in the Comer Library’s
programs will remember her from performances at the lecture series.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017—David Alsobrook
“Southside: Eufaula’s Lost Cotton Mill Village and Its People—1890-1945”

David Alsobrook was inspired to write the story of the Southside mill village in Eufaula, Alabama by the stories he heard at his grandmother’s knee. Oma Parish Alsobrook worked for over forty years in the Cowikee Mill No. 1—a job that was physically and emotionally demanding. The details of her life were heartbreaking, but her grandson never heard her complain, and in fact, he often heard “ Miss Oma” express her respect and admiration for Donald Comer, the owner of Avondale and Cowikee mills. While Alsobrook’s stories are about the cotton mill workers in the Southside community, he could have been relating the hopes, dreams, joys and tragedies of textile families in mill villages across the state. Lines between cotton mill communities were blurred by shared personnel and the author named three well known leading citizens of Eufaula who also lived and worked at the Avondale Mill in Sylacauga—Elbert “Eb” Dunn, Florida Dewar, and Lewis “Fess” Simpkins. Descendants of cotton mill workers and others will enjoy hearing about these resilient families who lived in larger communities of privileged citizens—an austere way of life that is softened by the warm glow of the memories of the recreational, educational and religious programs provided by the Comer Mills—a genteel paternalism that set them apart
from other mills.

David Alsobrook has an MA degree from West Virginia University and a PhD from Auburn
University. He served as supervisory archivist at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, and the first director of the H.W.Bush, and William J. Clinton Presidential Libraries. He lives in Mobile

Wednesday, September 27, 2017—Denise George
“Behind Nazi Lines: The Unbelievable True Story of a World War II Alabama Hero”

In 1944, hundreds of Allied soldiers were trapped in German POW camps in occupied France with little chance of survival and long odds on escaping! But one man had the courage to fight the odds. Andy Hodges—a 28 year old man from south Alabama—was devastated at being excluded from military service due to a college football injury, but he refused to sit home while his fellow Americans risked their lives. He joined the Red Cross, volunteering for tough assignments on dangerous battlefields. In the fall of 1944, Andy was tapped for a potential suicide mission: a desperate attempt to aid the Allied POWs in occupied France—alone and unarmed, matching his wits against the Nazi war machine. Andy did far more that deliver much needed supplies—he negotiated the release of an unprecedented 149 prisoners of war—leaving no one behind. This is the true story of one man’s selflessness, ingenuity and victory in the face of impossible adversity.

Denise George—author of 31 books and more than 1500 articles—has recently published major narrative nonfiction collaborations on WWI and WWII military history and heroes. All are published by Penguin Random House. Denise is married to Dr. Timothy George, founding Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University. The couple has two adult children, Christian and Alyce.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017—Leah Rawls Atkins
“Ralph ‘Shug’ Jordan: A Quiet Heroism In World War II”

Long before Ralph “Shug” Jordan became a legendary Auburn football coach (1951-1975), he trained and led men onto the shores of Normandy on D-Day, coming home with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Jordan’s military commission, earned from Auburn’s ROTC program in 1932, was reactivated after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He entered the Army as an officer in the United States Army Corp of Engineers where he participated in four invasions during World War II. Wounded by shrapnel at Normandy, Jordan was back in action for the Okinawa landings and for the planning of the invasion of Japan—later believing that the atomic bombs and the end of the war saved his life. At the time of his death almost four decades after World War II began, Jordan was memorialized for leading young men to victory on familiar fields. Leah Rawls Atkins, a friend and admirer of Jordan, will tell the almost forgotten story of “Shug” leading young men to victory on unfamiliar fields far from home where life and death literally hung in the balance.

Leah Rawls Atkins—the first PhD in history at Auburn University—taught history at Auburn University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and at Samford University. She established and directed what is now the Caroline Marshal Draughan Center for the Arts and Humanities where she serves as the Director
Emerita. Leah has published numerous books dealing with Alabama History.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017—Alex Colvin
“Maintaining Kinship Ties in the Creek Indian Nation”

The 21st Century perspective creates difficulty for many in understanding that among the North American Indians, the foundation of social organization, and thus government was the bond of real and legal blood kinship. The complex system of relationships varied between tribes. Alex Colvin, Auburn PhD candidate—studying under the direction of Dr. Kathryn Braund—will give an in-depth look at the matrilineal family of Alexander McGillivray, especially the women, and how they organized property and ultimately redefined their views of kinship, gender and race within context of the slaveholding South in the nineteenth century. McGillivray—the son of a Scottish trader father and a Creek mother—was a prominent diplomat who worked to establish a Creek identity and a centralized leadership to resist Euro-American expansion into Creek territory. Colvin’s combination of two intriguing topics, kinship and McGillivray, promises an interesting look at Indian history.

Alex Colvin has a BS degree from Samford University and an MA from Auburn University. Her work has earned the Hitchcock Graduate Award for Excellence; Friends of Alabama Archives Fellowship; and the honor of being a specialist for the Alabama Bicentennial Master Teacher Program.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017—Wayne Flynt With 
Nancy Anderson
“Harper Lee—In Her Own Words”

They wrote letters to each other for over twenty-five years—but only after Nelle Harper Lee’s death in 2016 did historian/author Wayne Flynt choose to publish his book, Mockingbird Songs:  My Friendship with Harper Lee.  Sharing his decades-long friendship with one of America’s most beloved authors through a series of deeply personal letters and remembrances, Flynt captured the image of the private life of Lee— in her own words—offering an indelible meditation on the enduring power of friendship.  Flynt—joined by renowned Southern and American literature scholar/ teacher, Nancy Anderson— will offer a poignant reading of some of the book’s most insightful letters and passages.

 Dr. Wayne Flynt, Professor Emeritus in the History Department at Auburn University, is a scholar of Southern history, politics, and religion.  Flynt received his BA degree from Howard College and his MS and PhD from Florida State University.  He taught at Samford University for 12 years and then at Auburn University until his retirement in 2005. Flynt has authored 12 books including Poor But Proud: Alabama’s Poor Whites and is co-author of Alabama: A History of a Deep South State, both of which were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017—Jim  Hansen
“Taking Neil Armstrong to Hollywood”

Dr. James R. Hansen wrote the only authorized biography of America’s most famous
astronaut, First Man: The Life of Neil Armstrong—bringing that story to the Comer Library in 2006.   Armstrong has since passed away and Hansen is coming back to discuss the pluses and minuses of taking his book to Hollywood to be adapted for a movie.  Authors and movie makers don’t always agree on changes to manuscripts with authors hoping for a truthful
adaptation that will gain new readers while filmmakers often opt for a script that will attract good actors and make money for investors.   Dr. Hansen will talk about taking Armstrong to Hollywood while consulting on Hollywood’s version of his work!

James R. Hansen—a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana with a PhD from Ohio State University— retired from Auburn University after 30 years of  teaching and writing about aerospace history and the history of technology.   Dr. Hansen’s book, Spaceflight Revolution, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and First Man has been republished and selected byHollywood for a movie.  More recently Hansen was selected to edit a new book on aeronautics and astronautics for Purdue University Press.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017—Dolores Hydock
“Stories of Change Over Time” 
“Money Still Talks, But It Used To Say a Lot More”

Dolores will bring two lovely stories of change to the Comer Library—a great way to start the Thanksgiving season! One beautiful story relates the decision a woman has to make when deciding between an elegant but sterile life and a life that is poorer in material things, but richer in love and personal connections.  Over time she reaches her decision!  Then a twelve-year-old boy and his dad experience events that change their relationship over time, helping the father see his gawky teenage son in a new light.

Dolores Hydock, a familiar and much loved face at the Comer Library, will end the series by telling her wonderful stories!  Hydock, originally from Pennsylvania, is an actress and story performer whose work has been featured in a variety of concerts, festivals, and special events throughout the United States.  She is a touring artist for the Alabama State Council on the Arts, a speaker with the Alabama Humanities Foundation, and a member of the Southern Order of Storytellers.  Dolores lives in Birmingham, Alabama and in her spare time, teaches Cajun and zydeco dancing