Wednesday, January 11, 2017—Buddy Simpkins & Friends
“The Best of Jazz and More” 

Once again, library friend, Buddy Simpkins, has called on his musician friends to bring some beautiful music and songs to chase the winter blues away for the Comer Library’s brown bag lecture audience. Joining Buddy on drums will be Bo Berry on trumpet; Jeff Drew on bass; Byron Thomas on the piano; and Elnora Spencer with what she calls her “jazzy blues” style of singing. Elnora, an award-winning vocalist, will sing a repertoire of gospel, jazz and R&B songs with an emphasis on favorite oldies from several eras.
Buddy, a former band director at Sylacauga High School and a long time legend in church music, never misses an opportunity to be of service to others with his time and talents. Bo Berry, the talented trumpeter, is a renowned musician who has played with such greats as Wynton Marsalis and Count Basie. In 1993, Berry was elected to the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. Jeff Drew is a gifted bass player, and Byron Thomas never disappoints at the piano. Elnora Spencer is a Master Blues Artist in the Alabama Blues Hall of Fame. She was recently inducted into the Birmingham Record Collectors’ Hall of Fame. These gifted entertainers will leave the audience wanting more.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017—Mark D. Hersey
“The American South: Landscape and Identity” 

The American South has long existed as both an idea and a place with the southern identity impacted by the South’s diverse landscapes—from the Appalachians to white sand beaches, from swamps to pine barrens, and from cotton fields to suburban subdivisions and urban parks. As they have developed, the South’s landscapes have invariably reflected the values of the culture that produced them, reflecting political struggles and shifting economic arrangements. Those same landscapes have helped to make certain facets of southern society—issues of race, poverty, and disparities in wealth and power— appear to be natural rather than an altered world that carries consequences for the future.

Dr. Mark Hersey, an associate professor of history at Mississippi State University where he is the Director of the Center for the History of Agriculture, Science and Environment of the South, is eminently qualified to discuss the connections between changing patterns of land use and the economic and social courses of a region—a subject of interest to more than just a handful of professional historians. Dr. Hersey is the 2017 Breeden Eminent Scholar in Residence with the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017—Leah Rawls Atkins
“My Grandfathers’ War”

This is a personal story of an Alabama family’s trauma when the Confederate States seceded and the American Civil War began and the aftermath of that conflict.  Based on research in the Alabama and National Archives, county and state records in two states and using personal and family papers, historian Leah Rawls Atkins shares an unusual story of two of her great-grandfathers.

Leah Rawls Atkins is a woman of many firsts. She was the first Ph.D. in history at Auburn University and the first woman to win a graduate degree in history there. She taught history at Auburn University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and at Samford University. She established the Center for the Arts and Humanities at Auburn—the first extension and outreach center for the arts and humanities in the state. Leah wrote the Center’s first and the state’s largest NEH grant to fund a reading/ discussion series, Read Alabama. Over 200 libraries eventually participated in Read Alabama, establishing the foundation for the many literary and historical lectures that have been enjoyed by the public for over a quarter of a century. Leah has published numerous books dealing with Alabama history. She serves as the Director Emeritus of the Caroline Marshall Draughan Center for the Arts and Humanities at Auburn University.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017—Kathryn Braund
“Portraits of a People: Creek Indian Leaders”

Kathryn Braund will introduce the way in which people can look at historical portraits to gain a better understanding of people and their history. She will focus in particular on those individuals painted by Charles Bird King in Washington in 1825. Her examination of historical portraits of Creek Indian leaders will illustrate the importance of individuals in the study of southeastern Indians. Portraits provide clues to cultural practice and reveal the status and values of individuals by their costumes and self-presentation.  When Indians posed for portraits in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, they wore and displayed their personal histories by their choice of color, design, ornament, and deportment.  Frequently, Indian history overlooks individuals.  An examination of portraits enables us to focus on the power of personality and individual decision in shaping history.

Dr. Kathryn H. Braund—Hollifield Professor of Southern History at Auburn University—received an M.A. from Auburn and a Ph. D. from Florida State University. Dr. Braund’s research and writing has focused on the ethno history of the Creek and Seminole Indians in the 18th and early 19th century. She is the author of Deerskins and Duffels: The Creek Indian Trade with Anglo-America, 1685-1815; the co-author of William Bartram on the Southeastern Indians and the editor of an annotated edition of James Adair’s History of the American Indians, as well as Tohopeka: Rethinking the Creek War and the War of 1812. She has published many articles for the American Indian Quarterly, The Alabama Review and The Journal of Southern History.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017—Dan Haulman
“The USAF in the Air War Over Serbia”

In 1999, the United States went to war against Serbia on behalf of the United Nations, which had resolved to end Slobodan Milosevic’s “ethnic cleansing” campaign in Kosovo. NATO called the operation Allied Force, and the U.S. part of it was called Noble Anvil. This short war was filled with significant events— being the first war won by air power alone and the first in which the United States Air Force played the largest role. This war witnessed the first use of many ASAF weapon systems in combat and it was the first to involve all three of the strategic bombers in the current USAF inventory. It resulted in the first shootdown, by ground fire, of a stealth F-117 aircraft, and the quick rescue of its pilot because of superlative highly trained special forces. Under the leadership of General Wesley K. Clark of the U.S. Army, and his air component commander, General Michael Short, the Allied air campaign demonstrated the effectiveness of air power as a strategic instrument.

Dr. Dan Haulman is well qualified to talk about the reason for the air war over Serbia as well as the powerful results. Dr. Haulman is head of the organizational histories branch of the Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama—our nation’s most important repository of Army Air Force and U.S. Air Force historical documentation. He has authored numerous books about Air Force history, addressing aerial victory and humanitarian airlift operations. He belongs to many professional military history organizations and has served on an advisory panel for the National World War II Museum. He has a B.S. degree (University of Southwestern Louisiana); an M.A. (University of New Orleans); and a Ph. D. in history (Auburn University).

Wednesday, February 15, 2017—Sarah Wright
“The Mt. Ida Quilt Project, Three Centuries, Two Quilts, One Community”

In 1851, twelve women of the Mt. Ida community in Talladega County created a floral album quilt as a wedding gift to a young bride and groom, each signing her square with her name and the name of her plantation home.  In 2014, a quilt challenge by the American Quilt Study Group led Sarah Wright to recruit thirteen women who live on or near the same land as the original quiltmakers to re-create the 1851 quilt. What appears to be the story of a quilt becomes a journey through Alabama history and gives insight into the tools available in the digital age to assist in genealogical research. The Mt. Ida Quilt Project was selected by the American Quilt Study Group to be exhibited around the U.S.

Sarah Bliss Wright, a soprano who has sung in more than forty operas, spent thirty years in the performing arts before she turned her talents to textile art. An Alabama native, Sarah grew up surrounded by quilts, but it was a crazy quilt made from her late father’s silk neckties that ignited a desire to add quilting to her creative pursuits. Her serious study of quilt history led to her textile art being featured in exhibits and to her selection as the curator for “Our Quilted Past,” an exhibit of Alabama feedsack quilts. Her research has been presented to the American Quilt Study Group and her papers have been published in the AQSG’s annual journal of quilt scholastic works. Sarah is a Road Scholar for the Alabama Humanities Foundation speaking on the subject of quilt history. She lives in Mobile.
is scheduled to be honored soon by the Alabama Humanities Foundation with the Wayne Greenhaw Service Award.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017—Terry Robbins
“Merle Haggard, The People’s Poet”

Merle Haggard—born in 1937, near Bakersfield, California—was the son of a railroad worker. He grew up in Depression-era California and lived with his family in a box car. As a child, he suffered from a respiratory condition and was frequently out of school, confined to bed rest. After his father’s death, Merle developed into a rebellious teen who played the guitar at night in local bars and worked in the oil fields by day. In 1958 at the age of 20, he was sent to San Quentin for burglary where he served 2 ½ years playing in the prison band and taking high school equivalency courses. Officially pardoned by the governor of California in 1971, Haggard made a name for himself as a proponent of “outlaw country” and a supporter of the “Bakersfield Sound”. During his phenomenal career, Haggard earned 38 number one hits and released close to 70 albums. He had more than 600 songs under his belt when he died with “Okie from Muskogee” being the undisputable number one song of his career. He said of the Vietnam veterans who were the objects of vicious protests, “These soldiers were giving up their freedom and lives to make sure that others could stay free. I wrote that song to support those soldiers.” When Merle Haggard passed away on April 6th, 2016, his 79th birthday, the country music world lost an absolute icon.

Terry Robbins is an award winning songwriter/singer/musician from Clay County, AL. He has two CD’s —2015’s Long Live the Fiddle and Steel, which won the Traditional Country CD of the Year from the National Traditional Country Music Association, and 2016’s New Memories, which is currently being considered for the same award. Robbins, who has education degrees in Physical Education and History, taught school and coached, along with a 32 year career in the insurance field. His love of music was always present—playing in bands and songwriting—however he began to concentrate on music in 2014 when he joined the Sylacauga Songwriters.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017—Dolores Hydock
“The Red-Headed Woman Meets Mr. Death and Other Stories”
After Maude Applegate’s own true love is shot playing cards in a saloon, she refuses to let Mister Death have him. She sets out on her daddy’s pretty pinto pony to make a deal with Mr. Death, but everything changes when she meets her end of the bargain. This delightful fable set in the Old West is one of the last traditional tall tales of the American Frontier. Dolores will take the audience back to the art of entertainment as it existed before the advent of mass produced amusement.

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.