Wednesday, January 15, 2014 
Steven P. Brown“John McKinley and the Antebellum Supreme Court: The Circuit Riding Judge”

Steven Brown’s program will portray native Kentuckian, John McKinley—a lawyer and land speculator who came to Alabama in 1819—as a leader in the financial, legal and political circles of his day. After three terms in the state legislature, a term in the US Congress, and finally an appointment to the US Supreme Court in 1837, McKinley presided over the newly created Ninth Circuit, which covered Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. This circuit was not only the newest, but also the largest and the greatest distance from Washington, DC making it the most difficult to traverse. Brown’s look at the life and career of Justice McKinley will provide an intriguing picture of early Alabama politics, the antebellum Supreme Court, and the hardships of the practice of circuit riding. Steven P. Brown, an associate professor of political science at Auburn University, received his Ph. D. from the University of Virginia. In addition to John McKinley and the Antebellum Supreme Court, he is also the author of The New Christian Right, the Free Speech Clause, and the Courts. He has taught at Auburn since 1998 and he lectures throughout the state on political and First Amendment issues.

Steven P. Brown, an associate professor of political science at Auburn University, received his Ph. D. from the University of Virginia. He has taught at Auburn University since 1998 and in addition to his book on McKinley and the Antebellum Supreme Court, he is also the author of The New Christian Right, the Free Speech Clause, and the Courts. He teaches courses in American Constitutional Law as well as Religion and Politics, Law and Society, and American Government. He also lectures throughout the state on political and First Amendment issues.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
The Johnson Grass Band “Bluegrass Music: That High Lonesome Sound”

Bluegrass music—the music of the people—has origins in Scottish, Irish and English music with immigrants bringing their music to Appalachia. The earliest accompaniment to Bluegrass was the fiddle with the bass banjo, guitar and mandolin added later. Bluegrass, like jazz, has one instrument featured on the melody (taking turns as lead) with the other instruments as accompaniment producing a beautiful effect that has attracted a diverse following worldwide. Bluegrass pioneer, Bill Monroe characterized the genre as: “Scottish bagpipes and ole-time fiddlin’. It’s Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It’s blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound.” The Johnson Grass Band, of more than 60 years duration, will play the music and sing the songs. The band consists of family patriarch, Doyle Johnson, vocalist and lead guitar; daughter, Pam Landers, on stand-up bass and vocals; granddaughter, April Sargent, on vocals; and grandson, Drew Bivin, on mandolin. Award winning fiddler, Johnny Watts, will be the featured guest artist.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Catie Simpkins“These Were Our Songs: Musical Memories of World War II”

For the soldier music passed the time, entertained, comforted, and brought back memories of home and family. Back on the home front, music gave hope and reflected the good life in a country that was united and behind the war effort; one can hear these messages in the music.   The instrumentation which included brass sections and passionate vocals, really spoke to the hearts of the people.   Songs have the power to bring back a person, a place and a time—the poignant lyrics of the war songs gave accounts of what it was like to miss someone and how good it was for them to finally come home.   Music, often called the fabric which most tightly holds together our memories of war, continues to give us a snapshot of what life was like on the battlefield and on the home front.

 Catie Simpkins, a former Miss Sylacauga, is a gifted vocalist with extensive vocal training and musical experience. She has researched the music of World War II and selected a sampling of World War II songs for this sentimental journey to the way it used to be.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014 
Buddy Simpkins & Friends“The Best Jam Session Ever”

Once again, retired Sylacauga High School Band Director, Buddy Simpkins, has gathered a “who’s who” of musicians to join him in playing for the enjoyment of the Comer Library brown bag audience. Drawing on songs from musical history, the group will play their favorite repertoire of tunes— jazz, rhythm and blues, pop and swing, or whatever strikes their fancy— for those who wish to take the journey back to the way it used to be. Buddy, who will play the drums, will be joined by the renowned jazz double bassist, Cleve Eaton, from Fairfield, Alabama. During his years as a recording artist, Eaton played with all of the greats and was dubbed “the Count’s Bassist” during his seventeen year stint with the Count Basie Orchestra. Bo Berry, the talented trumpeter from Birmingham, played with “Jam Sessions” on the Avenue from 1947 to 1963. During his career, he played with such greats as Wynton Marsalis and Count Basie; in 1993, Berry was elected to the Alabama Jazz hall of Fame. Pianist, Kermit Orr, had a long musical career playing with the Fort Benning Band for heads of state and performing with such greats as Miles Davis and Dinah Washington. The talented Elnora Spencer will be returning as the guest vocalist. These gifted entertainers will leave the audience wanting more.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 
Marty Olliff “Getting on the Map: Alabama’s Good Roads Pathfinding Campaign, 1911-1912”

The good roads that we take for granted haven’t always been around and Marty Olliff will bring the story of the Alabama Legislature’s creation of the State Highway Commission in 1911 with a mandate to produce a map of three state-supported highways. The Commission offered a plan for the three highways with one route bisecting the state from the Tennessee River to Mobile, and two others running east and west.  The Birmingham Ledger—interested in routes that would make the Magic City the hub of the network— created and published automobile “path finding tours” in 1911 and 1912.  The Ledger’s creative promotion of these fun-filled and compelling adventures led to success with the Ledger-supported routes comprising over fifty percent of those on the Highway Commission’s 1913 preliminary map. 

Dr. Olliff received his Ph.D. in American History from Auburn University, and he is currently the Director of the Archives of Wiregrass History and Culture and Assistant Professor of History at Troy University, Dothan. He serves on the boards of state historical organizations and major historical journals. He is the editor of The Great War in the Heart of Dixie which was published in 2008 by the University of Alabama Press.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Warren Trest “Commando One: Heinie Aderholt and America’s Secret Air Wars”

There are so many tall tales about former Air Force Brigadier General Harry C. Aderholt—known to the covert world he operated in as Air Commando One or by the less flamboyant nickname Heinie—one would think this native son of Birmingham, Alabama, was “ten feet tall and bulletproof.” In real life he was 160 pounds of grit and gumption wound up in a tough athletic frame (5 feet, 6inches) and all of the tall tales were true. Aderholt’s exploits were clandestine in nature ranging from dropping agents behind enemy lines in Korea to supporting Tibetan freedom fighters. Trest will take us through Aderholt’s Cold War exploits with things coming to a head in the Vietnam War where this authentic war hero fought the bureaucracy and his superiors as well as the enemy to carry out the unconventional mission that he was sent there to do.

 Warren Trest—former Air Force senior historian, author and coauthor of more than fifty military histories and studies—was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals as a U.S. Army combat reporter in the Korean War, and the Medal for Civilian Service while serving as an Air Force historian in Vietnam. In 2000, his book, Air Commando One: Heinie Aderholt and America’s Secret Air Wars, was nominated for the Bancroft Prize for distinguished works in American history.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Steve Murray“Alabama Voices: The Story of Our State’s Past”

Alabama Voices
—the highly anticipated permanent exhibit which is the centerpiece of the Museum of Alabama at the state’s Department of Archives and History—represents Alabamians from every walk of life. Diaries, letters, speeches, songs, and other sources, provide context for over 800 artifacts and hundreds of images which tell of the struggle, achievement, conflict and cooperation that created the Alabama that we know today. The exhibit is the result of the collaboration involving the Archives and History staff, historical and archeological advisers, and a host of designers, fabricators, artisans, and artists who set out to tell the story of Alabama in a compelling and beautiful way. Alabama Voices is a cultural and historical resource of which all Alabamians can be proud and one that Steve Murray is eager to showcase.

Steve Murray completed graduate studies at Auburn University, served as managing editor of the Encyclopedia of Alabama, and worked in other arenas of Alabama history for sixteen years before being chosen as the sixth director in the Archives’ 111-year history, succeeding Edwin Bridges who retired in 2012 after leading the ADAH for 30 years.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Dolores Hydock“Fools for Love: Cupid’s Mischief Way Back When”

This program is a fun look at a fascinating time in history, and a reminder that as long as there are people, there will always be fools for love. The program is part fun facts from history, part amateur art appreciation, part scandal, part True Romance, and part foolishness! Through true, surprising, tender, and sometimes shocking stories, the program brings to life the world of the late 1700s / early 1800s in England — a time of strange fads (mouse fur wigs!), sketchy medicine (gunpowder and goose grease!), and hair-raising shenanigans among the Fashionable Set. There’s even a shout-out to Queen Elizabeth II, Jane Austen, and Columbo! There’s no telling what people will do when Cupid’s arrows make mischief! Dolores Hydock, a familiar and much loved face at the Comer Library, will take the series out on a high note.

Hydock, a Pennsylvania native, 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 where she teaches Cajun and zydeco dancing.