Wednesday, September 19, 2018—Elnora Spencer
“Jazzy Blues and More”

Award-winning singer, Elnora Spencer, will open the Comer Library’s SouthFirst Bank Lecture Series accompanied by piano, bass and drums. Elnora’s style— the “jazzy blues”— will include gospel, jazz, and R&B, with a repertoire of songs featuring favorite oldies. Elnora has been singing since the age of four. Her musically talented family included her mother—a gospel singer during the ‘50s; a musical grandfather; 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; has sung with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra; and most recently, she was presented the 2018 Women’s Lifetime Music Achievement Award from the Birmingham’s Women’s Music Showcase! Elnora and her talented musicians will present an hour of beautiful music and memorable songs.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018—David Alsobrook
“EyeWitness to History: Four Recent U.S. Presidents& Their First Ladies”

Archivist David Alsobrook began working with the National Archival staff in 1978 when the IBM Selectric typewriter was considered a state-of-the-art piece of equipment. He gained technical skills during the electronic revolution, but he never abandoned his belief that the trained individual archivist would not become obsolete. Over and over during his thirty years of moving long distances to direct important projects, Dr. Alsobrook was validated in his belief that the human touch was essential to the preservation of Presidential papers as an important, publicly accessible part of our national heritage. He will share the stories of his role as an up-close-and-personal eyewitness to history as he supervised the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and then directed the H. W. Bush and William J. Clinton Presidential Libraries, getting to know these men and their families.    
David Alsobrook has an MA degree from West Virginia University and a Ph.D. from Auburn University. His recent book, Southside: Eufaula’s Cotton Mill Village and its People, 1890-1945, received the prestigious 2018 Clinton Jackson Coley Award from the Alabama Historical Association, recognizing excellence in local Alabama history. He and his wife Ellen live in Mobile, Alabama. Dr. Alsobrook is presently working on a book about his experience with four recent presidents and their first ladies.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018—Scotty Kirkland
“Let the Dirt Fly: Alabamians and the Panama Canal”

Alabamians were crucial to the completion of the Panama Canal.  The opening of the Canal in August 1914 was a marvel of twentieth-century engineering and an event of great political and economic consequences. Beyond the names of those well known to this story—Senator John Tyler Morgan, engineer William Sibert, and Dr. William Gorgas—hundreds of the state’s residents labored in the Canal Zone.  They were eager young engineers from Alabama Polytechnic Institute, astute businessmen from Birmingham’s steel mills, and former farmhands seeking a new beginning by helping carve a “path between the seas.”
Scotty E. Kirkland—exhibits/publications coordinator at the Alabama Department of Archives and history— has degrees in history and political science from Troy University and the University of South Alabama.  His work on Alabama and the Modern South has received numerous awards, and he has contributed professional service and served on the boards of many of the state’s historical organizations. He serves as a historical marker committee chair; manuscript reviewer for the Alabama Review; writer for the Alabama Heritage; and is author/co-author of three books. He lives in Wetumpka with his wife and two children.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018—Paul Harris
“To Save A City: The Berlin Airlift— June 1948–—to May 1949”

The first major crisis of the Cold War occurred in the summer of 1948 with the
Soviet Union blocking rail, road, and water access to West Berlin. The bold allied response— aimed at saving the city by air space—was a feat that no one in the highest levels of the
Truman administration thought possible. With the leadership of General Lucius D. Clay, the U.S. Military Governor of Occupied Germany—coupled with the “can do” attitude of U.S. Air Force General William Tunner, and the resolve of the two million citizens of West Berlin— one of the most significant feats of American and allied humanitarianism was achieved. By spring of 1949, the Berlin Airlift proved successful and the Soviets lifted the blockade of West Berlin in May of that same year.
Paul Harris is a professor of political science at Auburn University where he also serves in the Honors College.  Paul is working on a research project examining the role of the U.S. Army Occupation in war-torn Germany from May 1945 – May 1949.  His story of Alabama native, U.S. Army Captain Robert Kelley Posey, who served as the Monuments Officer for General George Patton’s U.S. Third Army, appeared in the summer 2016 edition of Alabama
Heritage magazine.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2018—William Deutsch
“Alabama, The River State”

Bill Deutsch has just published a new book, Alabama Rivers, A Celebration And Challenge. The author will give an overview of his book with an emphasis on the Coosa River Basin and the Sylacauga area.   The reviews of Alabama Rivers are reason enough to come out to hear the author talk about the book which has been called “a remarkable composite of well-documented materials about Alabama’s incredible web of rivers.” One noted reviewer, R. Scott Duncan, who wrote the acclaimed Southern Wonder: Alabama’s Surprising Biodiversity, called Bill a “tireless river scientist who presents the great beauty of the state’s rivers, their unrivaled biodiversity, and the many ways these rivers sustain us.” Another reviewer, Ed Bridges, Emeritus Director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, points to the author’s decades of work to protect Alabama’s waterways, saying “Bill has drawn from his deep knowledge to create a readable, engaging and informative narrative about our rivers.” Alabama’s river system was so important that when Alabama became a state in 1819, the state legislature adopted a seal that features one of the state’s most valuable resources—its major rivers.
The author will welcome discussion of his book and of the challenges that we face in ensuring that our state’s river story continues to be written by future generations. Dr. Bill Deutsch is a Research Fellow, Emeritus in the Auburn University School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Environments. He co-founded the community-based water monitoring program, Alabama Water Watch, and directed the program for 20 years. He lives in the woods along Hodnett Creek near Auburn with his wife, Janet.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018—Jim Baggett
“It Came Like a Cyclone: Alabama and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic”

As World War One came to a close, tens of millions of people around the world contracted influenza and over fifty million people died in the worst pandemic in human history. Alabama was not spared the misery, and almost 150,000 Alabamians became ill in every part of the state. Thousands, including whole families, died from this deadly viral infection.   Stores, theaters, fairs, schools, and even churches were closed to try and stop the spread of the disease. With not enough doctors or hospital beds to tend the sick, neighbors pulled together to care for one another.
In this talk, Birmingham Public Library Archivist, Jim Baggett, will explore the story of the great 1918 influenza outbreak in Alabama, placing our state’s experience into an international context.   Baggett is the Head of the Department of Archives and Manuscripts at Birmingham Public Library. The lecture—a part of the 100-year commemoration of the pandemic— is sponsored by the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities at Auburn University.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018—David N. Lucsko
“Junkyards and the Automotive Past”

Americans have long had a love-hate relationship with automobile junkyards!   David Lucsko has
researched and written about these salvage yards—the places where cars reside until they are processed as scrap. He said, “From depictions in popular movies and works of art to their important roles in the lives of hot rodders, customizers, restoration hobbyists—salvage yards have long served as a fountainhead of creative energy.   But for others, salvage yards have long been seen as hazardous eyesores worthy not just of collective scorn, but also of regulatory action through zoning and nuisance-abatement measures at the local, state and federal levels.”   In his talk, Lucsko will touch on episodes from more than 100 years of salvage-yard history, highlighting the cultural and technological importance of these businesses and challenging us to think more broadly about the material reality of automobile recycling.
David Lucsko—Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Auburn University—has a BS from Georgia Tech and a Ph.D.
from M.I.T.   Lucsko’s books on the history of automobile modification; the relationship between automobile enthusiasts and salvage yards; and the way in which out-of-service or junked cars have been re-used, recycled, and repurposed in the twentieth century in the United States include The Business of Speed: The Hot Rod Industry in America, 1915—1990 as well as Junkyards, Gearheads, and Rust: Salvaging the Automotive Past. Both works are lauded as “treasure hunts through the wheels and fields of old car history.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2018—Dolores Hydock
“Lost and Found: Stories About What Shows Up When Your Are Looking for Something Else”

Using two true stories from the past, Dolores will remind us that often when we start out looking for one thing, we often end up finding something that we didn’t even know that we had lost! One pre-World War I story features two talented people who were silent film stars and ballroom dancers for whom the “found” was a lesson about falling in love. Then a more contemporary and familiar story relates an unexpected—and “hairy”— new source of life wisdom.
Dolores Hydock will end the SouthFirst Bank Lecture Series with these wonderful lost and found stories for your “must remember” list! Hydock, originally from Pennsylvania, is an actress/story performer whose work has been featured in 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—a Birmingham resident— teaches Cajun and zydeco dancing.