Wednesday, January 16, 2019—Buddy Simpkins & Friends

“Celebrating Our Past Through Songs and Music”

Retired Sylacauga High School Band Director, Buddy Simpkins, has gathered noted musicians to play for the enjoyment of the Comer Library’s brown bag audience. Simpkins, a legend in church music, shares his time and talents by playing with the Heritage Hall Band and other groups.   Drawing on songs from musical history, Buddy and his musician friends will play their favorite jazz, rhythm and blues, pop, swing, and more.
Joining Buddy on drums will be renowned jazz double bassist, Cleve Eaton, who spent seventeen years with the Count Basie Orchestra and is in the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame as well as the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Talented trumpeter, Bo Berry, who played with such greats as Wynton Marsalis and Count Basie was inducted in 1993 to the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. Other artists will include a renowned musician on keys and a talented vocalist bringing an enjoyable time of celebration of our past through beautiful music and song.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019—Patti Callahan

“Becoming Mrs. Lewis”

Patti Callahan has written highly acclaimed fiction for over fifteen years. The book that she will
discuss, Becoming Mrs. Lewis, has been called “a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a
writer’s life.” In preparation for writing one of the greatest love stories of modern times—the story of the unlikely romance between English writer C.S. Lewis and the much younger American divorcee, Joy Davidman—Callahan did extensive research, retracing Joy’s steps from New York to Oxford. When poet and writer, Joy Davidman, began writing letters to C.S. Lewis, she was in a deteriorating marriage, looking for spiritual guidance and answers rather than love. The Oxford don and beloved writer of Narnia and the New Yorker Joy didn’t seem to be a match, but their hearts and minds bonded through the letters that they exchanged, and Joy traveled from America to England on what turned out to be the trip of a lifetime—leading to a relationship that C.S. Lewis eventually called “my whole world.
Patti Callahan graduated from Auburn University and worked in nursing before becoming a full time writer. She is the mother of three children and lives in Mountain Brook, Alabama and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband. Patti is a New York Times bestselling author of twelve novels, including The Bookshop at Water’s End which was a finalist in the Townsend Prize for Fiction, and Indie Next Pick, an Okra Pick, and a multiple nominee for the Southern Independent booksellers Alliance Novel of the Year. She is a much sought after speaker for social and literary functions.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019—Ed Bridges

“14,000 Years of Alabama History in 45 Minutes”

Ed Bridges will make evident in clear, direct storytelling the social, political, economic, and
cultural forces that have shaped the historically rich and unique American region that is called Alabama!   Beginning with the state’s earliest fossil records and moving through its settlement by Native Americans and later by European settlers and African slaves, from its territorial birth pangs and statehood through the upheavals of the Civil War and the civil rights movement, Bridges’ concise overview of Alabama’s rich, difficult and remarkable history is a continuation of a life that has been spent working in southern and Alabama history,  with much time devoted to presenting Alabama history to general audiences with an emphasis on the big issues that help our history make sense as well as the broad contours of the state’s history that help us see it as our story!
Ed Bridges grew up in Bainbridge, Georgia and has a B.A. from Furman University as well as an M.A. and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago. He served six years at the Georgia Archives and then as Director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) for over thirty years before retiring in 2012 when he was appointed the Director Emeritus. Most recently, Dr. Bridges has helped plan and organize the state’s bicentennial commemorations and he served a 14-month term as the interim director of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. His latest book is a general history of Alabama entitled Alabama: The Making of an American State published by the University of Alabama Press. He and his wife, Martha, have three daughters. Wednesday, February 6, 2019—Talladega College Choir

Wednesday, February 6, 2019—Talladega College Choir

 “Celebrating Our Musical Heritage”

The renowned Talladega College Choir—formed in 1877—has an amazing history that spans 141 years. The students who make up the almost 100 member Choir have had opportunities to perform at such venues as the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.; the Kennedy Center; the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Birmingham; and UNCF’s An Evening of Stars! The Choir’s performances have brought accolades to Talladega College and blessed countless listeners. The students enjoy traveling, singing and representing the historic Talladega College.  An ensemble of Choir members will inspire the audience with songs for the SouthFirst Lecture series at the Comer Library—offering a lovely, uplifting experience on this special day.
Dr. William S. Mitchell’s professional career includes J. N. Erwin High School in Dallas, Texas as the instructor of Classic Piano and Band where he touched the lives of students for fifty-one years through music education. He moved to Tyler, Texas in 2005 to become the Director of Choral Music for Texas College before coming to Talladega in 2013 to become the Director of the renowned Talladega College Choir. Dr. Mitchell holds a Master of Art and Music Education from A & M College in Prairie View, Texas and he has conducted music workshops in churches in Texas and Alabama. He is a member of an array of prestigious musical and educational professional organizations.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019—David Alsobrook

“Gone for a Soldier: Donald Comer’s Great Adventure in the Philippine Insurrection, 1899-1903”

Donald Comer’s influential career as the president of Avondale Mills has been covered extensively, but relatively few Alabamians know that at age 21 “Mr. Donald” enlisted in the US Army in 1898 after the declaration of war against Spain. Unlike many soldiers who never left the US mainland, Donald Comer served overseas for three years in the Philippines in
America’s prolonged “guerrilla war,” assigned to the 25th Infantry Regt.—one of four African American units in the regular US Army that fought in Cuba and in the Philippines. Comer was proud of his military service, but he was largely silent about his experience under enemy fire, so much of the information about his time in uniform comes from his official US Army records and his personal photograph collection. The profound impact that Donald Comer’s time in uniform had on his life and career is evidenced by his genial, paternalistic attitude toward his mill workers, both whites and African Americans; his outspoken opposition to nuclear armaments during the Cold War; and his ameliorated racial views after his command of black soldiers. Donald Comer would never be the same after he returned to Alabama in 1903.
David Alsobrook has an M.A. 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, February 20, 2019—Kathryn Braund

“Traveling Through the Creek Nation on the Old Federal Road”

The “Old Federal Road”— forged through the Creek Nation in the early 1800s by the United States to provide a communication artery to link the east coast with Louisiana— started as a postal horse path through Creek Indian territory.  The “storied gateway” created tensions within the Creek Nation; sparked the devastating war in 1813-1814; led to the forced
surrender of vast acreage by the Creek Nations; and ultimately revolutionized Alabama’s expansion and facilitated unprecedented American immigration.   Kathryn Braund, who has just completed The Old Federal Road in Alabama—An Illustrated Guide, will tell where the road was and why it was “both a physical and symbolic thoroughfare that cut a swath of shattering change through the land and cultures that it transversed.” But her focus will be on bringing the road to life by telling the colorful stories of the people who traveled through the Creek Nation between Georgia and Alabama during the 1820s and 1830s.   
Dr. Kathryn H. Braund—Hollifield Professor of Southern History at Auburn University—has an M.A. from Auburn and a Ph.D. from Florida State University. Dr. Braund’s research and writing have focused on 18th and 19th century history of the Creek and Seminole Indians. Books she has authored, co-authored, or edited include: Deerskins and Duffels: The Creek Indian Trade with Anglo-America, 1685-1815; William Bartram on the Southeastern Indians; an annotated edition of James Adair’s History of the American Indians; and Tohopeka: Rethinking the Creek War and the War of 1812.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019—Wayne Flynt

“Zora Neale Hurston and the African American Literary Renaissance”

Dr. Flynt said, “Zora Neale Hurston is one of Alabama’s most famous writers —and in the state of her birth, one of its least known! Of the many remarkable literary lives nurtured by
Alabama’s rich cultural landscape, none is more improbable than Hurston’s. Born (we think but are not sure) on January 7, 1891 in Notasulga, a tiny town straddling the Lee-Macon county line in East Central Alabama, Hurston was the initial spark to what became a generation later a veritable Alabama firestorm of African American literary talent and energy.” Dr. Flynt will discuss Zora’s early life in the all-black community of Eatonville and the impact on her life of her spell-binding Baptist minister father and her independent and ambitious mother. She eventually attended Barnard College and Columbia University, becoming a noted writer, anthropologist and cultural commentator. Dr. Flynt will discuss the waning of Hurston’s influence and the criticism of her work as well as her posthumous rediscovery by Pulitzer-winning writer Alice Walker.
Wayne Flynt, one of the country’s foremost historians, graduated from Anniston High School and Howard College (now Samford University) and took his doctorate at Florida StateUniversity. After teaching at Samford for twelve years, he became head of the history department at Auburn and retired as Distinguished Professor Emeritus in 2005. He has received numerous teaching awards and written/coauthored many award-winning books. He was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor and was named Alabamian of the Year by the Mobile Register.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019—Dolores Hydock

“Taking Sides: A Different Look at the Controversial Life of an Alabama Country Music Legend”

Dolores Hydock will end the winter SouthFirst Bank Lecture Series with a wonderful story about “taking sides” stimulating you to ponder the questions, “Are there really two sides to every story?” and “Can two sides be opposite and still both be true?” Come hear this new story and then decide: Whose side are you on?
Hydock, originally from Pennsylvania, came to Chandler Mountain as a college student to collect local folklore—and to get her first-ever taste of cornbread! Now after many years of hearing and watching Dolores tell her fabulous stories, Alabamians claim her as their own! Dolores 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 amember of the Southern Order of Storytellers. Dolores lives in Birmingham.