Sunday, May 29, 2016

Lead Kindly Light

Lead Kindly Light
Henry Hardin “Zipp” Newman

By Worth Earlwood Norman, Jr.
Update on December 6, 2017
Tuesday, May 24, 2016, was Henry Hardin “Zipp” Newman’s 123rd birthday. He died March 3, 1977 and in a memoriam soon after his passing, a tribute affirmed that “Zipp Newman was a ‘leading light’ in establishing the Monday Morning Quarterback Club for the express purpose of fellowship among football fans.”

It was not only the fellowship. There was more about this “leading light.”

Newman was a sports writer for The Birmingham News while still in high school. He earned the nickname “Zipp” due to his ability to outrun his track competitors. Indeed, he may have been the first person to run 100 yards in ten seconds. His 120-pound frame was his advantage. In middle age he weighed no more than one hundred sixty. Thus, his friends dubbed him “Zipp.”

Henry Hardin Newman was born in the town of Smith Mills in Henderson County, Kentucky in 1894. The town was twenty-five miles from Evansville, Indiana and about one hundred and fifty miles southwest of Louisville, Kentucky. He attended schools in Kentucky, and later in Birmingham, after his family relocated in 1906.

Hardin always wanted to be a sportswriter. He told a colleague that sportswriters had an advantage over other writers. Sportswriters, he believed, had a free hand at their craft. Zipp, while in high school, worked as a backup writer or intern with Age-Herald sports editor Henry C. Vance. He was paid $2.00 per week to cover high school athletics. Vance recognized Zipp’s writing skill and at times allowed him to assist with his column.

Newman was a newspaper carrier-boy in the morning for The Birmingham Age-Herald, The Birmingham News in the afternoon, and The Birmingham Ledger in the evening.  

During World War I Newman served as an ambulance driver in the Army Medical Corps. This experience was significant for him and was perhaps a turning point in his life. According to his family records, Newman “did much good work among the sick and wounded.”

In 1919 Newman became the youngest sports editor of The Birmingham News. He was the youngest among southern sports writers and a leader who would eventually be recognized as the dean of southern sports writers. He covered all sports, including semi-professional or minor league baseball. But he believed that sports and its popularity could be leveraged for assisting financially in needy causes.

Newman’s colleague at The Birmingham Age-Herald, James Saxon Childers, wrote an article about his friend in April 1937. Childers wrote that although Newman has been sports editor for a quarter century, he was not an old man. He was 43. Childers wrote extensively, in that one article, about the achievements Zipp Newman had accumulated up to that time.

According to Childers, Newman became overly excited and inarticulate when he talked about the Alabama-Washington Rose Bowl Game of 1926. That game was the University of Alabama’s first bowl appearance and, according to sports aficionados of that era, it was “the game that changed the South.” Alabama won 20-19.

Newman told Childers that the greatest baseball game he had ever witnessed was between the Houston Buffalos and the Birmingham Barons at Rickwood Field in 1931. It was the first game of the Dixie Series championship, headlined by Houston pitcher Dizzy Dean. The 22-year old Dean had “guaranteed” a win facing the 43-year old Baron pitcher, Ray Caldwell. It was a classic pitchers’ duel until a Baron player singled to first base, sacrificed to second, and then was batted in for the only run of the game.

Newman was highly articulate in his column “Dusting ‘Em Off.” He was humorous. In a 1931 column he wrote to Santa claiming to be a “sports scribbler.” He asked Santa not to hold that against him. He continued with listing several self-effacing characteristics but with limited humility he wrote that his boss was a Vanderbilt man, his wife a Howard (now Samford) girl, and that he “got the air at Birmingham-Southern. He said that they considered him a partisan, but he had always favored the underdog.

When closing this particular letter to Santa, Zipp asked him to bring home a pennant to all 8 cities in the Southern League, to give all twenty-three teams in the Southern Conference a trip to the Rose Bowl, and to bring his dog Gilda a fine bone. Signed “The Ole Duster. P.S. – All I really want is peace.”

For several years Zipp was the official scorer for the Southern League, The scorer decides if a hit to the outfield botched by the fielder is a hit or an error.

Newman was the leader who directed the benefits of popular sports into community service. The first Crippled Children’s Football game in 1935 was begun at the initiative of Newman. The Crippled Children’s Clinic for victims of polio was opened in 1929 and the proceeds from those high school football games began funding part of the clinic’s expenses.

Leading a group of like-minded persons, Zipp Newman organized a college football review club. Its purpose would be the financial support of the Crippled Children’s Clinic. In 1939 the Monday Morning Quarterback Club of Birmingham (MMQBC) was formed from that organizing effort.

In 1943 Newman organized the Negro Tuberculosis Football benefit game. In that same year the MMQBC sponsored its first annual high school All-Star football game.

Another Newman idea came to fruition in 1944 with the high school East-West Baseball game for the benefit of the Alabama Sight Conservation Association. One year later the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham awarded Newman its silver service medal of honor for his outstanding contribution to Alabama’s health.

Since baseball and football were covered, Zipp Newman developed the idea of the Better Hearing Center Basketball Game in 1947. The Downtown Lion’s Club of Birmingham dedicated one its service programs in honor of Newman for his public service in 1948. But Newman’s notoriety was not all local or regional.

In Atlantic City, New Jersey the American Hospital Association at its fiftieth anniversary convention in 1948, honored Henry Hardin Newman for his dedicated service in fund-raising for multiple health organizations in Alabama.

In 1951 the Crippled Children’s Hospital was built due in no small part to the fund-raising efforts of Newman and the MMQBC. The chapel of that new hospital was dedicated as the “Zipp Newman Chapel.”

The year 1954 saw the miracle of the polio vaccine which over the course of just a few years virtually eliminated polio. Thankfully there would be no more need for the Crippled Children’s Hospital so the MMQBC sold the hospital building to the University of Alabama Medical Center and the sales’ proceeds were added to the club’s charity-funding account.

In 1969 Zipp Newman published a book entitled The Impact of Southern Football. Between 1919 and 1969 Zipp had “seen it all.” But it was not all about sports. The book chronicled exciting sporting events that he witnessed but it was chiefly about people.

Newman guided readers of his newspaper column, and of his book as well, through the life struggles, experiences, and contributions of many people. In the third paragraph of his opening chapter Newman wrote that “The impact of southern football has come through sweat and toil, sacrifices, great leadership and persuasive leadership in eliminating hypocrisy in player recruiting.” Newman knew the effects of good and great leadership.

In another chapter, “Mother Gammon Saves Southern Football,” Newman writes about a mother whose 17-year old son, Von Gammon, died in the Georgia-Virginia football game of 1897. Within days of her son’s death on the football field, the Georgia Legislature – which happened to be in session – passed bills in its House and Senate abolishing football in Georgia. All that was needed was the governor’s signature to make it law.

The young Gammon’s mother wrote the governor “It would be the greatest favor to the family of Von Gammon if your influence could prevent his death being used as an argument detrimental to the athletic cause and its achievement at the University [of Georgia]. … Grant me the right to request that my boy’s death should not be used to defeat the most cherished object of his life.” The Georgia governor vetoed the bill.

Henry Hardin “Zipp” Newman was a sports writer, organizer, humanitarian, and a Southern historian. He understood people and could write about “the whole picture” of human activity. He was indeed a leader of long-standing and we should remember his birthday this coming week.

When the MMQBC memoriam opened its document of remembrance with the phrase identifying Zipp as a “leading light,” I cannot help but think of John Henry Cardinal Newman. I have had many conversations this past year with Zipp’s daughter, Frances Newman “Bee” Morris of Mountain Brook. She said that her father many times suggested that they were related to the nineteenth century English churchman, poet, and scholar. Not knowing the extent of her genealogy, “Bee” thinks that maybe there is a relationship. It seems appropriate.

In 1833, John Henry Newman wrote the hymn “Lead Kindly Light.” One cannot help but think that the writer of the MMQBC memoriam to “Zipp” had the two Newmans in mind.

WORTH EARLWOOD NORMAN JR is a writer of Alabama and Virginia history and is a biographer. His most recent biography is of United States Ambassador to the Czech Republic (2004-2006) William Jelks Cabaniss, Jr., Archdeacon Books (Hoover, Alabama), 2014. His biography of James Solomon Russell, was published in 2012 by McFarland Publishers (W. Jefferson, North Carolina). Norman published two Alabama timeline histories: Those Republicans and African American Entrepreneurs. Worth (Woody) Norman lives with his wife Patricia in Hoover.

Frances Newman Morris Collection of “Zipp” Newman memorabilia
The Impact of Southern Football, MB Publishing, Montgomery, Alabama, 1969
HH Zipp Newman photo image courtesy of Frances Newman Morris Collection (attachment)

The Birmingham Age-Herald, James Saxon Childers

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Elevating My Anxiety

Elevating My Anxiety

It was a cold day in early March
The end of my business drawing near
And city people still talked the topic arch -
Previous September’s terrible shear.

 The east side of that city
Faced the vastness of the shallow lake
Over which the great pity
Of a winter cloud from the west much snow does make.

But this was March and not that blue autumn day,
With business to close in a different venue.
From its suburb to a downtown hotel I must stay
For contract negotiations were on the menu.

Downtown’s public square impressive to na├»ve eyes
With restaurants, boutiques, and an old railroad line.
One vertical tower, a center to all, cries
To many a visitor to stay, wine and dine.

A stately hotel for me was made a reservation,
Its age not perfectly hidden
By architects and engineers of restoration.
A different choice for me was corporately forbidden.

Marble fountain, vaulted ceilings,
Windows high arched, breathtakingly lovely,
Provided a sense of secure feelings,
My colleagues and I into our rooms shoved we.

Instead one day the hotel main entrance to take,
I navigated the underground parking deck.
The elevators in this antique re-make,
Restoration engineers ignored or forgot to check.

Capacity for 1,000 pounds
Its upper weight limit,
Though confidently it might sound
The people space, they slimmed it.

At the lowest level I the only rider.
But when lifted to the main floor
The elevator doors now wider,
A dozen round ball cardinals it bore.

“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to six.”
He yelled to his teammates without reference knowing,
“Get on!” Too many here to mix.

Now I at the back
With space for perhaps four,
Pleaded forcefully for slack.
“And don’t come through the door.”

Of course, they all boarded
This tiny lift meant for a few.
With most of our space hoarded,
I sensed some tragic due.

Not one of the dozen was less than six-eight,
All uniformed from practice I presumed.
Several floors were pressed for this massive freight,
Our ascension though, I thought doomed.

Between the fifth and sixth floors
The lift lost its strength.
Now motionless, idle and no open door,
We elevator men were stuck with each other at length.

Strike up a conversation
To keep us all calm.
But talking descended into citation
Of fault. Now began a qualm.

Twenty minutes passed,
Elevator doors slowly opened.
From a narrow gap a man asked
“How’re you guys cope ‘n?”

“Get us out of here,”
The Center crooned.
“We have some fear,
This lift will drop soon.”

It took 60 more minutes
Stabilizing the ancient elevator.
That the narrow extraction gap might skin its
Passengers, was no motivator.

I, the shortest and oldest,
Was next to last removed.
The tall Center last and boldest,
My foot in his hands, his noble character proved.

When freed, we our experience discussed.
Our cramped quarters were like a fettered man.
It was a March Madness with too much fuss.
Each of these athletes must have been a letter man.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Diversity or University

Diversity or University

In the past it was a pleasant word
If not innocuous.
It pointed first to variety then spurred
Toward the vacuous.

With the spoken word progressively distorted
And correct speech politically enforced,
Violators of tongue now escorted
To prisons of languages divorced.

Diversity in truth no longer abides.
Its original undergirding destroyed,
Diversity now divides
A univers-ity once employed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Remembering Doug Davidson

Remembering Doug Davidson

My friend Doug passed away last evening (May 16, 2016). He was in his late 70s, he might have been eighty. But what does that matter? Perhaps we have seen each other only three or four times in the past 55 years. But I remember him, our mutual friends, and our time as youth.

We were not the so-called “Baby Boomers.” Our births preceded the arbitrary designation for boomers, but in some way we were part of that generation. Our home town was Norfolk, Virginia – a U.S. Navy town – and our parents were the ones who endured, and for some participated in, World War II.

A goodly dozen of us were close friends in the 1950s. I was on the younger side. My older sister Cynthia, and Nancy, Lois, Kathy, Mary Faye, Frances, Bob, Paul, Fred, and Doug were the “seniors.” What was our glue? Doug may not have been the oldest ,but he was the tallest of the group and he was our upbeat, natural leader. He possessed the simple charm of happiness. He also sported a “butch” haircut. The rest of us guys had “crew cuts” and once Elvis came on the scene our hair amazingly grew longer.

Doug was employed. If I remember correctly he worked for a supply company named Empire. He always had a car – usually a fairly large vehicle. He probably upgraded his wheels every 12 months. I remember quite vividly when he bought a dazzling, new, red and white Mercury Phaeton. That would have been in 1956. WOW, what a car! The announcement for that amazing people carrier was made on the Ed Sullivan Show. Ah, I remember it well. But, back to the glue.

Doug was a natural leader even though at times he seemed shy. But we all shared in another glue, Norview Methodist Church. Sometime during those years we became Norview United Methodist Church. It was MYF or the Methodist Youth Fellowship that brought us together for the years of our youth. Almost every Sunday evening or late Sunday afternoon we would return to the church building for our MYF meetings. Afterwards we would drive down Sewells Point Road toward Little Creek Road, the point where those two roads intersected, and continued our fellowship by sharing a meal at Shoney’s.

Most everyone, well perhaps I was the prime person who, wanted to ride to Shoney’s in Doug’s Phaeton. He always obliged.

In our time the many Methodist Churches in Norfolk would gather their young people for weekend meetings and songfests. One gathering I continue to recall occurred at Park Place Methodist Church. I could not believe the number of young people gathered to fellowship with one another and to pray and to sing. I remember singing the “Alleluia Chorus.” (I worked hard on memorizing the words to the Alleluia Chorus). What a grand sound of voices it was. Ah, I remember it well.

So, I sit here writing this short essay with several senses attacking me. One reaction to Doug’s death is the immediacy of his passing to Nancy and her family, and to the rest of us. His days from health to illness to death were rapid. 

Another reaction to Doug's death is the speed of which the years of our time have passed. Time has too quickly been moving from its beginning to its end. When I think of Douglas Davidson in my mind I capture his smiling face and his friendly disposition. His is a great loss, but I must also think about Doug and friends through they eyes of God, if I may be so daring.

God made us free to love Him. We are also free not to love Him. So in life we choose.

God gave us the Church. (We celebrated the birth of the Church just this past Sunday – Pentecost). Our particular church gave us MYF and in that fellowship we learned to love God by loving our friends in a Godly relationship. The Trinitarian God - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - is the perfect relationship. We knew that and we learned to live in that relationship throughout our lives.

My memory of Doug's life, the life he actually lived, is that his was a witness to the life in Christ that he and his forever-youthful friends shared and continue to share. Rest in Peace, Doug!

Douglas E. Davidson Obituary

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Potential Presidential Cabinet Picks

Potential Presidential Cabinet Picks 2016-2017
Hillary Clinton
(Cheryl Mills – Chief of Staff)
Donald Trump
(Jeff Sessions – Chief of Staff)
Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
Vice President
Marco Rubio
Huma Abedin
Secretary of State
Jeb Bush
Mandy Grunwald
Secretary of Defense
General Jack Keane
Sidney Blumenthal
Chris Christie
John Podesta
Carl Icahn
Gina Raimondo
Sam Brownback
Maya Harris
Jack Dalrympl
Bernie Sanders
Michael Bloomberg
Elizabeth Warren
Carly Fiorino
Van Jones
Homeland Security
Rudy Giuliani
Regina Benjamin
Health & Human Services
Dr. Ben Carson
Muriel Elizabeth Bowser
Housing & Urban Development
Mia Love
Rodney Slater
Susana Martinez
Maggie Hassan
John Thune
Kate Brown
to be eliminated
Rachel Maddow
Veterans Affairs
Scott Walker