For some time now, one of the great pleasures of my life has been the opportunity to sit down regularly over lunch or coffee with my friend, Sol Kimerling. As people who have known him for much longer than I have will tell you, Sol is one of Birmingham’s great citizens — a successful businessman, a thoughtful and engaged civic presence, a dedicated and relentless documenter of the city’s history and, with his late wife, Rita, a longtime and generous contributor of time, toil and financial support to a variety of charitable and community causes.
Sol loves Birmingham, and he makes a point of seeking out, associating with and encouraging people who share that love — and who are willing to back up that feeling with strong words and hard work. Both Weld and I have benefited greatly from his advice and counsel, his friendship and his example.
All of which is why I was all ears when Sol phoned me one morning last spring and said he had an idea he wanted to discuss. We met for a cup of coffee that very same afternoon.
The idea, it turned out, was “No More Bull,” the monthly series of historical articles Weld began running in May of 2012 as part of our observance of the 50th anniversary of the pivotal events that occurred in Birmingham in 1962 and 1963. Set to run through October of this year, the series is co-authored by Sol and UAB historian Pamela Sterne King (parenthetically, I have known Pam for a good deal longer than I’ve known Sol — through our several mutual friends, through her work, through her sterling professional reputation and civic involvement and, not least, through her kind consultation on the early chapters of A Powerful Presence, my parallel history of the city and the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce).
In proposing the “No More Bull” series, Sol and Pam expressed strong feelings about the tendency — in our community and among all but the most observant outside chroniclers — to view the events and personalities of the Civil Rights Movement through a prism of absolutes. In that view, there was Bull Connor versus Martin Luther King, black versus white, good versus evil — an incomplete view which, while it might serve rhetorical purposes, glosses over a great deal of the rich tapestry of Birmingham’s history, or, in some cases, ignores it altogether.
With this in mind, Sol and Pam were interested in delving into the “deep history” of change in Birmingham, a process that unfolded over the course of at least 15 years prior to the critical events we are commemorating this year. They wanted to call attention to the nuances of our city’s transformation, to point out that the revolution that deposed Bull Connor included the nonviolent tactical warfare of the Movement, strategic skirmishes that took place in offices and boardrooms, and the march on voting booths that forever altered the morally and operationally corrupt system under which Birmingham had operated. They wanted to tell a story in which the ultimate heroes are the black and white voters who went to the polls in 1962 and again the following year to reject segregation once and for all.
They wanted to play a role in the ongoing redemption of Birmingham.
By telling stories that illuminate the era that changed Birmingham, America and the world, Sol and Pam are not only educating the readers of Weld. They are also providing a public service of the highest order. They are helping the people of Birmingham understand their history — and themselves — in a new light. That is especially important in this historic year, when Birmingham is both commemorating the past and looking to a promising future.
Accordingly, response to “No More Bull” has been tremendous, and not only from individual readers. Schools, libraries, churches and community groups regularly request multiple copies of issues in which installments of the series appear. The authors have been invited by numerous organizations to talk about their work. Implicit in the frequency and enthusiasm of such responses is a recognition of the way Sol’s and Pam’s work helps to fulfill the community-oriented mission of Weld, our commitment to being more than just a provider of news and information.
That’s why we are especially pleased, beginning with the publication this week of the latest installment of “No More Bull,” to welcome a distinguished pair of co-sponsors for the remainder of the series. The law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz is joining with Regions Bank to help us ensure that this important work is seen by as many people as possible in the months ahead.
Regions, of course, is a well-known corporate entity in our community, a supporter of many civic and charitable endeavors geared toward the betterment of Birmingham. As for Baker Donelson, its support of “No More Bull” is especially appropriate, as the firm is a lineal descendant of the one that, corporately and through various of the attorneys associated with it — most notably Abe Berkowitz and David Vann — played a prominent role in numerous events that have been, and will be, depicted in our series.
Weld takes tremendous pride in presenting the “No More Bull” series to our readers in Birmingham and beyond. We’re also very proud to have two such outstanding entities express their appreciation for and support of us, and of Sol and Pam. It also speaks well of their commitment to preserving and illuminating the history of our community, and their understanding that doing so provides the strongest possible foundation for our future growth and development.