Weld Publisher Mark Kelly and attorney Emory Anthony were named the first two recipients of an award given Saturday morning by the Birmingham Black Radio Museum Project.
Both Kelly and Anthony were given “Tall Paul awards for Courage in the Community,” a new award named after legendary Birmingham radio personality Paul “Tall Paul” White of WENN. The awards were given Saturday at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute as part of a weekend-long commemoration of the history of the role played by radio in the struggle for civil rights.
The title of the “Courage in the Community” awards is a reference to the on- and off-air actions of White on behalf of civil rights activists during the 1960s in Birmingham. “Both awardees were chosen by the committee for their history of making difficult personal choices in the interest of causes directly beneficial to their community, often at times when there was clearly no personal benefit to themselves,” said Bob Friedman, project director for the BBRM.
Kelly was selected for the award because of his “commitments to investigative journalism and Birmingham’s deservedness for a community-based newspaper,” Friedman said. “We date his hard-hitting journalism back to the 1990s when he penned for various predecessors to Weld.
“His passion for fairness led him into the electoral arena where he personally managed the successful campaign of now-State Representative Patricia Todd, the first openly gay candidate for the state’s legislature,” Friedman said. “If Kelly did not stand up and confront, what appeared to this writer’s witnessing eyes, as a blatant attempt at voter fraud during the counting of the votes at the Sheriff’s Department, that electoral outcome might have been different.”
Kelly said the award was “deeply meaningful.
“If you live in Birmingham and know anything at all about the history of our city, you know that you don’t have to look far to find people who exemplify the meaning of courage. Many of those people are still with us, and to live among them daily is all of the honor anyone could ask for. But to receive an award named for the late Paul White, who played such a unique and vital role in advancing the cause of civil rights, is deeply meaningful to me.
“I accept it as both an honor and a challenge to work continuously for the betterment of Birmingham.”
Anthony was given the award in light of his unsuccessful run for the Birmingham mayor’s office, “his public defense of the grassroots effort to use initiative and referendum to fight for the protection of our water and garbage facilities, his availability to counsel and represent countless young people charged with violent crimes, and most recently his courageous leadership on the Committee to Save Cooper Green Hospital, where he organized a team of attorneys to represent employees who had unfairly lost their jobs,” Friedman said.
The weekend event also included lectures, exhibits and panel discussions.
On Friday, Brian Ward, professor of English and American Studies at the University of Manchester (U.K.), spoke about the topic of his history Radio and the Struggle for Civil Rights in the South.
Saturday morning, Friedman presented a still image and video exhibit and panel discussion at the BCRI recounting the history of black radio in Birmingham from the 1940s through 1963, with a particular focus on Paul White.
A panel discussion hosted by historian Horace Huntley centered around the Birmingham Movement and the role played by radio announcers in, among other things, the student demonstrations organized at Miles College and area high schools from 1962 to 1963. Panelists included Rev. Frank Dukes and Joe Dickson, leaders of the Miles College movement and Minister Gwen Webb and Richard Finley, both active in the high school demonstrations.
The Birmingham Black Radio Museum Project (BBRM) has amassed the most complete collection of memorabilia about the history of black radio in the city, spanning the 1940s through the 1980s. The event, a joint operation between BBRM and BCRI, was funded by the Alabama Humanities Foundation, the Alabama Power Foundation and the City of Birmingham.