By Ariel Worthy
Many people say when they saw the 1971 Thunderbird with flashing lights they would sing the Batman theme song.
Some people saw him as a big role model to them.
No matter what came to mind when they saw him and his car, Birmingham wants to remember Willie Perry every year on Aug. 3.
In 1982 Mayor Richard Arrington introduced Willie Perry Day to the City. Willie Perry aka, the Batman or the Birmingham Batman, was a Samaritan in Birmingham throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
The City is now re-introducing the local holiday to celebrate every year.
On Aug. 3 at Old Car Heaven, his daughter Renee Perry-Hill announced the Willie Perry Foundation.
“The foundation was established to continue the legacy of my father with the spirit of giving to the City of Birmingham, as well as the state of Alabama,” Hill said.
The foundation also introduced Wheels of Change Program. The program is to help single parents who are striving to work, attend college and to improve their quality of life by providing them with a reliable used car for transportation.
“Our goal is to accept donated automobiles that can be repaired and given to these individuals for reliable transportation.”
Many people at Monday’s event recalled Perry, while gaining a bit of nostalgia.
“I used to see him all the time,” Reginald L. Bryant of College Hills recalled. “He’s very special because he was so nice to the kids. We knew him as Batman.”
Though Bryant said he never had a personal encounter with him, he did gain something from him: a role model.
“He was a great role model to me. I did gain that from him. He taught me how to treat others, and it’s something I really did take through life.”
His family members also recall the influence he had on them.
“He was one of those unsung heroes,” Jacqueline Blount, Perry’s niece recalled. “Even though he was a quiet man, he was a people person.”
His family recalled some of their fondest memories are of them just riding around in the Bat Mobile with Perry.
If you would like to help with the “The Wheels of Change” project, please contact Marquetta Hill at (205)249-2318.