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Birmingham Metro Area: 2018 Year in Review

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By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

The first black Sheriff and District Attorney elected in Jefferson County. Birmingham gets a new police chief. A police-involved shooting of a 21-year-old man in Hoover. University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) football team wins conference championship and its first bowl game. These are just a few things that have happened in 2018 in the Birmingham metro area. Here is a closer look at those and other events.

JANUARY

4: Doug Jones is sworn in as the Junior Senator from Alabama on the floor of the Senate in the United States Capitol. Jones, 63, is the first Democrat in 25 years to win a Senate seat in Alabama when he defeated Republican Roy Moore in the December 12, 2017 special election. Jones said, “I am humbled and honored to stand here today, chosen by the people of Alabama to represent our state in this historic institution.”

A record number of black women announce that they are running for office Jefferson County. Nearly two dozen women — all Democrats — run for office: nine in judicial races; five for the state House; one for Jefferson County Clerk; three for the Jefferson County Commission; and U.S. Rep Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham), who has served four terms in Congress, run for re-election.

11: Samford University commemorates the 50th anniversary of its integration during the 2017-18 academic year with a series of special events and recognitions. It honors the first African-American to enroll, Audrey Lattimore Gaston. She received her degree from Samford’s Cumberland School of Law in 1970.

18: Wenonah High School Girls Basketball Coach, Emanuel Bell wins his 500th varsity high school coaching victory all the while battling Stage 4 lung cancer. Bell has been the coach of the Lady Dragons since 1996.

Mayor Randall Woodfin holds his first “State of the Community” address at A.H. Parker High School where he discusses education, neighborhood revitalization and crime reduction.

24: The Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, top strategist for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement, dies at an assisted-living facility near his home in Chester, Va. He was 88. Walker helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and was the first full-time executive director for the SCLC. He also led two major civil rights organizations in Virginia: was president of the Petersburg chapter of the NAACP and the state director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which he co-founded in 1958. He served as chief strategist for “Project C”, the first phase of the Birmingham Campaign in 1963 and helped organize and participate in the 1963 March on Washington.

FEBRUARY

1: Mayor Woodfin announces that he supports an upgrade and expansion of the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) to include an open-air stadium near the Uptown Entertainment District in downtown.

9: The cameras and crew of ESPN’s The Undefeated are in Birmingham to tape a Black History Month special. “Dear Black Athlete” commemorates the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and features one-on-one conversations with sports figures discussing the role athletes can play in promoting a more civil dialogue about social justice, leadership and women’s rights.

19: Roy Hobbs, a former ABC 33/40 anchor and member of the Birmingham Association of Black Journalists (BABJ), dies. He was 64.

MARCH

1: The Birmingham Intermodal, the city’s new, state-of-the-art transportation hub, officially opens with dedications from Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) leaders, partner cities and businesses, tours of the facility, and a host of other festivities open to the public. The event is at the Intermodal, located in the heart of downtown at 1801 Morris Avenue.

7: A 17-year-old female student dies and a male student is injured in a shooting at Huffman High School. The female is identified as Courtlin Arrington, a senior who had plans to become a nurse. Michael Jerome Barber, 17, is charged with reckless manslaughter in the shooting.

13: The City of Birmingham is one of the five winners in the 2018 Smart Cities Readiness Challenge Grant competition. In awarding the grant, the Smart Cities Council calls Birmingham “an inspiring example of how a mid-size city can lead the way toward livability, workability and sustainability,” and says that the city “works diligently to ensure that its initiatives benefit multiple departments and multiple populations.”

 

14: Mayor Woodfin and Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring join dozens of students at Huffman High who walk out of school in protest of gun violence and to raise awareness of school safety. The students at Huffman are among thousands across America who leave school for 17 minutes, exactly four weeks after 17 students die in a Florida school shooting and one week after Courtlin Arrington, a senior, was killed in a shooting at Huffman, where students form a circle around the flag at 10 a.m.

28: Birmingham City Council’s decision to approve $3 million annually over 30 years to build an outdoor stadium and renovate the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex’s (BJCC) Legacy Arena will not jeopardize neighborhood revitalization, Mayor Woodfin says. The council votes 6-3 to contribute the money despite opposition from some community residents and elected officials.

APRIL

3 The Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) suspends executive director Barbara Murdock over “unauthorized use” of a BJCTA credit card. Murdock is accused of allegedly paying her personal power bill with BJCTA funds. The board of directors votes to suspend Murdock, effective immediately, “pending a full investigation into finance matters.” Murdock denies wrongdoing.

4: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) hosts a “Dream Keeper” symposium from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The symposium, “Economic Justice and Transformative Innovation: Acknowledging the Past While Advancing the Future” hosts 250 high school students from the Jefferson County area.

6: Apple CEO Tim Cook is in Birmingham, marking both the 50th anniversary of the murder of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and the rollout of Apple’s Swift programming curriculum across all Alabama Community College (ACCS) branches. He is also in town to receive the Human Rights Award from the Birmingham Metro Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

9: U.S. Senator Doug Jones announces that $3.6 million in federal funding will be used to replace outdated buses with the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority. This Federal Transit Administration grant will help improve reliability while reducing maintenance and other costs.

13: The city of Bessemer officially opens its new multi-use rails-to-trails project. Nearly 100 people walk with Mayor Kenneth Gulley and members of the Bessemer City Council to open the city’s first-ever rails-to-trails project.

24: Jefferson County officials unveil a new mural which counters the controversial Jim Crow-era murals already in the downtown courthouse. Dozens of residents, civic leaders and elected officials – including judges and area mayors – cram the lobby in the courthouse as county commissioners and the artist, Ronald McDowell, who was commissioned for the work, unveil his “Justice is Blind” mural.

26: The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration opens.

Mayor Woodfin begins interviewing three candidates for Birmingham police chief. They are: Henry Irby III, currently a deputy chief with the Birmingham Police Department; Malik Aziz currently a division commander with the Dallas Police Department; and Patrick D. Smith currently a police commander with the Los Angeles Police Department.

MAY

1: Mayor Woodfin announces a Re-entry Task Force designed to help rebuild families after the incarceration of loved ones and to help reduce recidivism.

3: Mayor Woodfin unveils his first proposed capital and operating budget which heavily rewards neighborhoods and city employees and improves the city’s infrastructure. The $436 million fiscal 2019 budget also withholds nearly $11 million in funding from the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Agency (BJCTA) and for the first time in recent memory contains no money for organizations such as the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA); REV Birmingham and Birmingham Housing Authority.

9: Dr. Lily D. McNair is appointed Tuskegee University’s eighth president after being unanimously selected by its Board of Trustees. She will serve as the first female president of the institution in its 136-year history.

17: Mayor Woodfin is selected as one of nine leaders from across the country to join the NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders), a selective national network of state and local leaders led by Honorary Co-Chairs U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, (D-VA) and former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D).

23-26:  Neighborhood representatives from around the nation gather in the Magic City for the 2018 Neighborhoods USA conference. NUSA is a national nonprofit organization committed to building and strengthening neighborhood organizations. This year’s event marks the third time that Birmingham hosted NUSA, more than any other city in the conference’s 43-year history. The conference features a series of panels, workshops and collaborative events that encourages networking, camaraderie and idea-sharing. About 800 people attend at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Birmingham.

JUNE

4: Mayor Woodfin announces Patrick D. Smith will be Birmingham’s new police chief. Smith has 28 years of law enforcement experience with the Los Angeles Police Department, working his way up through the ranks as a patrol officer, police field training officer and instructor, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and most recently, police commander since 2015. Birmingham Police Department veteran Allen Treadaway is named assistant chief.

5: Danny Carr, once interim Jefferson County district attorney (DA), takes one step closer to getting the job permanently by overwhelmingly winning the Democratic primary against Birmingham lawyer Raymond Johnson Jr. According to unofficial results from the election, Carr receives 80 percent of the votes while Johnson receives 20 percent.

7: Birmingham will be the seventh city with a team in the new Alliance of American Football. The spring league, which will begin play the weekend after the Super Bowl in February, 2019.

10: Mayor Woodfin selects Josh Coleman to serve as the city’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning interests (LGBTQ) liaison. Coleman serves as both spokesperson for the city as well as a representative of LGBTQ community.

Donald Mitchell “D.C.” Crawford Sr., renowned musician, author, educator and longtime band director at P.D. Jackson Olin High School, dies. He was 70.

11: Mayor Woodfin taps Brandon F. Johnson to serve as the city’s director of Community Engagement, working as the mayor’s liaison for initiatives and projects that involve public safety, violence reduction and police/community engagement.

19: For the first time since 2014, and only the fourth time since 2006, the Birmingham City Council approved an operating budget before the start of the July 1 fiscal year. The City Council votes unanimously to approve the $436 million spending plan which Mayor Woodfin said falls in line with “our core values and commitment to neighborhood revitalization.”

22: The Birmingham Park and Recreation Board appoints longtime city employee Shonae Eddins-Bennett as director of the city’s parks, recreation centers, swimming pools and other facilities. Eddins-Bennett is the first female to hold the position.

The city of Bessemer announces plans to open the state’s first Amazon fulfillment center with 1,500 jobs. Amazon will build the 855,000-square-foot facility on 133 acres of property being purchased from U.S. Steel off Powder Plant Road in Bessemer, just minutes away from Birmingham. Investment in the project is expected to be $325 million.

25: Patrick Smith takes office as Birmingham’s new police chief.

28: Dozens of strategists and elected officials from around the nation are in Birmingham for a gathering of the country’s top political minds. The National Organization of Black Elected Legislative (NOBEL) Women hosts its annual conference June 28-July 1 in Birmingham, its first time in the Magic City.

JULY

2: Helen Shores Lee, the first African-American woman to serve as judge on the Jefferson County (Alabama) Circuit Court and daughter of prominent Civil Rights Attorney, Arthur Shores, dies. She was 77.

7: Regal, elegant, classy, stable, warm, tender and a champion for justice. These were only a few words used to describe Judge Lee as hundreds fill First Congregational Church on Center Street in West Birmingham to honor the life of community giant.

8: A 16-year-old girl is killed in a drive-by shooting early in Birmingham, police say. The Birmingham Police Department investigate the death of 16-year-old Arrielle Lashawn Parker-Jefferies. Birmingham City Schools confirmed the victim was a rising senior at Wenonah High School.

10: DC BLOX, an Atlanta-based provider of data center, network and cloud services announced the development of a new data center facility at the former Trinity Steel site in Titusville, creating 20 jobs initially with the potential to grow up to $785 million in capital investment and add jobs over the next decade.

12: U.S. Senator Doug Jones introduces legislation mandating the review, declassification, and release of government records related to unsolved criminal civil rights cases.

Shipt, a Birmingham-based grocery delivery startup, announces a plan to expand its headquarters and create more than 800 jobs over the next few years. The expansion project will add approximately 881 full-time jobs with average annual pay of approximately $48,300. The company has invested $10 million into the project.

17: Jefferson County voters oust both Democrats on the five-member county commission, electing two sitting Birmingham City Councilors to replace the two term incumbents. City Councilors Lashunda Scales, in District 1 and Sheila Tyson, in District 2 unseat George Bowman and Sandra Little Brown, respectively. Neither Scales nor Tyson will face Republican opposition in November and each will take their seats following the general election.

The Birmingham City Schools board votes to change the uniform policy for the upcoming school year. Under the new policy, effective immediately, K-12 students will have the option to continue wearing uniforms such as the solid blue, white, black and khaki shirts, pants and skirts or clothing that meets the dress code such as jeans and other items.

19: Mayor Woodfin appoints Denise E. Gilmore as Director of Cultural Preservation for the City of Birmingham.

20: A federal jury convicts a Birmingham lawyer and an Alabama coal company executive in a scheme to bribe a state legislator to use his office to oppose Environmental Protection Agency actions in north Birmingham. The jury finds Balch & Bingham partner Joel Iverson Gilbert and Drummond Company Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs David Lynn Roberson guilty of bribing former Alabama Rep. Oliver Robinson to advocate their employers’ opposition to EPA’s prioritization or expansion of the north Birmingham Superfund site.

21: Joe Dickson, Civil Rights activist and former publisher and owner of the Birmingham World newspaper dies. He was 85.

27: Mayor Woodfin announces four appointments to the Birmingham Airport Authority Board of Directors. The appointees are David Germany, Bobbie Knight, Bill Smith and Darlene Wilson.

AUGUST

2: Birmingham City Schools (BCS) announces that it has received full system wide accreditation for the first time ever. The school system gained approval from AdvancED, a nonprofit, nonpartisan accrediting organization that conducts rigorous, on-site reviews of various educational institutions and systems to ensure that all learners realize their full potential.

8: Mayor Woodfin, joined by Birmingham City Schools superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring and other education advocates, knock on doors in Tuxedo Junction in Ensley as part of a yearlong initiative that will gather input from families and students who attend Birmingham City Schools. The All In Campaign for Change is a partnership between the City of Birmingham, Birmingham City Schools and the Birmingham Education Foundation.

16: Jay Roberson announces that he will step down from his District 7 Birmingham City Council seat.

28: Kenneth Gulley, touting an improved city financial outlook and major economic development projects, cruises to a third term as mayor of Bessemer. Gulley won in a landslide with 3,591 votes in a race against Bessemer City Council President Cleophus King, 843 votes, and businessman Anthony Underwood, 797 votes, according to unofficial results.

SEPTEMBER

2: A 16-year-old Woodlawn High School student is killed in a shooting. Birmingham Police tells ABC 33/40 that units from the East Precinct responded to reports of shots fired at 331 80th Street North around 12:30 a.m. Saturday and officers arrived to find 16-year-old William Edwards, of Birmingham inside the residence and unresponsive.

13: Hezekiah Jackson, president of the Birmingham Metro Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), has been ordered suspended by the group’s national office. The decision to suspend Jackson was made at the national level, according to a source, pending an investigation whether Jackson tried to convince mostly black residents to not get their soil tested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Jackson vehemently denies wrongdoing.

25: Fifty-five years after Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was the epicenter of the campaign for civil rights, a campaign is launched to help preserve the historic place of worship. The church launched a month-long effort to win national funding to complete significant preservation of the iconic building as part of the Partners in Preservation competition for funding.

27: A federal judge sentences former state lawmaker Oliver L. Robinson Jr. to 33 months in prison after Robinson admitted taking bribes to help fight environmental cleanup efforts in mostly black areas in Birmingham.

The Birmingham City Council approves a camera surveillance program designed to reduce shootings across the city. The resolution on the agenda stated the surveillance system would focus on the Central Park, Ensley, Gate City, and Kingston neighborhoods.

OCTOBER

2: George Washington Carver High School alumni celebrate legendary band director Arthur Means Jr., who inspired generations of musicians and leaders while serving 36 years at the school.

3: All-star guards Chris Paul and James Harden score 22 and 20 points, respectively, to lead the Houston Rockets past the Memphis Grizzlies, 131-115, as the National Basketball Association returned to Birmingham for the first time in 12 years.

11: Greg Calhoun, longtime Montgomery businessman and prominent grocery store owner, dies. He was 66.

24:  Leadership of the National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Pelicans announce that Birmingham will be home to their new G League team. The team will play in the Erie, Pennsylvania area for two to three years as upgrades are done to Legacy Arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

District Judge Abdul Kallon sentences Joel Iverson Gilbert, 46, to five years in prison, $25,000 fine, and two years supervised release with 100 hours of community service each year, Also sentenced was coal company executive David Lynn Roberson, 67, to two and a half years in prison, $25,000 fine, and one year supervised release.

27: At the 77th McDonald’s Magic City Classic presented by Coca-Cola, Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University defeats rival Alabama State University, 27-10, at Birmingham’s Legion Field.

30: Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in downtown Birmingham has been named one of 11 historic sites to win a $150,000 grant, which will be used to place protective glass over the recently restored stained-glass windows.

The Birmingham City Council selects Wardine Alexander, former Birmingham Board of Education president, to fill the vacant District 7 seat to replace Jay Roberson, who stepped down.

NOVEMBER

6: Mark Pettway, the Democrat challenger, stuns incumbent Republican Mike Hale to become the first black sheriff in Jefferson County. Pettway, a detective sergeant in the Sheriff’s Office, emerged from a four-candidate field this summer to win the Democratic nomination, won with 51.39 percent, or 128,569 votes, to unseat Hale, who received 48.55 percent, or 121,469 votes.

Danny Carr, chief deputy Jefferson County District Attorney, who

Jefferson County District Attorney candidate Danny Carr meets with supporters after the polls closed Tuesday November 6, 2018.. (Frank Couch for The Birmingham Times)

had served as DA on an interim basis before being replace now has the job on a permanent basis. Carr defeats Republican Mike Anderton, with 56.72 percent, or 140,666 votes to Anderton’s 43.24 percent or 107,248 votes to become the county’s first black elected DA.

11: The Miles College Golden Bears (5-6 overall) destroy Albany State (7-4 overall) by a score of 50-23 on the Miles College campus to win the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) crown.

22: An 18-year-old is shot twice and a 12-year-old bystander shot in the back. An officer responding to the scene then shoots and kills 21-year-old Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford, Jr. of Hueytown. Police said Bradford was fleeing the scene and was brandishing a weapon. They later acknowledge that he was wrongly identified as the shooter in the incident involving the earlier shooting.

25: The family of a Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. retains Benjamin Crump Jr. to represent them in Bradford Jr.’s Thanksgiving night shooting death.

27: Area pastors, community leaders, activists and citizens gather at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in downtown Birmingham to hold a prayer vigil for Bradford Jr. who was killed Thanksgiving night by a Hoover police officer inside the Riverchase Galleria. The vigil draws Bradford’s parents, as well as members of the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, the National Action Network (NAN) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

29: A suspect in the Thanksgiving night Galleria Mall shooting has been arrested by U.S. Marshals near Atlanta as 20-year-old Erron Brown surrenders peacefully at a relative’s house in south Fulton County, Georgia. Brown faces a charge of attempted murder. His lawyer says he’s innocent.

Donald V. Watkins Sr., 70, of Atlanta, and Donald V. Watkins Jr., 46, are accused of defrauding investors and a bank out of millions of dollars. Each faces multiple counts of wire and bank fraud and one count of conspiracy and both say they are innocent.

DECEMBER

1: Friends, family, activists, elected officials and dignitaries gather at the Boutwell Auditorium in downtown Birmingham to bid a solemn farewell to Emantic Fitzgerald “E.J.” Bradford Jr. Those in attendance on a rainy and overcast day included the Rev. Jesse Jackson, activist Carlos Chaverst Jr., Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales and friends of the deceased.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers beat Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders 27-25 to become 2018 Conference USA Champs.

2: Giles Perkins, a Birmingham lawyer who left a legacy in the city that stretched from the Birmingham Zoo to Railroad Park, dies. He was 51. Perkins was a partner at the Adams and Reese law firm.

3: A forensic pathologist hired by the family finds that Bradford Jr. was struck three times in the back side of his body, including one gunshot that entered the rear of his skull.

12: Danny Carr is sworn into office as Jefferson County’s first black District Attorney.

The A.G. Gaston Boys and Girls Club hosts a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $7.2 million headquarters in Five Points West. Dignitaries in attendance included Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Birmingham native and former U.S. Secretary of State; Frank Adams, CEO of the A.G. Gaston Boys and Girls Club; Mayor Randall Woodfin; Birmingham City Councilor Steven Hoyt and Lee Styslinger III, chairman and chief executive officer of Altec Inc, and campaign co-chair.

13: City and county officials hold a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $175 million stadium next to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announces that his office is taking over all investigations related to the Thanksgiving night shootings at the Riverchase Galleria.

15: Dannetta Thornton Owens, former president of the Birmingham Board of Education, who served on the board from 2002 to 2009, dies. She was 80.

20: Tyler Johnston III throws for 373 yards and four touchdowns, three of them to Xavier Ubosi, and University of Alabama at Birmingham continues its resurgence two seasons after shutting down its football program, beating Northern Illinois 37-13 in the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl.