By Sydney Melson
The Birmingham Times
“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Erica Wright firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
LINDA AND JAMES ROBERSON
Married: July 15, 1972
Met: Met in 1971 after Linda made the occasional trip to Birmingham from Tampa, Florida. A friend of Linda’s attended Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and was close with a friend of James’ sister, who lived in Birmingham, so they drove to the Magic City, where Linda and James met.
“We knocked on the door. This tall, handsome young man on a crutch invited us in. His sister was not there because she had gone to a family reunion in California, but James didn’t go because he had been in a car accident,” Linda recalled.
James said he was captivated by Linda and needed to find out more about her, though they did not talk much during that first meeting. James talked to his sister and her friends to find out if Linda lived in the area. “Nobody knew who she was. Eventually my sister realized Linda was a friend of a friend and managed to get her phone number for me,” James said.
First date: 1971, in Atlanta. James and Linda traveled to Atlanta to visit at the same time. “It was just a lot of conversation, trying to get to know each other,” Linda said.
“I thought he was a pretty smart guy, looked like he had his head on right. He didn’t really drink. He also worked all the time, so I figured he would take care of me,” Linda said. “He was a nice guy, he was somebody who I just took a liking to because he treated me like a lady.”
James said as he got to know Linda, he knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. “She was a well-dressed, attractive young lady. She had class about her.”
The Turn: Linda said she realized she wanted to be with James when they met up in Atlanta “and I thought he was a nice person and someone I might want to spend the rest of my life with,” Linda said. “We didn’t see each other a whole lot because I was in Tampa and he was in Birmingham, we had to set up lots of times where we could meet up.”
“I knew when I first saw her,” James said. “The way she looked, the way she carried herself. She was very intelligent, we had good conversations and I decided I was going to settle down with her, the right person. She was the first person I fell in love with and sincerely cared for her.”
The proposal: Early 1972, at James’ parents’ house in Birmingham..
“It was kind of instant and unexpected. He was never really romantic, but we were at his mom and dad’s house and I had spent the night. We were just sitting on the sofa talking and he pulled out a box and asked me if I would marry him,” Linda said. “No candlelight dinner, no special place, it was just simple.” Linda said she was excited, and knew it felt right.
“I wanted to marry her on July 15, because that was the anniversary date of my mother and father,” James said. Part of the sudden proposal came from sibling rivalry. “His sister was getting married in August of ’72, and because [James] is the oldest, he wanted to get married first,” Linda said. “His clock was ticking. Most people nowadays wait until they are 40 years old before they had kids, but we didn’t waste time.”
The wedding: Linda and James married on the University of South Florida’s campus. Linda’s bridesmaids wore pastel lavender, teal, pink and yellow dresses. The wedding was officiated by Reverend Saul Nickerson.
Most memorable for the bride was when the reverend made it official. “I think I cried all the way down,” Linda said. “Just to know that this magic moment was about to happen. When Reverend Nickerson said we were man and wife, that was the highlight of the whole event, to know that I was now Mrs. James E. Roberson, Sr.,” she said.
Most memorable for the groom was when he saw Linda for the first time. “She looked so gorgeous, so lovely. I almost cried just seeing her. She was such a beautiful bride,” he said.
For the honeymoon, the two vacationed with several other couples to the Bahamas.
Words of wisdom: “Draw your circle around you and your mate and don’t allow anyone to come between you. Look to each other to solve your problems, and trust each other. The love will come,” James said. “That’s what I told my children when they were getting married. Three is an odd number and won’t fit.” James also advised people to talk out any problems they might have. “It’s very important to communicate and understand what’s being said to you, and why it’s being said. It gives everybody a fair chance to be heard.”
Linda said, “Work together to make it work. Just treat people right. You have to have respect for each other. I’ve always lived by the motto ‘do unto others,’ and that’s especially true for a relationship.”
Linda also agreed with James on communicating. “Besides communication, you have to be able to know your partner well enough to understand their body language, give them space when they need it. No one wants to be with anyone 24/7. Give them space and let them breathe, but still try to keep your lines of communication open enough where the marriage can move on to greater things in life. When you communicate, you’re able to make better decisions on the things you want to do in your marriage, whether it’s children, purchasing a home or whatever.”
Happily ever after: The Robersons have three children – James “Jay” Roberson, Jr., Shayla Roberson-Aguilar, and Jemia Roberson-Storey. Linda and James stay busy in their retirement by spending time with their 11 grandchildren.
Linda is a Tampa, Florida native and attended The University of South Florida and Stillman College for a degree in elementary education, and is a retired elementary and middle school teacher.
James is a Birmingham, Alabama native and holds degrees from Alabama Agriculture & Mechanical University and the University of Alabama in secondary education and educational leadership, respectively. James worked in several positions, as an educator and as a manager of a Ford dealership in Alabaster, Alabama.