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‘He liked my mama’s cornbread…I didn’t know if was the cornbread or me’

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BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY

Special to 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 Barnett Wright bwright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

JIMMY AND PHYLLIS BATTLE

Live: Center Point

Married: Nov. 5, 1976

Met: George Washington Carver High School in the late ‘60s. While Jimmy and Phyllis were classmates, they did not know each other personally. “He was a stand-out athlete, he played basketball and ran track, I wasn’t as popular, but I was in a lot of drama [productions], but we never engaged in any kind of conversation in school,” Phyllis said.

“I also was an honor student, but that part gets overlooked,” said Jimmy.

They got to know more about each other at the ‘He & She Nightclub’ in downtown Birmingham where they would finally have a conversation. That was in August 1975.

“I had gone out with two of my girlfriends and we only had money for the cover charge. I was the oldest of the three, and I said to them, ‘we only have the cover charge, so we’re not going to have any stragglers at our table. If anybody comes around, they’re going to have to buy us a drink,’” Phyllis said.

“First one up to the table was Jimmy, he came over there with his swag on, and he said, ‘don’t I know you?’ And I said yeah, ‘you’re Jimmy, you went to Carver…

He asked one of my girlfriends to dance first… then he came back to the table and asked me to dance and we stayed on the dance floor for about four songs.”

When she and her friends were about to leave “he asked me for my number,” Phyllis remembered. “I gave it to him and he called me the same night. It was late, but we talked until the sun came up.”

Just the same way the women had an agenda with the free drinks “I had an agenda too,” said Jimmy. “I saw her, and I was pretty popular and used to being around pretty women, so it was just right for me [to go up to their table]. I wanted to go over and talk with her, and I did.”

First date: August 1975, at the Rickwood Field in Birmingham for the Earth, Wind, and Fire concert. “It was a lot of fun, we were getting to know one another and feeling each other out. And afterward, we went to eat at Rib It Up, and then he took me back home. We talked a long time [before I went inside], it was nice,” Phyllis said.

Jimmy said, “I like music and [entertainment], and I was able to move a little bit [dance], so it was very enjoyable to me. And to have a nice-looking lady with me, that was [good] with me too. She was small, but she was good-looking, and I saw other guys looking at her and you know that’s a good thing,” he laughed. “It’s still a good thing.”

The turn: Late September 1975. “After we went to that concert we dated exclusively, I saw him every day. In the last part of September, we started getting more serious in the relationship and started talking about life, and what we wanted out of it. He liked my mama’s cornbread, so I didn’t know if he was coming for the cornbread or me,” Phyllis laughed, “but he was the only guy that I ever dated that both of my parents liked… my dad told him that nobody needs to come to anybody’s house every day, but that didn’t stop Jimmy.”

“I can’t say it wasn’t the cornbread,” Jimmy laughed. “Phyllis was one of those girls that knew what she wanted. She was smart, nice looking, and her folks worked…in three months we were married. I just fell in love with her,” he said.

The proposal: In October 1975, at the Masonic Temple downtown Birmingham.

There was a special affair for the Masons, and after a night of dancing,

“I just asked her if she wanted to get married. I was young, I was only coming up on 21 years of age, so it just happened. I didn’t have a ring at that time, but I did get one. I wanted her to pick it out herself, so two weeks later we went and she picked a ring,” Jimmy said.

“I was excited, I knew at that time that I was in love and that I wanted to spend my life with him. He had a lot of qualities that reminded me of my daddy (patient, a man of God, strong faith, attentive, awesome provider, loving), and I had always said that I wanted my husband to be like my father and Jimmy exhibited those qualities, so I didn’t have no second thoughts about it, I said ‘yes,” Phyllis recalled. “But we didn’t tell my parents until after we went and got the ring. When Jimmy asked my dad he had a very serious talk with him, I was his first daughter and he gave him a lot of manly advice. He said the way you see her now, if she ever has to come back, that’s the way I want her back. And he told him the next time he comes back to bring his U-Haul truck,” she laughed.

The wedding: At Phyllis’s parents’ home in Collegeville [North Birmingham], officiated by her uncle, Reverend Johnny Shields, and their colors were powder blue and white.

Most memorable for the bride was “the morning of my wedding. When I sat down with my parents and they prayed over me, that has just stuck with me all my life. I was nervous, it calmed my nerves, but they were mostly praying that I would keep God in my life and that when troubles came that I would always resort back to Him. And they let me know that if I ever needed to come back home, the door was always open. I never had to go back home and I’m still with the Lord,” Phyllis said.

Most memorable for the groom was “the people that I had to encounter before getting married. There was a lot of controversy on my end. Some people were happy, but a lot of people were in disbelief… they said things like you’re not going to be married long because it was so swift. But they didn’t know that my life was changing and that I had allowed the Lord to come into my life at a young age.

Words of wisdom: “The biggest thing in any long-lasting relationship is trust. You’ve got to be able to trust each other, to the point where you don’t even have to ask a lot of questions unless you just have to; otherwise, there’s enough trust there that will keep that love factor there forever. And the only way you can do that is by having the Lord in your life,” Jimmy said.

Phyllis said she keeps in mind Ephesians 4:2-3. “‘Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bear with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.’” She added, “Learn how to say thank you, and realize that equality won’t always mean a 50/50 split. Sometimes you may have to give more than 50, sometimes he may have to give more than 50. Learn to communicate, it’s very important because you won’t always be on the same page. Keep Christ at the forefront, pray together and worship together, and always kiss goodnight. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.”

Happily ever after: The Battles have two sons, Dedrionne and Jermaine Battle, and six grandchildren.

Phyllis, 69, is a Fairfield native, and George Washington Carver High School grad. She attended Alverson Draughon Business College [downtown Birmingham] where she earned an associate’s degree in business and data entry, and Birmingham Metropolitan Steel Center, where she completed a certification in business administration. She retired after 28 years from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] as a safety specialist compliance officer.

Jimmy, 68, is an East Birmingham native, attended Carver High School, and attended Southern Junior College of Business [downtown Birmingham] where he studied computer science. He retired from Alabama Power after 35 years as a lead cable splicer of the underground network where he led crews.

The Battles attend St. James Missionary Baptist Church in North Birmingham where they serve as deacon and deaconess.

 

 

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