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In recent years, the community raised $3.8 million to restore
the 16th Street Baptist Church and have it registered as a historic
landmark. Berte served as co-chair of the restoration campaign.
Since its inception in 1992, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
has metamorphosed into a world-class facility and was recently
named the top tourist attraction in the state by the Alabama Tourism
Department for the second time in four years. More than 150,000
people tour the BCRI each year from all over the globe, and this
year Birmingham was listed by the Today Show as one of the six hot
places to visit in 2013. LaMonte and Berte have served as chairs of
the BCRI board and Dr. Robert G. Corley ’70, assistant professor of
history at UAB, served as treasurer of the founding BCRI board.
Civic, professional, and social clubs around the city have been
integrated and have slashed away gender and racial boundaries.
Leadership Birmingham, a nonprofit organization composed
of influential business and community leaders, has nearly 50
members on its 2013 roll, including BSC First Lady Zandra Krulak,
Vice President for Administration and Government Relations Lane
Estes, and three BSC alumni. Berte was a founding chair for the
organization in 1984 and still serves in a key leadership role.
And, 50 years later, the city has a diverse reorganized city
government composed of the mayor and a nine-member city
council. In 2011, Mayor William Bell’s proposal for a $46 million
Metro CrossPlex for track and field and water sports became a reality,
increasing Birmingham’s national prominence and giving BSC’s track
and field and swimming and diving teams a new home.
The city also has a growing economy based on a new wave of
banking, healthcare, and biotechnology, all while building on its
industrial past. According to market research firm Bancography,
Birmingham is the ninth largest banking center in the U.S., boasting
major operations for Regions Bank, Wells Fargo, BBVA Compass,
BB&T, and many others.
“Metal and steel manufacturing continues to thrive, feeding on
the surrounding natural resources and Birmingham’s exceptional
geographic location in the Southeast,” says Brian Hilson, president
and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance. “Soon after the
struggles of the 1960s, a diversified economy began to emerge.”
There are also real pluses to the growth of downtown Birmingham,
including a new minor league baseball park, Regions Field, that
will hold its grand opening April 10; Railroad Park, an established
eight-block green space that serves as an anchor to Regions Field, and
which has received national recognition as a well-designed, well-
used park resource (Camille Spratling ’98, MPPM ’07 is executive
director); and the new Birmingham Entertainment District, a $20
million revitalization project that opened in February and features a
concentration of new restaurants, businesses, and a five-star hotel.
This past June, the city received a federal grant for $11 million
that, in addition to other improvements, will bring bike trails and
walking and running paths stretching from Red Mountain Park to
the downtown area. More than 5,000 people now live in downtown
Birmingham—the most ever in the city’s history.
None of this would be possible without passionate, vision-driven
leaders, many of them BSC alums, who continue to move the city
forward and who recognize the compatibility of major economic
development and human rights.
FRAMING 50 YEARS
irmingham will always be regarded as the cradle of the civil
rights movement; the city is known wordwide for its
historic role, especially the dramatic events of 1963.
Amina El Halawani, a visiting Fulbright Fellow and BSC
Foreign Language Teaching Assistant from Egypt, says she
was nervous about coming to Birmingham.
“Whenever I told anyone that I was going to Alabama, they would
instantly sing the first line of the song, ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’
People told me that Southerners are nice friendly people, based on
how they are portrayed in films, but some also pointed out the state’s
history of racial discrimination as something to be aware of during
my stay,” El Halawani says.
But when she arrived, she found a friendly, helpful city.
“Racial discrimination was definitely something of an issue, but
not as part of the culture, it was part of the history that the city
seems to celebrate destroying… It was the struggle for civil rights that
PARTNERS WITH THE CITY
Dr. Edward Shannon LaMonte
BSC Professor Emeritus
Dr. Neal R. Berte
BSC President 1976-2004