I am going to give a high compliment to the book by Dr. Karl Stegall of Montgomery. "An Amazing Alabama: A county-by-county journey around the great state of Alabama" is like something I would have written myself.
Stegall, a retired longtime Alabama Methodist minister, got the idea for narrating a drive through Alabama when a scruffy-looking Peter Jenkins walked into Stegall's Montgomery church service. National Geographic had contracted Jenkins to walk across America and write a book about it. Jenkins' travel book later hit #1 on bestseller lists. That got the attention of Karl Stegall. After retiring, Stegall and his wife made a similar journey to all 67 counties of Alabama, and this book tells the stories plural.
Stegall is well-qualified to tell the stories of Alabama's unusual places and people because he has met many of the people and "heard tell of" the rest. In each stop, Stegall tells of the difference-making native sons. Those who know Stegall will not be surprised that dozens of his stories are about local athletes, Methodist leaders, business successes and politicians—also, unusual restaurants, homes, businesses, buildings and monuments.
If you want a feel for the Alabama of the past 80 years and how we got from there to here, "An Amazing Alabama" can be your textbook. Also, it is a refresher course in Alabama geography. From the Alabama coast in Baldwin and Mobile Counties to Lookout Mountain and Sand Mountain in northerly Marshall, DeKalb and Jackson Counties, the Stegall couple chronicled a diversity of places and people.
Did you know there is a Havana, Alabama? The tiny town in West Alabama's Sumter County was home to a leader in education for women and prison reform, Julia Tutwiler. She also wrote the state song, which aptly parallels Karl Stegall's book:
Alabama, Alabama, We will aye be true to thee,
From thy Southern shores where groweth, By the sea thine orange tree.
To thy Northern vale where floweth, Deep and blue the Tennessee, Alabama, Alabama, We will aye be true to thee!
Little, little can I give thee, Alabama, mother mine.
But that little - hand, brain, spirit. All I have and am, are thine.
Take, O take, the gift and giver. Take and serve thyself with me. Alabama, Alabama, we will aye be true to thee!
The 296-page paperback can be purchased for $22 at:
P.O. Box 241661
Montgomery, AL 36124
What a thoughtful gift for Christmas or birthdays to those fascinated by all things Alabama.
The reviewer, Jim Zeigler, is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at [email protected].
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