It was supposed to be a fling. Hanky-panky. Not quite a one-night stand…but close. 

One of those summer camp romances that come and go based on the calendar and setting sun. 

I assumed we both knew it was short-lived, but we never really talked about it. We were supposed to enjoy one another’s company…have a dinner or two…share some memories…and say goodbye as friends. 

Like magnesium…our affair would burn a white-hot 4,000 degrees. And just like that… go out. 

But before I knew what was happening, my heart went pitter-pat, Alabama. 

I fooled around and fell in love with you. 

I came to Montgomery in the fall of 1999. I had been fired from a job in Augusta, Ga., at a country music station for talking too much in the evening slot. Any radio veteran will tell you it’s never harder to find a gig than when you don’t currently have one. I’ll admit, I was a little desperate to land ANY radio job and not go back to managing a Waffle House (NOT that there is anything wrong with that). 

A former boss was programming a talk station in the Capital City and said he could put in a good word for part-time work. A few traffic or news shifts and maybe a producer position. I figured if I played my cards right, I could parlay that into full-time work (elsewhere) in no time. 

Other than driving through, my first visit to Alabama was the day of my interview. Our downtown meeting went well enough to end in a job offer, and in a fit of ‘after glow’ exuberance I asked the receptionist what “Montgomery folks DO around here.” 

She immediately recommended I visit the grave of Hank Williams. She was dead serious. 

Damn, I love Alabama. 

I decided I wanted to stick around a while and see where this relationship was going. I spent almost three years in Montgomery, mostly at WACV - the radio home of my mentor, ’Dauntless’ Don Markwell. For the last 19, I’ve called the Birmingham area home. As program director of the Cumulus talk platform, I’ve had the privilege to launch a full-service community-based radio station - Talk 99.5. The last five years have been the most fulfilling of my radio career.  I will never forget all those who made it possible. Thank you. 

…and through all the years I’ve watched you, Alabama.  I watch and I admire you more each day.

I certainly didn’t know what to expect when I met you. Frankly speaking, I had heard…umm…things. Let’s just say your reputation in other parts of the country leaves a little to be desired. 

You know. The usual. No shoes. No bathrooms. No outsiders. 

I had heard about racism, poor utility grids, poor education, and backward thinking.  

But I learned early on it wasn’t true. The reputation placed on you by parts of the nation (who never bothered to visit) is as much #fakenews as Chris Cuomo supporting the #MeToo movement. 

I learned you’re as sophisticated as they come. Just ask Mercedes, Toyota, Thyssenkrupp, Amazon and hundreds of others. 

I learned about your humanity on 9/11 when we all watched in horror and prayed together. I learned your resolve as we steeled ourselves for the fight to come against the terrorists who attacked us.

I learned about your perseverance and generosity after the devastation of April 27th. Our state came together and helped our neighbors with a grace and charity which made my heart swell with pride. That spirit was on full display when our radio listeners filled TEN tractor-trailer loads of supplies for those who lost everything that day. 

I think of the elderly couple who pulled up to our Highway 150 donation site in their old beat-up Buick and humbly gave me three bottles of water and change. CHANGE. 

I never fail to cry remembering the precious angel in that car looking up at me and saying, “It’s all we had…but we wanted to give something to help our neighbors.”

She told me she wished she could do more. I told her she gave more than any other person that day. She gave us all her heart.

And I fell in love all over again, Alabama. 

I love your compassion and pride. I love your fierce loyalty and unwavering independence. I love your survivor spirit. 

And as a Georgia Bulldog…I SURE have learned about your winning attitude. Every Saturday in the fall. I guess I’ve learned to love that too. 

I love how strong you are. Over and over again you pick yourself up and move forward with dignity and kindness. You are never afraid to walk your own road or too self-important to stop and help others along the way. 

For those who have heard me talk about him…You remind me a lot of my beloved “Pa”. That’s high praise. 

Many of you have heard I have accepted an opportunity up radio road in Nashville, TN. After 21 years, Alabama will no longer be my constant companion, but only welcome me as an occasional guest. I hope I can learn to love Tennessee like I have loved you, Alabama. They sure have mighty shoes to fill. 

But back to the beginning. 

On a fall day in 1999, I walked out of the Colonial Bank building in downtown Montgomery. I jumped into my old Volkswagen Golf and somehow found my way to Oakwood Cemetery. I visited Hank Williams like I was told I should. It did not disappoint. 

As the sun set on my first day in Alabama, I began to see the light and after 21 years, Alabama has become home. I hope I have made you proud. I hope you will miss me…for God knows I sure will miss you. 

I cannot express how much I have enjoyed spending these last two decades together. Thank you.

All of you. 

Never a goodbye. 

…just so long. 

I love you.