The University of Alabama has been home to many legends. Some examples of these legends are highlighted below. The list will be updated periodically. We invite you to submit your own suggestion for a legend.
Born Melvin Allen Israel, he was a student manager for the Crimson Tide’s football and baseball programs before receiving a chance to do play-by-play for UA football games. He earned undergraduate and law degrees from UA before winning an audition to announce in New York for CBS Radio in 1936. Allen broadcast his first World Series in 1938 and joined the Yankees the following year, where he stayed for the next 25 seasons. He was the voice of the Yankees from 1939 to 1964 and would wrap up his 58-year career in sports broadcasting having called thousands of Yankees games, 24 MLB World Series, 20 All-Star Games, 14 Rose Bowls, five Orange Bowls, two Sugar Bowls and more than 2,000 newsreels. Allen was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as the inaugural winner of the Ford C. Frick winner in 1978.
William B. Bankhead
William Bankhead served as the 42nd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1936 to 1940, representing both the 10th and 7th congressional districts in Alabama. He is the only Alabamian ever elected to the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives. His passion for politics was generational; his father was a U.S. Representative and Senator, his eldest brother was a U.S. Senator and his nephew was a U.S. Representative. Active on the UA campus, Bankhead was once a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity and played on UA’s first football team in 1892. After graduating from UA, he studied law at Georgetown University Law Center and was immediately admitted to the Bar in Alabama to practice law in Huntsville. His political career began with his appointment as a solicitor of the 14th judicial circuit of Alabama in 1910, and he served in this role in Jasper until 1914. He was also the father of Tallulah Bankhead, an acclaimed theatrical, radio and motion picture actress. Today in Alabama, portions of old US Highway 78 and the William B. Bankhead National Forest are named in his honor.
Hugo Black represented Alabama in the United States Senate from 1927 to 1937, and served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1937 to 1971. Black was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was the first of nine Roosevelt nominees to the Court. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential Supreme Court justices in the 20th century. Black was the fifth longest-serving justice in Supreme Court history. A graduate from the UA School of Law, Black passed away in 1971.
Winton Blount, Jr.
Known as Red Blount, he was appointed United States Postmaster General by President Richard Nixon, serving in that position from 1969 to 1972. He was the last Postmaster General within the Presidential Cabinet, and he led the privatization of the USPS, serving as its first director. Blount and his brother also founded a building contractor company, working on such projects as the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans and Cape Canaveral’s Complex 39A, which launched Apollo 11, and eventually sold to Lehman Brothers in 1999 for $1.35 billion. He was president of the United States Chamber of Commerce in 1968. His autobiography, Doing It My Way, was published in 1996. He and his wife were noted philanthropists and patrons of the arts, giving $21.5 million to establish a new home for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in 1985, the largest private donation to American theatre at the time. The Blount Foundation established the Blount Scholars Program at UA with a $7 million endowment in 1999. Blount passed away in 2002.
Nan Boden is Head of Global Alliances at Google where she leads the group within Google that is responsible for technology partnering with companies that build their businesses on Google Cloud Platform, Google Apps, Google Maps and Google for Education products. She joined Google in 2013 via acquisition in the division that designs, develops and deploys Google’s data centers, where she handled various strategy matters as well as mergers and acquisitions. Boden was formerly CEO of Myricom, a pioneer in high-performance computer networking and a successful Caltech spinoff. She started her career as a software engineer, and later moved into business roles such as EVP, CFO, member of Myricom’s Board of Directors and CEO. She earned a Ph.D. and master’s degree in computer science from Caltech and a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of Alabama. She also has an M.B.A. from UCLA Anderson. She is a native of Athens, Alabama.
Norbert Leo Butz
This UA graduate is a two-time winner of the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, and one of only nine to win the award twice as lead actor. He made his Broadway debut in 1996 in Rent, and went on to star in Thou Shalt Not (for which he won a 2002 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical), Wicked and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (for which he received the 2005 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical). He also won a Tony Award for Catch Me if You Can in 2011. His television credits include Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The Good Wife, Blue Bloods, Bloodline and Mercy Street. A native of St. Louis, he studied theatre in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s University of Alabama-sponsored Master of Fine Arts/Professional Actor Training Program.
Sylvia Hitchcock Carson
Dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world in 1967, Sylvia Hitchcock Carson ascended from anonymity to the peak of pageant success. She represented Alabama in the Miss USA pageant in 1967, winning the Miss USA title and ultimately becoming Miss Universe that same year. She is one of eight women in history who were Miss USA winners and who then went on to wear the Miss Universe crown. She studied art at The University of Alabama. Following her reign as Miss Universe, she modeled briefly in New York and acted in commercials before moving to Miami to work for a television station.
Originally from Tuscaloosa, Cherones began working in educational television while a student at UA. He is a director and producer, best known for his work directing Seinfeld, which won him an Emmy and a Golden Globe. In 2003, he was inducted into the Alabama Stage and Screen Hall of Fame. In 2012, he published his first novel, The Hardly Boys, a parody of the popular Hardy Boys books. In the early 2000s, he taught film production at UA.
Mark Childress is an American novelist. He wrote the screenplay for the film “Crazy in Alabama,” based on his own 1993 novel by the same name. Born in Monroeville, Alabama, he has written seven novels and three children’s books. One of his novels, “One Mississippi,” was a BookSense Notable Book of the Year. After graduating from The University of Alabama in 1978, Childress worked for The Birmingham News, Southern Living magazine and The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He has been writing fiction full time since 1987. Childress has received the Thomas Wolfe Award, the University of Alabama’s Distinguished Alumni Award and the Alabama Library Association’s Writer of the Year.
William Christenberry received his bachelor's and master's degrees from The University of Alabama, where he studied sculpture, painting and drawing. He has been described as one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century. Christenberry began his career as an abstract painter in New York City and evolved to create sculptures and collages, but he was most acclaimed for his photographs, which were primarily taken in Hale County and rural West Alabama, not far from his hometown of Tuscaloosa. After moving to Washington D.C. in 1968, he taught at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, where he remained on faculty throughout his professional career. Some of his work is part of the permanent collection of UA’s Sarah Moody Gallery of Art.
Woodrow Wilson Clements
W. W. “Foots” Clements was the president and CEO of the Dr. Pepper Company, taking it from a regional Texas soft drink into a global brand. Clements started selling Dr. Pepper in 1935 from a delivery truck when he was a student at The University of Alabama, where he had transferred after two years at Howard College in Birmingham. Clements became president and chief operating officer in 1969 and chairman of the board in 1974. He was chairman until 1986 and a director until 1995. He became chairman emeritus in 1986. He was born in Windham Springs, Alabama.
John Cochran graduated from UA with a degree in broadcast and film in 1963. A Montgomery native, he worked at NBC News, first as Pentagon correspondent, then as chief foreign correspondent from 1977 to 1987. He was NBC’s chief diplomatic correspondent and chief White House correspondent before joining ABC News as chief Capitol Hill correspondent in 1994, and retiring in 2011. Cochran has received three Emmy awards for his reporting, the last for his part in ABC News coverage of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He also received the Peabody and Alfred I. duPont awards for his role in the ABC News coverage of the attacks. Cochran has received UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences' Outstanding Alumnus Award, Distinguished Achievement Award and was inducted to its Hall of Fame in 2001. He also serves on the Board of Visitors for the College. In 1999, the University awarded him an honorary doctor of humane letters.
A 1987 graduate of The University of Alabama, Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent and a regular contributor to “CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley,” “CBS This Morning,” and “Face The Nation.” She joined CBS News in 2009. She is a recognized authority on the Supreme Court, and her book “Supreme Court Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court” (2007) gained critical acclaim and became a New York Times Bestseller. She began covering the Court in 1994 for the Chicago Tribune before becoming a law and political correspondent for ABC News, PBS and CBS News. She is also a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and has taught journalism at American University.
Bruce Culpepper was U.S. country chair and president of Shell Oil Company from April 2016 until his retirement in December 2019. In this role, he is charged with establishing and advocating for innovative, industry-leading solutions for securing safe, stable and sustainable energy sources. He has also led regional coordination for Shell in the Americas and currently oversees corporate reputation initiatives and social investment programs in the United States. He graduated with honors from The University of Alabama in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in human resources management. Shortly thereafter, he began his 30 plus year career with Shell at the Norco Manufacturing Complex in Louisiana. Since then, he has served in a number of leadership positions of increasing responsibility and scope -- both internationally and in the United States. He is a native of Fyffe, Alabama.
Laurece "Rece" Davis
Rece Davis is a sports television journalist for ESPN. He is an anchor on SportsCenter, and serves as host of various other programs on the network, including College GameDay football road show. Davis grew up in Muscle Shoals and graduated from UA in 1988 with degrees in Broadcast News and Public Affairs. While a student at Alabama, he regularly worked as a freelance television play-by-play announcer, studio host and radio personality. He was named an outstanding alumnus of The University of Alabama's College of Communication and Information Sciences in 2001.
Legends: Who They Are
Legends: Where They're From
Legends: How They're Made
Samuel DiPiazza, Jr.
Samuel DiPiazza served as CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the largest professional services firm in the world, from 2002 to 2009, having previously served as Chairman of the U. S. firm. Since 2014, he has served as Chairman of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. He serves his community in many ways, from working with inner city schools in New York City’s most challenging neighborhoods to serving on the Executive Committee of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center and serving as a Trustee of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. He is an internationally recognized author and commentator in fields such as corporate reporting, transparency, anti-corruption and sustainable development. DiPiazza received his degree in accounting from The University of Alabama in 1972.
Douglas Edwards was an American news television anchor who worked at CBS news from 1948 to 1988, anchoring its nightly news broadcast from 1948 to 1962. Edwards grew up in Birmingham and attended The University of Alabama. In the 1930's, he worked for radio station WXYZ in Detroit, along with another up-and-coming broadcaster, Mike Wallace. By the time he joined CBS in 1942, he already had 10 years of broadcast experience. Among the many people he interviewed were Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. He was one of the first television reporters to work on location, providing an on-the-scene report when Puerto Rican nationalists shot five Congressmen in the House of Representatives in 1954 and an exclusive eyewitness account of the sinking of the Italian liner Andrea Doria in 1956. That year, Edwards won the George Foster Peabody Award for "best television news."
In 1990, Carl Elliott became the first recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. A champion for equal rights for minorities and the underprivileged, Congressman Elliot collaborated with Senator J. Lister Hill to author the National Defense Education Act, also known as the Hill-Elliot Act. In 1956, he authored the Library Services Act, which brought mobile libraries (bookmobiles) to millions of rural Americans. Born in rural Franklin County, Alabama, Elliott is rumored to have entered The University of Alabama with only $2.30 in his pocket. Despite his own early struggles, he successfully worked several jobs while in college, was elected president of the student body and was the first person in his family to graduate with undergraduate and law degrees. Elliot was an attorney and an eight-term congressman for Alabama’s 7th congressional district. The Elliott Society, a community-service-based university wide honorary dedicated to social justice, is named in honor of the late Carl Elliot.
Chris Emerson is president of Airbus Defense and Space, Inc., a subsidiary of Airbus Americas. He previously served as president of Airbus Helicopters and head of the North America Region from 2015 to 2019. Emerson started his career in 1996 with Mercedes Benz U. S. International in Alabama, the first off-shore Mercedes-Benz plant outside of Germany. In 2000, he joined DaimlerChrysler Aerospace in Germany and was part of the internal team that formed EADS (today Airbus Group). In 2003, he was appointed senior vice president and chief financial officer to establish EADS North America, responsible for executing U. S. Department of Defense contracts and serving as the head of investor relations. He then became head of Airbus Future Programmes and Product Strategy and led the internal team that established the Mobile, Alabama final assembly line in 2012. Before becoming president of Airbus Helicopters, Emerson served as senior vice president/head of marketing at Airbus. He graduated from The University of Alabama with a degree in international finance.
A film and television actor, Emerson is best known for his roles as Harold Finch on the CBS series Person of Interest and William Hinks on The Practice. He also played Benjamin Linus on the serial drama television series Lost, and has worked extensively in theatre and narration. Emerson has won two Primetime Emmy Awards and been nominated for three others. He met his wife, Carrie Preston, also his co-star on Person of Interest, while performing in a stage production of Hamlet in Alabama. Emerson and Preston teamed up to read A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 1993, he enrolled in the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s University of Alabama-sponsored Master of Fine Arts/Professional Actor Training Program, graduating in 1995.
Autherine Lucy Foster
Autherine Lucy Foster was the first African-American student to attend The University of Alabama in 1956. Although she was accepted in 1952, her admittance was rescinded when it was discovered she was not white. Backed by the NAACP, she charged UA with racial discrimination in a court case that took almost three years to resolve. On June 29, 1955, the NAACP secured a court order preventing the University from rejecting her admission application. On February 3, 1956, Lucy attended her first class as a graduate student in library science, becoming the first African American ever admitted to a white public school or university in Alabama. Campus riots broke out three days later, and the university removed Lucy for her own safety. Her expulsion was officially annulled in 1988. A year later, she again enrolled at the University, joining her daughter, Grazia Foster, who was also a student at the Capstone by that time. They graduated together in 1992 with Autherine earning a master’s degree in elementary education and Grazia earning a bachelor’s degree in corporate finance. The University named an endowed fellowship in her honor that year and dedicated the Autherine Lucy Clock Tower in 2010, honoring her as one of three individuals who pioneered desegregation at The University of Alabama. In 2017, Foster was honored with the Autherine Lucy Foster marker, located in front of Graves Hall.
Millard Fuller was the founder and former president of Habitat for Humanity International and is widely known as the leader of the modern-day movement for affordable housing. He rose from humble beginnings to being a young, self-made millionaire by the age of 29. He received a law degree from UA in 1960, and in 1968 he gave up his wealth to focus on Christian service. During his lifetime, he received numerous awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. In 1996 Fuller was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. He passed away in 2009.
Joseph E. Gibbs
Joe Gibbs developed the concept for The Golf Channel in 1991 and launched it in 1995 with co-founder Arnold Palmer. Gibbs served as its vice president, chairman and CEO from 1991 until 2001. It was among the first cable networks developed that covered one singular sport, and is now seen in approximately 200 million television households in 84 countries and 11 languages. Gibbs, a cable and cellular phone entrepreneur from Birmingham, earned a bachelor’s degree from UA in 1975.
Legends: Who They Are
Legends: Where They're From
Legends: How They're Made
Charles “Chuck” Gordon
Chuck Gordon is an American film producer, whose film credits include “Die Hard,” “Die Hard II: Die Harder” and “Field of Dreams.” His films have grossed more than $1 billion worldwide since 1988. Following his graduation from UA with a degree in history, Gordon moved to Los Angeles and began working with famed producer Aaron Spelling. From Aaron Spelling Productions, Gordon went to the William Morris Agency where he became an agent in the variety television department, working on such shows as “Sonny & Cher,” “Dick Van Dyke,” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” He then spent 10 years writing for television and movies before going into movie production.
Huban Gowadia is acting administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). She assesses intelligence and threats related to transportation security and is responsible for a workforce of 60,000 employees charged with protecting U.S. transportation systems and the traveling public. Prior to joining TSA, she was director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security where she led DHS’s coordinated efforts to protect the U.S. from nuclear attack. Under her direction, DHS advanced its national nuclear forensics capabilities and coordinated government-wide efforts to detect, analyze and report on nuclear and other radioactive materials. She also led the Countermeasures Test Bed, evaluating next-generation technologies for detecting explosives and nuclear materials, operational requirements and response protocols. Her career began at the Federal Aviation Administration in 2000 working on aviation security technologies and policy. After September 11, 2001, she led TSA’s initiative to replace all walk-through metal detectors at airports with enhanced systems. She received her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from The University of Alabama and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from Pennsylvania State University.
Novelist Winston Groom, grew up in Mobile County and graduated from The University of Alabama in 1965. At UA, he was a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity and the Army ROTC. He served in the Army’s Fourth Infantry Division from 1965 to 1969, which included a tour of duty in the Vietnam War. After returning to the United States, Groom worked as a reporter for the Washington Star before turning his attention to writing novels. Author of sixteen books, Groom’s biggest success was Forrest Gump, which was later turned into a 1994 movie, featuring actor Tom Hanks. The film was a cultural sensation and won six Academy Awards. He published a sequel, Gump and Co., in 1995. He has also written numerous non-fiction works on diverse subjects, including the Civil War, World War I and Crimson Tide football. Groom’s book, Conversations with the Enemy was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and his most recent novel, El Paso, was published in 2016.
Janet Gurwitch co-founded Gurwitch Products in 1995 and launched the Laura Mercier Cosmetics line in 1996. She began her career at Foley’s department store in Houston, finishing as Senior Vice President of Merchandising, before moving to Neiman Marcus as Executive Vice President. She co-founded her company to market a boutique line of cosmetics bearing the name of French makeup artist Laura Mercier. She sold Laura Mercier to Alticor in 2006. She is a partner at Castanea Partners, a Boston-based equity firm, where she serves on the board of Drybar and First Aid Beauty. She was also on the board of directors of La-Z-Boy and Urban Decay. She is an investor in, and serves on the board of, the Houston Astros baseball team. She received a bachelor’s degree in fashion retailing from The University of Alabama.
Legends: Who They Are
Legends: Where They're From
Legends: How They're Made
John Samuel Hendricks
The Discovery Channel was founded in 1982 by John Hendricks while he was founder and chairman of Discovery Communications. He retired in 2014 after 32 years at the helm. As a leading visionary in the media industry, Hendricks has been honored with a Primetime Emmy Award and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences highest honor, the Governor’s Award, for conceiving the TLC series, Great Books. He received the National Education Association’s Friend of Education award for expanding educational opportunities for America’s schoolchildren, and he was inducted into the Cable Center Hall of Fame in 2003 for his service to the cable industry. Hendricks has served on the Board of Directors of a number of organizations, including the American Film Institute. Prior to 1982, he founded and served as president of the American Association of University Consultants. He attended UA for two years before transferring to the University of Alabama, Huntsville, where he received a bachelor’s degree in history and an honorary doctorate.
Marillyn Hewson is chairman, president and chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin Corporation, where she has worked for more than 35 years. She was named one of TIME magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” for 2019, and in July 2018, she was designated CEO of the Year by Chief Executive magazine. Hewson also has been recognized as No. 1 on Fortune magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” in 2018, a top 10 “Business Person of the Year” by Fortune and one of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” by Forbes. In addition to leading Lockheed Martin, she has served on numerous boards and currently sits on the board of directors of DowDuPont, the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, the Board of Governors of the USO, the board of directors of Catalyst, and the executive committee of the Aerospace Industries Association and The Business Roundtable. She is also on the board of visitors of UA’s Culverhouse College of Business. Hewson earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in economics from UA.
Vicki Hollub became the first female CEO of a major U.S. oil and gas company in April 2016 when she was named president and chief executive officer of Houston-based Occidental Petroleum Corporation. She has worked at Occidental since 1981, and was previously president and chief operating officer, where she managed Occidental’s worldwide oil and gas operations, as well as the company’s chemicals and midstream operations. She has held a variety of positions on three continents, including roles in Russia, Venezuela, Ecuador and the United States. In October 2018, Fortune magazine named her #28 on its Most Powerful Women list. She is a 1981 graduate of The University of Alabama, earning a bachelor’s degree in mineral engineering. She is a native of Bessemer, Alabama.
Legends: Who They Are
Legends: Where They're From
Legends: How They're Made
James Hood was one of the first African Americans to attend The University of Alabama, along with Vivian Malone Jones. In 1963, he and Vivian Malone arrived on campus with the intention to enroll. Waiting for them and blocking the entrance to Foster Auditorium was Governor George Wallace. President John F. Kennedy eventually forced Wallace to permit their entry to the university. Hood left the university after only two months, but returned in 1995 to earn his doctorate degree. He received his Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies in 1997. Hood passed away in 2013.
Frank Minis Johnson
Frank Minis Johnson was a United States Federal judge, serving from 1955-1999 at the District and Appeals court levels. Johnson was said to have “altered forever the face of the South” after making a number of landmark civil rights rulings that helped end segregation in the South. President Eisenhower named him U.S. District Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama and then to the federal bench. In 1956, Johnson ruled in favor of Rosa Parks, striking down the “blacks in the back of the bus” law. In 1965, Johnson struck down attempts to block the Selma voting rights march led by Martin Luther King Jr. President Carter nominated Johnson as FBI director in 1977, but an aneurysm forced him to withdraw. He earned both a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from The University of Alabama.
Vivian Malone Jones
Vivian Malone Jones was one of the first two African American students to attend UA and the university’s first African American graduate. In 1963, she and James Hood arrived on campus with the intention to enroll. Waiting for them and blocking the entrance to Foster Auditorium was Governor George Wallace. President John F. Kennedy eventually forced Wallace to permit their entry to the university. Malone was accepted as a junior and graduated in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in business management. She later worked at the U.S. Department of Justice, the U. S. Veteran’s Administration and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, and became executive director of the Voter Education Project. In 2000, The University of Alabama bestowed on her a doctorate in humane letters. She passed away in 2005.
Maud McLure Kelly
An American lawyer, suffragist and historian, Maud McLure Kelly was the first woman to practice law in the state of Alabama and worked for the Alabama Department of Archives and History after her retirement from law. She wrote the entrance exam for the University of Alabama School of Law in 1907 and was admitted as the school's second-ever female student. She graduated a year later third in her class and was admitted to the Alabama bar. In 1914, having been nominated by William Jennings Bryan, she became the first Southern woman admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. She worked as a federal attorney for the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. before returning to her practice in Birmingham in 1924. She closed the practice and ended her legal work in 1931. Kelly passed away in 1973.
Nelle Harper Lee, better known by her pen name Harper Lee, was an American novelist widely known for To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. Immediately successful, it won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize and has become a classic of modern American literature. Though Lee had only published this single book, in 2007 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature. She was also known for assisting her close friend Truman Capote in his research for the book In Cold Blood (1966). Capote was the basis for the character Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird. Another novel, Go Set a Watchman, was written in the mid-1950s and published in 2015 as a sequel, though it was later confirmed to be To Kill a Mockingbird's first draft. Lee studied law at UA for several years and served as editor of the campus newspaper, but did not finish her degree. Lee received an honorary doctorate from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1990. She passed away in 2016.
Robert Lightfoot was NASA’s acting administrator and highest-ranking civil servant, before joining Lockheed Martin in 2019 as its vice president in charge of strategy and advanced technology for the corporation’s $9 billion Space business area. Lightfoot joined NASA in 1989 as a test engineer and program manager at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He moved to NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in 1999 as chief of propulsion test operations and became deputy director of the Propulsion Test Directorate at Stennis in 2001 and director in 2002. Lightfoot moved to the Office of Space Operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. in 2003 before being named Marshall’s director in 2009. Lightfoot was named NASA’s associate administrator in 2012 before becoming acting administrator in January 2017. His permanent title is associate administrator for NASA, the agency’s highest-ranking civil servant position. A native of Montevallo, Alabama, Lightfoot has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from The University of Alabama. He was named a Distinguished Departmental Fellow for UA’s Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2007 and selected as a UA College of Engineering Fellow in 2009. He also serves on the University’s Mechanical Engineering Advisory Board. He received NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2007.
Sonequa Martin-Green is best known for her role as Sasha Williams in the television hit “The Walking Dead.” In 2016, she was awarded a role as a lead actress in “Star Trek: The Discovery” as a lieutenant commander of the USS Discovery, making her the first African-American woman to lead the cast of a “Star Trek” ensemble. Martin-Green also had recurring roles on television in “The Good Wife,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Army Wives,” and “NYC-22” and appeared on episodes of “Lip Sync Battle” and “New Girl.” She will join LeBron James and a host of other NBA superstars in a lead role in “Space Jam 2,” which will open in theatres in 2021. A native of Russellville, Alabama, Martin-Green graduated from The University of Alabama in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in theatre.
Richard M. Myers
Known for his passion for changing the world through genomics, Richard Myers served as professor and chair in the department of genetics at Stanford University from 1993-2008, where his work contributed to more than 10 percent of the data for the Human Genome Project. Myers was born in Selma, Alabama and moved to Tuscaloosa at age 10. He received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from The University of Alabama in 1976 and his doctoral degree in biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1982. He then completed his postdoctoral training at Harvard University and served on the faculty at the University of California at San Francisco for seven years before moving to Stanford. Since 2008, Myers has served as the president, scientific director and faculty investigator for the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama, which has advanced the understanding and treatment of conditions from ALS to childhood genetic disorders. The institute also operates as a global leader in whole genome sequencing and using genomics in medicine and agriculture. Myers has received numerous awards, including the UA Darden Lecture Award in 2002, the UA Blount Initiative Award in 2003 and an Honorary Doctorate in Human Letters from UA in 2005. In 2018, he was named as one of the most cited researchers in the world.
Jim Nabors is an actor and singer. He attended the University of Alabama, where he began acting in skits. A native of Sylacauga, he moved to southern California because of his asthma after graduation. While working at a Santa Monica nightclub, he was discovered by Andy Griffith and later joined The Andy Griffith Show, playing Gomer Pyle. The character proved popular, and Nabors was given his own spin-off show. He also became a popular guest on variety shows in the 1960s and 1970s (including two specials of his own), which showcased his rich baritone voice. He subsequently recorded numerous albums and singles, most of them containing romantic ballads.
Barbara Lynne Park was an American author of children’s books. She is most well-known for the popular Junie B. Jones book series, follows the adventures of an opinionated kindergartner with a penchant for mischief. The storyline was an immediate success, selling over 55 million copies and spending over 180 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Park graduated from UA in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education. She received seven Children’s Choice Awards and four Parents’ Choice Awards. Park also founded Sisters in Survival (SIS), a nonprofit organization that gives 100% of its donations to women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Best-selling author Lisa Patton received a bachelor’s degree in Communications from The University of Alabama in 1980. During her time at UA, she was a member of Kappa Delta, the first women’s sorority on the UA campus and the first women’s sorority in the state of Alabama. A native of Memphis, Patton has written three popular novels: Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter, Yankee Doodle Dixie and Southern as a Second Language. Patton’s education, campus experiences and exposure to Greek life influenced her most recent novel, Rush, which is set at a fictional sorority house and was released in 2018. She is also an accomplished event speaker.
Betsy Plank was known as a public relations pioneer, a champion of PR education and the First Lady of public relations. A 1944 graduate of the University of Alabama, Plank attained national and international stature during a distinguished career in corporate and agency public relations. She achieved multiple firsts for women, winning many top awards in the field. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Foundation established its first ever scholarship endowment fund in her name. Since then, the Betsy Plank Scholarship Endowment Fund has helped ensure the availability of public relations education funds for students at more than 40 colleges nationwide. In 2005, the Trustees of the University of Alabama established the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations. The Center’s mission is to develop research, scholarships, and forums that advance the ethical practice of public relations. She chaired its advisory board until her death in May 2010.
A writer, researcher and speaker, Rainer is the former president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, one of the world’s largest Christian resource providers. A 1977 graduate of The University of Alabama with degrees in statistics and economics, he began his career in banking before entering Christian vocational ministry in 1982. After earning his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he served as pastor of churches in four states before joining the faculty of SBTS in 1994 and becoming the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth. He also founded and served as president and CEO of the Rainer Group. He became the ninth president of Lifeway in 2005, and founded Lifeway Research shortly thereafter. He is the author of several books, including Simple Church, which has won several awards. He retired as president and CEO from Lifeway Christian Resources in 2019.
Cathy “Marie” Robinson has been Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Chief Operations Officer at Michael Kors since August 2015. She previously held the position of Senior Vice President, Global Operations. Prior to joining Michael Kors, she was Senior Vice President and Chief Logistics Officer at ToysRUs from 2012 to 2014, and Senior Vice President of Supply, Logistics and Customer Experience at The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company from 2010 to 2012. She began her career as a United States Army Logistics Office and also held various logistics and operations positions at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. She graduated from The University of Alabama in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in communication. She later obtained a master’s degree in leadership and organizational studies from Azusa Pacific University.
Joe Scarborough is an American cable news and talk radio host, lawyer, author and former politician. He is the co-host of Morning Joe on MSNBC, and previously hosted Scarborough Country on the same channel. Scarborough served in the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 2001 as a Representative from the 1st district of Florida. He was named by Time magazine one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2011. He holds a bachelor’s degree from UA.
Winston Mackinley Scott
Winston Mackinley Scott received the Distinguished Intelligence Medal from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Born in Jemison, Ala., Scott graduated from UA with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1931 and a master’s degree in math in 1933. After a brief teaching career, he joined the FBI as a special agent in 1941. After being stationed in Germany and serving as the CIA’s first London station chief, Scott became head of the Western European division of the Office of Special Operations, and oversaw espionage throughout Western Europe. During his career, he was involved in the investigation into Lee Harvey Oswald’s ties to Cuba and the Tlatelolco Massacre of 1968. Following his death in 1971, Scott’s son won a lawsuit against the CIA for confiscating his father’s unpublished memoirs, but upon return of the manuscript, everything about his father’s life after 1947 had been removed on grounds of national security. A book based on Scott’s memoirs was published in 2008 under the title: Our Man in Mexico – Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA.
A 1983 UA alumna, Joan “Jody” Singer was appointed as director of Marshall Space Flight Center in September 2018 after working as acting director. She is the first woman to be appointed to the position. In this capacity, Singer will draw upon three decades of management experience to lead one of NASA’s largest field installations, with almost 6,000 civil service and contractor employees and an annual budget of nearly $2.8 billion. She began her career with NASA in 1985 as an engineer in NASA’s professional intern program. Over the years, she served in numerous roles, including as the first female project manager for the Reusable Solid Rocket Booster Project and as manager of the Flight Programs and Partnerships Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. She is a native of Hartselle, Alabama.
Alma Gates Scroggins
Alma Gates Scroggins spent 30 years with Turner Broadcasting System Inc., and was with CNN from its infancy, serving as the news group’s executive vice president and chief financial officer. A UA graduate, she received the University’s 2003 National Alumni Association Distinguished Alumna Award and was inducted into the 2015 Alabama Business Hall of Fame. She is a life member of the Culverhouse College of Commerce Board of Visitors.
Richard and Annette Shelby
The University of Alabama’s interdisciplinary science and engineering complex, Shelby Hall, is named after U.S. Senator Richard Shelby and his wife, Dr. Annette N. Shelby. The $58.2 million building, which was dedicated in 2004, is one of the largest academic buildings on the UA campus. Richard Shelby, Alabama’s senior United States senator, is a graduate of The University of Alabama’s undergraduate and law programs. He was elected to the Senate in 1986 and has chaired numerous committees and subcommittees. Annette Shelby specializes in management communication and has served as associate editor of the Journal of Management Communication, associate editor of the Journal of Financial Research, and on the editorial board of the Journal of Business Communication. She holds graduate and undergraduate degrees from The University of Alabama and is a former professor at UA.
Debra Shriver is senior vice president and chief communications officer of The Hearst Corporation, one of the nation’s largest private diversified media and information companies. She serves as primary spokesperson and chief communications strategist, handles corporate marketing, advertising and events, and oversees charitable and philanthropic endeavors. Prior to joining Hearst in 1996, she held executive positions with the Newspaper Association of America, MCI Communications Corporation (now MCI WorldCom), the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency. Early in her career, she was a newspaper reporter for Gannett Company Inc. She holds two degrees from The University of Alabama – a bachelor’s in advertising and a master’s in journalism.
Chester “Chet” Simmons was a television executive who worked at ABC Sports, NBC Sports and ESPN, and later became the first Commissioner of the USFL (United States Football League). From 1957 to 1964, he helped build ABC Sports into a leader in sports programming and was a key part of the development of “Wide World of Sports.” He joined NBC Sports in 1964 where he stayed for 15 years becoming its first president in 1977. At NBC, he pioneered instant replay and coverage of the Olympics and NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four. Simmons left NBC in 1979 to join ESPN becoming its second president. He oversaw the launch of ESPN, the development of SportsCenter and the first broadcasts of the NFL draft. Simmons received the Sports Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 and was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2010. He is a member of The University of Alabama College of Communications and Information Sciences Hall of Fame. He received a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting from UA in 1950.
Kathryn Stockett is best known for her 2009 debut novel, The Help, which spent more than 100 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list. She worked in magazine publishing in New York before publishing her first novel, which took her five years to complete. The book was rejected by 60 literary agents before its successful launch, and is now published in 42 languages. She graduated from The University of Alabama with a degree in English and creative writing.
John Sullivan is well-known for his work in toxicology and is one of the nation’s top experts on the treatment of poisonous snakebites. He developed a rattlesnake bite anti-venom serum that today is the standard treatment, preferred for its greater effectiveness and lower toxicity. Sullivan also helped develop medication container features to prevent product tampering – cotton inserts and sealed foil coverings now commonly found in medication bottles – following seven Tylenol-related deaths in Chicago in 1982 from capsules laced with potassium cyanide. He is associate professor of Emergency Medicine in the College of Medicine at The University of Arizona. He is associate medical director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center and maintains an active medical toxicology clinic practice in Tucson. He is a 1978 graduate.
A journalism graduate and member of Phi Sigma Kappa, Talese was sports editor for The Crimson White. He went on to work for the New York Times and Esquire magazine. His most famous articles are about Joe DiMaggio and Frank Sinatra. He has written several books, including Honor Thy Father, Thy Neighbor’s Wife and A Writer’s Life, his autobiography. He received the Norman Mailer Prize for Distinguished Journalism in 2011.
Robert Jemison Van de Graaff
Well-known in engineering and science, Robert Jemison Van de Graaff invented an electrostatic generator that could produce high voltages. Later known as the Van de Graaff generator, it was the precursor for modern study of particle acceleration and was used both in research and commercially in medicine, industry and the military. Van de Graaff was a native of Tuscaloosa, graduating from UA with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in engineering. A Rhodes Scholar, he later earned a doctorate in physics at Oxford University in England. He worked as a research fellow at Princeton University and was a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1934 until his retirement in 1960. While at MIT, he founded the High Voltage Engineering Corporation, the first company to manufacture particle accelerators.
Michael Vickers was appointed Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD-I) within the United States Department of Defense in 2010 by President Obama. As USD-I, he was the Defense Department’s top civilian military intelligence official. Previously, he served as United States Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict. Before joining the Defense Department, Vickers served in the Army Special Forces as both a non-commissioned and commissioned officer, as well as a Central Intelligence Agency paramilitary operations officer in its elite Special Activities Division. While at the CIA, he played a key role in arming the resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. His role was depicted in the 2003 book “Charlie Wilson’s War” and the 2007 movie adaptation. Vickers graduated from UA with honors before graduating from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and earning a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University.
Ann Wood Waldron was an author, who initially focused on writing for children and young adults, but turned her work to biographies of authors from the South, and eventually shifted to writing murder mysteries. She earned a degree in journalism from UA and was editor of The Crimson White. Waldron met her Pulitzer Prize-winner husband, Martin Waldron, while working for The Atlanta Constitution. Ann Waldron wrote biographies on Hodding Carter (Hodding Carter: The Reconstruction of a Racist) and Eudora Welty (Eudora Welty: A Writer’s Life). The latter was recognized by The New York Times as a 1993 Notable Book of the Year. Born in Birmingham, she passed away in 2010.
Jimmy Wales earned a master’s in finance from the University of Alabama before co-founding Wikipedia, the world’s largest encyclopedia, in 2001. Born in Huntsville, he currently lives in London. He is president of Wikia, Inc. and chair emeritus of Wikimedia Foundation. Time magazine named him one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2006.
A television and film actress from Meridian, Miss., Ward was UA’s Homecoming Queen, a Crimson Tide cheerleader and a member of Chi Omega sorority. She double-majored in fine art and advertising before finding success as a model and actress. She has won numerous awards, including Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards, for her work in television. Her most prominent roles on TV were in Once and Again, Sisters and, more recently, CSI:NY. On the big screen, she has been in 19 movies, including The Fugitive, Double Jeopardy, Gone Girl and Independence Day: Resurgence.
E. O. Wilson
Edward Osborne Wilson is an American biologist, researcher (sociobiology, biodiversity, island biogeography), theorist, naturalist and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, or the study of ants, on which he is considered to be the world's leading expert. Wilson is known for his scientific career, his role as "the father of sociobiology" and "the father of biodiversity," his environmental advocacy, and his secular-humanist and deist ideas pertaining to religious and ethical matters. Among his greatest contributions to ecological theory is the theory of island biogeography, which he developed in collaboration with the mathematical ecologist Robert MacArthur, which is seen as the foundation of the development of conservation area design, as well as the unified neutral theory of biodiversity of Stephen Hubbell. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree from UA. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction (for On Human Nature in 1979 and The Ants in 1991) and a New York Times bestseller for The Social Conquest of Earth, Letters to a Young Scientist and The Meaning of Human Existence.