“My father-in-law bought this building in an auction from UAB. It was a good part of his liquidation business, but it was a big, ugly building with a huge sidewall on the railroad tracks in West End in Birmingham. I have a love of art and was deeply affected by the Wynwood Walls warehouse district in Miami Beach where they let artists paint whole buildings. It shows how artists and murals can change an area. I wanted to be a part of change like that on the West end with art that carries happiness into people’s lives whether they know it or not.
It took me a couple of years to figure out how to do it. I live in Montevallo and started talking about murals with art students at the University of Montevallo. Marcus Fetch has been spreading love through murals all over Birmingham. The length of my building was something he wanted to conquer. I told him I wanted a mural that gives the residents of this neighborhood a bright feeling when they see it. Something that has so much heart that not just your eyes but your heart takes it in and you have to stop and come back. Marcus did all of this with spray cans using projections on the wall at night. He said the art is easy, the letters are the hard part. He did it so well.
The weekend before Marcus finished the mural, I stopped across the railroad tracks to take pictures. A carload of young Black guys pulled over in front of me and turned the music down. One guy hung out of the passenger side. He pointed at the mural and looked back at me and said that is awesome. That response is better than anything I could have hoped for. A neighbor and The Cajun Bistro across the street said they get questions every day about the mural and people asking if they can take pictures. That makes me smile in my soul. I hope it’s just begun. I want kids to see what they can be when they look at this wall.
This mural has also been healing for me during a difficult year. I lost my mother and my teenage son. I used the little money my mother left me on the mural. She would be proud because she grew up here and loved this area. She liked to think it might come back one day. My son, Charlie, passed away in February. He had just turned 18. He and I did everything together. We were building a rat rod hot rod. I took it to Mobile for a friend to finish. Charlie would have loved this mural because he had the same artistic bent. I can barely play the radio, but Charlie had the music in him. He also worked with me for six or eight months cleaning out this building. I am thankful for that time with him. I am getting through their loss with art, God and friends.
I want Charlie to be remembered for his heart. He did everything he could for his friends to help them make reasonable decisions. Over 2,000 people attended his funeral. There were so many people he affected that I didn’t know. It was good to know he was a guy who loved and meant it. I miss them so much every day, but their spirit is here and they will keep making a difference in this community.
My mother was Miss Fairfield in 1952. She was in a nursing home before she died. I ate dinner with her twice a week and she told me of stories of growing up here. My father was a steelworker. He told me never to take a job at a mill or a plant. Do something that makes you happy and feeds you as well. The mill fed us, but it was paycheck to paycheck and always mortgaged.
I had no intention of going to college. My mother worked at UAB and got me a job in the printing facility. I loved my job but I was never going to make more than $11 an hour. My now wife of 30 years said she was going off to college. I could go with her or we were going to break up. So I went to college at the University of South Alabama. I owe everything that is good in my life to her. I now tell my children every day that your life is up to you.
My father-in-law started The Liquidators business in 1977. This building is full of relics from the old restaurants that he liquidated and I have liquidated since taking over. I am trying to decorate it with old signs and pictures. People are surprised when they walk in.
My family and friends mean everything to me. We have a big annual campout on our farm the first weekend in November and between 250 and 350 people camp out with us. We have a stage with music and karaoke. My wife also runs a horse rescue on our farm.
I had bypass surgery in October. God must still have plans for me because I had no symptoms. Through my own stupidity I gave myself a hernia which led to finding an 80-percent blocked widowmaker artery. The artery on the right side was completely blocked. I am very blessed or very fortunate. Either way, I hope to fulfill whatever it is I am supposed to do.”