“Chris and I were students at Auburn and met at a girl’s house. Chris went home that night and told her mother she met the man she was going to marry. Six months later I asked her out. We were married for 57 years. She didn’t say I love you, she said, ‘I love my life with you.’
Chris died nine months ago from a stroke. If you would have asked me 60 years ago if I could be married for 57 years in the most fantastic marriage, but at the end of that 57th year, she’ll be gone. Do you want it or take a chance on something else? I would say yes and do it all over again. I don’t want to ever get over losing her. This is a big club I’m in. One of you has to be the first to die.
There is so much gratitude for how good it was. I made furniture, stained glass windows and other things with 1 4 3. That means ‘I love you.’ When I retired, a reporter asked me what I’m most proud of, expecting something from my career or politics. I answered, ‘my marriage.’ The answer is still the same.
I was born and raised in Mobile and went to work for IBM in New Orleans in 1964. My father died in 1966. IBM let me move to Mobile to help my mother and sell computers here. President Lyndon Johnson closed Brookley Field in 1969 to punish the South for voting for Barry Goldwater. That closure wiped out 30 percent of Mobile’s economy and many businesses closed. It wasn’t a good time to sell computers.
A friend ran for the legislature and I ran for Mobile County Commission because we wanted seats at the table. At that time, those seats weren’t hard to get because no one wanted to be at the table. I took office on January 21, 1973. On February 4, I flew to Frankfurt, Germany to meet with Degussa chemical company about coming to Mobile. I was 31 years old and didn’t know what I was doing, but there was so much I got to learn and do. Things were so bad that anything I did was better than what we had. I enjoyed my two terms, but I didn’t want to be a career politician. I went into commercial real estate for a few years until I was asked to start the Mobile Airport Authority. I told them I would do it for a year or two I was Executive Director of the Mobile Airport Authority for 26 years.
I loved working with economic development and sharing what we have in Mobile. We knew aerospace could be a good fit and we could bring jobs back to Brookley Field.
We went to airshows around the world and sometimes had to show on a map where Mobile is. It was a struggle to become one of the few cities in the world that manufactures big airplanes, but we successfully recruited companies here. We won five projects, but we didn’t get to build an airplane until the fifth one. That was Airbus. It was frustrating, but we knew what we had. I love seeing the Airbus shirts around town and knowing that we helped bring those higher paying jobs to Mobile. You create wealth with higher paying jobs. We are on that road, but it takes time. We need businesses and political leaders to think bigger in Mobile.
One of the fun times in my life was playing guitar. When I was at Auburn, I bought a cheap guitar and learned a few chords. A few of us sang and played for our fraternity. It was fun, but that’s all that came out of it. I was never a good guitar player. Years later, Chris and I got to know Raymond Cooper, a talented singer songwriter. Chris once told him that I wanted to play in a band, but I’ve never done it. Raymond invited me to play with him. I resisted at first, but Raymond taught me a few songs. I started playing rhythm guitar with the band on the weekends. It was a lot of fun.
We got Raymond in the talent competition at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. He tore the house down and got a standing ovation. It looked like he was on his way to something bigger. But Raymond was bi-polar. He often messed things up when he looked like he would get it together.
We wanted to record a demo to see if we could get Raymond a contract. He wanted to record in Muscle Shoals so I started calling around. Someone put me on the phone with Roger Hawkins. He was one of the owners of the studio, but he was also the drummer in the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. I needed to hire studio musicians and asked Roger to play drums. He said he didn’t do that anymore.
Raymond said Reggie Young was going to play guitar on the demo. I didn’t know who that was, but I called Roger and told him. Roger said, ‘Bay, Reggie Young is retired and plays one time a year. And that’s on the television show for the Country Music Hall of Fame Awards. He’s not coming to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to do a demo. I ain’t going to happen.’
Raymond called Reggie. He confirmed he was going to be there.
When Roger realized Reggie was really in, he asked if he could play the drums. A couple of days later, I got a call from Mac McAnally. He heard Reggie was playing and he wanted in. David Hood and Randy Newman also came out of nowhere to play. We ended up with the finest band ever assembled. It was phenomenal to watch them. Reggie arranged the music. We had an agent excited about working with Raymond and offered him a standard contract. But Roger’s bi-polar kicked in. He crashed and burned. It went downhill from there for Raymond. I have a copy of the demo, but it has never been heard.
That was my music career. I was just in the back plinking away, but I can see how people get addicted to being on stage and performing. I wore my reading glasses to see chord changes on my notes on the music stand. Chris told me to lose the glasses. She said, ‘You’ll never get a groupie with those glasses.’
One Christmas, Raymond recorded a song I wrote for Chris. It was called ‘A Trip of a Lifetime’ and spoke about what we mean to each other. One of the lines was ‘how can a love that burns so hot keep burning for so long?’
It’s been a great life. I would do it with Chris all over again.”
Bay Haas, Part Two