The Magic City; Home Sweet Home


Vulcan Park and Museum overlooking Birmingham

Birmingham, Alabama. Nearly everyone in the US, and a great many people abroad, know about Birmingham. It’s a city steeped in history.

The rich veins of iron ore made Birmingham rich. The city grew at an astonishing pace, earning the nicknames The Magic City and The Pittsburgh of the South. It was, all the way up through the 1960s, the very heart of the industrial South. In addition to the steel mills, rails and cars for the railroad were made here.

16th Street Baptist Church by John Morse

16th Street Baptist Church Photo by John Morse

The seeds of the Civil Rights Movement were germinated in the Magic City. Luminaries like Rev Fred Shuttlesworth, Rev Dr Martin Luther King, James Bevel and many thousands of unnamed heroes fought against Jim Crow repression and demanded to be treated as equals.

Sister's Vigil sculpture by Brad Morton, given to St Vincent's Hospital by Dr Joe Cunningham

Sister’s Vigil sculpture by Brad Morton, given to St Vincent’s Hospital by Dr Joe Cunningham

These days, Birmingham is a celebrated medical destination. University of Alabama at Birmingham, St Vincent’s (or, as I call it, “Sister’s House”), Brookwood, Medical Center East, South Highlands hospitals, just to name a few are at the cutting edge of health care research and delivery. Patients from all over the world make risky treks to Birmingham, and in many cases, joyful and much improved trips back home.

For many years before coming to Jordan, I was happy and proud to call Birmingham my home. Nestled in the mountain ridges of the Appalachian foothills and watered by rivers and streams, the Magic City’s lush green environment envelopes and embraces as tenderly as the arms of a loving grandmother.

CahabaRiverNWR2Throughout the country over the past three decades or so, many cities have suffered from the blight of urban renewal. (Notice that I spat that phrase out onto the page and it left a bitter taste behind) Birmingham, on the other hand, has embraced her past; the good, the bad, and the ugly of it; and emerged a much better, more tolerant city for it. It is a beautiful thing to see the old, historic city existing in harmony with the new, sleek, modern city. For me, it conveys the message that we can be all new and shiny only because of those who came before us and made it possible.

Five Points South

Five Points South

Have a look around Birmingham’s Southside neighborhood where I plan to make my home. Do you hear that tiny voice calling you? It’s saying, “Come home to Birmingham!” I’m calling back, “put on the greens and cornbread, the ribs, burgers, and beer! I’ll be back soon.”

Y’all come see us, you hear?

Now that you’re out and about, so to speak, why not pay a visit to some of my good blogging pals?

Ella Fitzgerald - New Yesterdays

Ella Fitzgerald – New Yesterdays

I keep seeing this one copy of New Yesterdays, forlornly waiting the new owner. Why not come on over to Amazon US, Amazon UK, or Amazon India and rescue your copy from a dust-covered life of loneliness?


About Ol' Big Jim

Ol' Big Jim, has been a storekeeper, an embalmer, a hospital orderly, a medical biller, and through it all, a teller of tall tales. Many of his stories, like his first book, New Yesterdays, are set in his hometown of Piedmont, Alabama. For seven years, he lived in the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, Amman, Jordan where he spends his time trying to visit each one of the thousands of Ammani coffee shops and scribbling in his ever-present notebook. These days, you can find him back stateside, still filling notebooks.
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12 Responses to The Magic City; Home Sweet Home

  1. jordany007 says:

    I surely miss you Ol’ Big Jim! I hope to be able to see you before you leave! and maybe come and visit you in Alabama! I’m planning a trip to the states this year, if things worked out, you might find me knocking on your door soon 🙂


    • Ol' Big Jim says:

      I will miss you too, habibi! When you come to the States, know that you will always hear the phrase, a7lan w sa7lan! I hope to see you before we leave, but it’s looking awfully busy in the few days left.


  2. Jo Anb says:

    Jim – you’ve hit thenail on the head, again.


  3. Bill James says:

    I really wish you had used your famous Five Points Fountain picture, I think it had much more character.


  4. Lightey says:

    We will have to “turn up” or “turn down” which ever it is when you come back home. Looking forward to catching up my friend.


  5. Ahmed says:

    I’m truly impressed by your love of Birmingham; not everyone likes their home town as much as you do. The thing I like most about the city without even visiting it before is how it embraced its past, the thing that makes it worth the visit, sooner or later.


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