Birmingham Shines

A show about the makers, creators, and innovators of the Magic City: Birmingham, Alabama.
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Now displaying: July, 2015
Jul 30, 2015

David Sher is a Birmingham businessman who started the Comeback Town blog in 2012 to spark a conversation about change in Birmingham.

David's goal is to have a conversation about hard questions that many have said should not be asked because the effort would be futile. Perhaps the tide is turning now, due to the Comeback Town Blog's growing readership and the increase in subscribers to the companion email newsletter.

In episode 16 of Birmingham Shines, David Sher explains how he came to be interested in social media (especially LinkedIn) at the stage of life when most successful businessmen are thinking of retiring to a golf course or lake house. After several years as a social media consultant to businesses and executives, David put his knowledge of online relationship building and content marketing to work with The Comeback Town blog.

I met David briefly at TEDxBirmingham in February 2014 and reached out to him through LinkedIn recently to be a guest on Birmingham Shines. I had just discovered his Comeback Town blog through a post he shared on LinkedIn.

I think it's very important to have meaningful conversations about important issues in our community and I love the work that David is doing to make this happen. 

I hope you enjoy this conversation. Visit for more.

Jul 23, 2015

This week we have another writer on the show, my friend Carla Jean Whitley.

Carla Jean is one of the first people I approached about being on Birmingham Shines because I know how much she loves Birmingham. We decided to time her appearance on the show to coincide with the release of her new book, Birmingham Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Magic City, which will be available for purchase starting July 27, 2015. The official book launch event is set for July 27 from 4-6 p.m. at The Alabama Booksmith in Homewood.

Carla Jean has several other appearances around town for book signings and readings. You can visit for details and I’ll also include the upcoming events that I know about in the show notes for episode 15, which you can find at

In addition to books and writing, Carla Jean and I talk about some of the places she loves to share with Birmingham visitors, and what it means to seek peace.

One thing we share in common is that To Kill a Mockingbird is our favorite book.


In the final segment of this week’s show we talk about what this book means to us.


By happenstance, we recorded the conversation the week before Go Set a Watchman was released and before either of us had read it. At this point, I still have read it and won't get to read Go Set a Watchman for another week or so, but I know that Carla Jean has been an active participant in discussions about both books in recent week, through her writings for The Birmingham News / and her #RedClayReaders podcast.



Jul 16, 2015

Some stories are meant to be told.

The Caldwell Family’s story of survival is one example. Albert and Sylvia Caldwell met at Park College in Missouri and embarked (on their wedding day) in 1909 on their journey to Siam to become missionaries.  By February 1912, before the terms of the missionary appointment had been met, the couple and infant son were making their way back home to the United States. By happenstance—or fate—the Caldwells ended up on the Titanic in April 2012 and were one of the few families to survive the disaster.

One of the goals of Birmingham Shines is to shine the light on stories that aren’t necessarily being told, at least not on a widespread basis.

Dr. Julie Hedgepeth Williams, a media historian, scholar, educator and the guest for episode 14 of Birmingham Shines is one of those individuals who doesn’t always get the recognition she deserves. Julie also has a story that is meant to be told.

In this episode, Julie and I talk about researching and writing narrative-style historical nonfiction and we also delve into traditional publishing in 2014.

Julie’s most recent book is the award-winning A Rare Titanic Family: The Caldwells’ Story of Survival. This book recounts the story of the Caldwell family, from the time Al and Sylvia met at Park College through the years after they were among the passengers who survived and sailed to safety in NYC aboard the Carpathian.

We also talk about Julie’s first book, Wings of Opportunity, about the Wright brothers’ commercial aviation school in Montgomery, Alabama and her upcoming book that looks at three key figures in the emergence of Southern literature as a specific literary genre.

If you’re interested in historical nonfiction—this is the episode for you!

As always, you can find more detailed show notes at

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Jul 9, 2015

Mark Kelly, publisher of Weld for Birmingham, is the guest for episode 13 of Birmingham Shines.


If you’re in Birmingham, you know Mark as a writer and voice for change in Birmingham and in Alabama.

In today’s show we talk a little bit about the founding of Weld for Birmingham, but our main focus is a conversation about bigger questions like the role of journalism, change that is sparked by grassroots efforts of “we the people,” the importance of hope, challenges in education, poverty and how poverty hampers economic growth and educational opportunity, and the importance of having a vision and then going after that vision.

Mark and I have a history dating back to the very early 70s when we were kids in elementary school.

Back in January (2015), I wrote a blog post about 10 people who influenced my life. These weren’t necessarily the MOST influential people in my life but the list was about 10 people who really made a difference in some way.

Mark Kelly was the one person from my peer group who made the list. And he made it because having Mark in my life during those formative years as a tween and a teen sort of forced me, at least in a subconscious way (I think)  to step up my game in terms of ambition, intellectual development, and breadth of interests.

Mark and I weren’t rivals or directly competitive but we had conversations that went well beyond the typical teen stuff. I feel like I should give a shout out to Joey Johnson who was also often part of those conversations and debate.

Mark and I both loved the comedian Steve Martin, Saturday Night Live, The Far Side comics. And I credit Mark Kelly with introducing me to the music of Beatles.

I already knew of the Beatles before, of course, but in high school Mark made me a cassette of Beatles music that I hadn’t heard before--the Beatles catalog, beyond the hits that everyone knew.

That sampler clued me in on how and why the Beatles basically defined the future of popular music. I wore that tape out in college and eventually ended up with the entire Beatles catalog on CD.

I close the show with these questions:

  • Are you putting your best into your life?
  • Are you treating everyone with kindness and respect?
  • Do you know what it is you’re trying to do?


For some it may simply be raising your kids in the best way you can. Parenting is the most important calling and responsibility of all.

For others, you may have a vision and a calling and be working to make that vision real.

Whatever it is you’re trying to do, I hope it’s intentional and I hope you’re willing to leave your all on the field so that when the game is over you gave it your best shot.

And regardless of your mission or vocation or avocation keep this in mind:

We’re here to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and spirit and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

It starts and ends with love.

Love is all you need.

That Beatles reference wasn't planned when I wrote the intro notes but I couldn't resist here.

I hope that today you’ll help someone else to Shine.

Jul 7, 2015

Episode 12 of Birmingham Shines features Jennifer Skjellum, president of Tech Birmingham, a nonprofit that provies education, professional development and networking opportunities for tech professionals, entrepreneurs and companies with IT departments.

Jennifer is the executive director of Central Alabama chapter of Angel Investor Management Group, a network for angel investors who focus on companies in the southeastern US.

Jennifer is also owner of Run-Time Computing, one of several computer businesses she's been a part of starting during her professional life.

We talk about the state of entrepreneurship in Alabama, the geographic and workforce challenges of starting a tech company in the deep South, the positive attributes of the Birmingham metro area for anyone who's considering a move to the area to start or work for a tech company.

The intro and closing comments are different, but the conversation/interview segment is the same as episode 3 of the Ignite Alabama podcast.

Show notes related to the Birmingham topics in this episode are available at

Jul 2, 2015

John McCarter, director of business development for Soluble Therapeutics, Inc., describes the company's history and path to commercialization of technology developed at UAB.

Soluble Therapeutics, Inc. developed and has commercialized technology that enables the rapid formulation of biologic solutions for delivery of protein-based pharmaceuticals. In the past couple of years, Soluble Therapeutics has received several infusions of capital from venture funds and a major NIH grant. 

In addition to explaining the company's technology, John explains how he uses LinkedIn and other internet-based communication platforms to grow the company's client base around the world. 

We also cover the attributes of a 21st century economy and whether Birmingham (is moving in the right direction.

As always, you can find more about this week's show at

Birmingham Shines is a Shinecast® show.