Library naming a fitting honor for Hartselle native
Randy Sparkman, Hartselle Guest Columnist
The decision has been made to rename the Hartselle Public Library in honor of William Bradford Huie. Of all the public buildings in a community, a library is a unique symbol. It holds no less than the promise of learning and hence, the promise of the future. Many have, and will, ask who was Bill Huie and what did he do to deserve such an honor?
Much has been written about Huie's achievements. Born in Hartselle, he left for The University of Alabama after his valedictory address to the Morgan County High class of 1927. By the time he was 45-years-old in 1955, he was a national figure; a prominent reporter, a best-selling novelist and a personality on fledgling national television. He capped this period of his life with the publication of his masterpiece, "The Execution of Private Slovak." These achievements alone seal his place as a distinguished man of letters.
Much has also been said of Huie as a character worthy of one of his own books. Several of his novels were made into movies, so often he found himself among the presence of the rich and famous. He once spent a Christmas working on a story posing as a butler in Bugsy Siegel's home. And, he made and spent more money than Caesar's wife.
All these things are admirable, notable and make for good barbershop chatter. But public buildings are named for men and women who made a difference in the lives of those who use them. It was the work in the second half of Huie's career that warrants the renaming of the Hartselle Public Library.
Huie returned to Hartselle in the late 1950s. The social fabric of the American South was torn apart and resewn during the ensuing 20 years. Traveling from his home base on the leafy corner of Day and Barkley streets, Huie covered some of the most controversial and notorious events of the Civil Rights movement.
In classic Huie style, he often found himself at the center of the story. Very much a man of his region and era, he was careful to say he was the champion of no man's "cause." His literary landscape is instead populated with the helpless who find themselves at the mercy of the powerful. He could not countenance a bully. If he championed any cause, it was economic and social improvement of the place he loved and its people, black and white.
These exertions did not afford Huie the glamour of the previous half of his career. His use of "checkbook journalism" usually cost him more than it gained. But he was a fighter and cast his lot with the others who hauled a Boo Radley South kicking and screaming into the 20th century. As a result, the kids who now use the library can, in Huie's words, "cast their eyes to the stars" rather than the sidewalk. That, above all, is reason enough to put his name on the side of the building.