Q: Where did you work before coming to TTS?
BB: I went into the newspaper business after graduating from UA in 1976. I was hired by Ben Smith of Smith Newspapers, Inc., which at that time, owned four newspapers. The company grew rapidly, at one time managing 50 newspapers in 20 states. I worked for newspapers in Missouri, South Dakota, West Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Louisiana before returning to Alabama as a Vice President/Group Manager at the home office in my hometown of Fort Payne. I then worked with Ben’s oldest son, Phillip, in his newspaper group, PTS, Inc. In 1992 PTS, Inc. moved to Tuscaloosa, where I have been ever since.
Bill (R) with his wife Ava (L) and niece Blake (M).
Q: What was the biggest adjustment from living outside the south?
BB: Cold weather. People are the same wherever you go. If you treat them well, they will do the same. But cold weather doesn’t respond to kindness. I thought I was going to freeze in Missouri. One winter day, after trying for several minutes to get my car started, the back of my head felt strange. I felt my hair. It was frozen. I came into the office, threw down my briefcase and coat, and told my co-workers, “Y’all are all stupid for living in this weather. I am stupid for living in it, too, but the difference is that this time next year, I will be out of here!” I was right. I got transferred to South Dakota, which made Missouri look like the beach. I really thought I might die once in a blizzard, and it was April! I said, “Did they not tell y’all up here that it is Spring?” The good thing was that I met my wife, Ava, while living there.
Q: What do you love about Tuscaloosa?
BB: I have always been a huge Alabama football fan, so naturally, that is a good fit for me. The thing I love most is that my college roommate David Fuhrman and his wife, Cissy, who are my best friends, live here. So it was wonderful moving back and getting to see them so often. The arts are great here. My wife, Ava, has been heavily involved in local theatre, and some of our best friends are people we have met through Theatre Tuscaloosa. Kentuck is a terrific art festival. There is great programming at The Bama Theatre, both movies and music. The symphony here is about as good as you will hear anywhere, including New York. And that is not just my opinion. Judy Collins said basically the same thing when she played a concert at The Bama. I belong to “The Dudes Book Club”, a group of quality guys who meet once or twice a month to discuss books, and so much more. I love living in a college town. The students pump so much energy into this town, and the University brings in great lectures and programs. We have the quality of life of a large city without the crime and traffic. I have always said that Tuscaloosa is a large small town. You run into so many people you know at games, plays, restaurants, etc. – and people blow the horn at you on the street when they see you just like they do in small towns. I would not want to live anywhere else.
Q: If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?
BB: Spend a day with great friends laughing and tailgating, then going to an exciting football game and beating Auburn. Actually, that is what I did this past Saturday. Having Notre Dame get beaten soundly the same day is a nice bonus.
Q: Tell us one of your favorite memories of Tuscaloosa.
BB: While I was still in high school I drove to Tuscaloosa one weekend to visit my cousin, who was in school here. He and his girlfriend (now his wife) took me to see my first rock concert, Grand Funk Railroad. Grand Funk was the first album I ever owned, and to see them in person was amazing. The concert was louder than a bomb going off and I yelled throughout, so after the show I could neither hear nor speak, but I had a blast. I knew I couldn’t go anywhere else to college but UA.
Q: What makes you happy about work on a Friday?
BB: The sense of accomplishment you get from having worked hard and achieved something that week.
Q: What is your favorite holiday and why?
BB: Thanksgiving. A few years ago Ava and I started a tradition with Paul and Susan Looney, who we met through Theatre Tuscaloosa. We started our “Strays and Orphans Party” for friends who either had no family or could not be with their family for Thanksgiving. Each year we have between 8-12 people who come over to our house for a day of fun. Those who want to play games, play games and those who want to watch football, watch football. If you have never watched theatre people play Charades, you have missed something truly special.
Q: What is your favorite tourist attraction in Tuscaloosa.
BB: Wow, there are several. The Bryant Museum if you are a football fan. The Kentuck Museum always has neat artwork, and if Steve Davis is working on a project it is fascinating to watch. The galleries in Tuscaloosa and Northport have some great art. The UA campus makes for a lovely tour, and it is interesting to see the names and dates of the football captains’ walk of fame at Denny Chimes.
Q: Describe your perfect weekend in Tuscaloosa.
BB: Catching a play at Theatre Tuscaloosa or a musical event at The Bama on Friday with Ava, then out to dinner at a good local restaurant with friends. Getting up on Saturday and going to Bryant Denny to watch the Tide win another one. Hard to beat that.