Monroeville man saw ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ in segregated theater. Now he’s city’s 1st Black mayor – AL.com

30August 2020

Charles Andrews remembers his first journey to see the motion picture,” To Kill a Mockingbird”inside a single-screen theater in downtown Monroeville, the town that influenced an American literary timeless written by its most popular homeowner, Harper Lee.

He was a young boy at the time when his mother took him to see the Academy Award-winning movie starring Gregory Peck inside a segregated theater.

“It didn’t strike me that we were being in the black area of the theater,” said Andrews, now 65.”Being a child at the time, and being the very first time going to the motion pictures, I was type of awe-struck

.” Andrews on Tuesday, approximately 60 years given that Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book was released, provided Monroeville with another historical minute when he won the mayoral race to end up being the very first Black person to assume the city’s top elected post. The moment left Andrews awe-struck once more, just like that little young boy who was watching a movie loosely inspired on a historical minute in the neighborhood he now leads.

But the political victory also enabled him to reflect on his childhood and moments such as identifying an indication that read “White Just”above a water fountain at a regional filling station around the very same time he had simply discovered how to check out.

“I believe Monroeville, over the years, has actually grown past that,”said Andrews, referring to its segregated past which existed into the 1970s and a well-documented history that also includes the wrongful murder conviction of Walter McMillan in 1988, detailed in the unique and movie, “Simply Mercy.” Andrews, himself, went to Union High School in the city’s Black neighborhood before relocating to the incorporated Monroe County High School in 1970.

” One of the things I learned throughout my campaign is that there are so many individuals, a diverse group of people, and the biggest they want to do is not just have somebody to speak to, but somebody who will listen t what their concerns are,” he stated. “For many years, the most significant thing that I have actually discovered is that you actually want to learn from individuals, you listen to them.”

‘A huge offer’ Charles Andrews was chosen the city of Monroeville’s first Black mayor on Tuesday, August 25, 2020. He takes office on November 2, 2020.(supplied photo). Andrews defeated incumbent Mayor Sandy Smith by 159 votes and will be sworn into office on November 2, and in lots of methods the result was

divided along racial lines within the city’s 6 precincts. Smith, for example, gathered 83%of the vote in one precinct while Andrews protected 93%, 71 %and 68 %in three others. Absentee votes made the distinction, with Andrews securing 172 more than Smith. “I think this is a big offer,” said Cynthia Tucker, a Monroeville local who attended Monroe schools with Andrews during the

60s and 70s. Tucker would later on acquire fame as a writer and editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper, winning a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007 after being a finalist in 2004 and 2006.”Monroeville has just chosen its first Black mayor,”stated Tucker, who now lives in Mobile.”I would not be amazed to hear that the votes fell along racial lines. There is still some stress, in between Blacks and whites and areas remain mostly segregated. However obviously,(Monroeville)has Black elected officials now. There are Black agents at the county level, school board and there have actually been Black city council members for quite some time. Areas are starting to integrate slowly. Things are changing. ” She included,”I believe that Charles will be a mayor for the entire city, and he will be able to overcome a few of the racial divide.” Wayne Flynt, a historian and a buddy with Lee during her lifetime, said the election of Andrews as the city’s very first Black mayor represents another”indication of the sluggish recovery from the inmost historic scar in Alabama’s past.” He stated,”Monroe County is on the southern fringe of the historical Black Belt, when the most affluent place on earth, and now one of the poorest locations in America. Unless the area can get racial reconciliation, there is no hope for its future. This is

a step in the right direction. ” Andrews said he is confident he can be a success as mayor. He stated he has the interaction skills and a highly regarded police background to bridge the divides that might exist

in a city fighting a decreasing population, increased poverty, and the loss of industry. He has remained in this position before, breaking down racial barriers: In

1994, 26 years ago, he made history in the Alabama Department of Public Safety by ending up being the very first Black state trooper to increase to the rank of Major. 8 years later on, in 2002, then-Gov. Don Siegelman named him as the interim director of public safety within the department– the very first Black to head the department. Cynthia Tucker Said Tucker,”Those experiences gave him a broad viewpoint to have increased as high as he finished with the Alabama

State Troopers.

Think about it. At one time, in my life time when I was an extremely small child, Alabama State Troopers stuck out as amongst the police companies that(former Alabama Gov.) George Wallace utilized to beat back tranquil Black marchers in the 1960s. To think that Charles rose as high as he performed in that company, is quite impressive.” Andrews started his career in law enforcement after finishing from the University

of Alabama in 1977, as a corrections office. He ended up being a State Trooper in 1980, beginning a long profession that eventually resulted in the Siegelman visit and, in 2011, a visit by President Barack Obama as U.S. Marshal based in Mobile. “I certainly do not wish to, in any way,

shape or form, minimize it, “stated George Elbrecht, a retired judge in Monroe County who is presently an assistant district attorney.” It’s a significant minute in our history. But I need to say that Charles is the best individual to enter that role. I can not think of a much better individual to enter the role as mayor and being the first African American mayor. I simply can’t. It is historic and I take pride in him. But he’s a skilled and thoughtful individual. I think we’re blessed to have him.” Derryn Moten, chairman of the history and political science department at Alabama State University, stated that Andrews’ story is one of “knocking down doors, no pun intended, most likely all of his professional life.”

And like the election of Obama as the very first Black president, other minutes of “firsts”are still taking place for Black politicians that deserve recognition, Moten said. He kept in mind that California Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, is only the 2nd Black lady chosen to the U.S. Senate, and that just two Black men– Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey and Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina– are presently serving in the Senate.

” They are still important, and paradises knows, in Monroeville

, yeah, this is a big, big offer,

“stated Moten.’Mayor of everybody ‘ Billy Ghee, a Black Monroeville local and long time teacher could have been the first Black mayor of the city. But he lost his election 4 years ago, losing to then-Mayor Joseph Oglesby who about two years later. Smith, who served 28 years as the director of the Monroeville/Monroe County Chamber of Commerce, was appointed by the Monroeville City Council to complete Oglesby’s term.

Ghee credited Andrews for running a more efficient campaign than he did four years ago.”He had eight to 10 individuals with him once leaving a meeting, “said Ghee. “He had a great team. I will state that may have been the distinction this time.”

Andrews also had some memorable Facebook videos on his campaign website, most of which function him speaking directly into the electronic camera about his visions for the city. In one video, Andrews spoke about how the “train was entering the city” and urged citizens to hop aboard. “I hope you have your ticket punched,” he said while The O’Jay’s hit 1972 tune, “Love Train” played in the background. Andrews said the train included a “varied labor force” and “smart commercial advancement.” He stated, “this train is about the future of the city of Monroeville.”

He campaigned on a”One Monroeville” slogan. Andrews said his message of inclusion played a vital part in his triumph. “One of the important things I stated to them is that if I’m chosen mayor, I will be the mayor of everyone in Monroeville. You need to be the mayor of everyone, which message is one that got across to them. It was also about me speaking about this vision for Monroeville and wanting to be a diverse community with diverse market and things of that nature.”

His effective political project may come as a surprise to those who when knew Andrews. Tucker said she can remember the mayor-elect being”quite quiet in high school,” but always maintaining a “good man” track record. She said he while he was not a “wallflower,” he wasn’t “outgoing or energetic” or the type who would run for trainee government.

” He was, in the political sense, a late bloomer,”she stated. Andrews said he did not decide to run for mayor until he retired from police following his tenure as a U.S. Marshal, which ended in October 2018. He and his better half, Linda, returned full-time to Monroeville where the couple was able to invest more time together. It was the first time that Andrews stated he lived full-time in Monroeville since the early 70s, when he left for the University of Alabama.

” It simply concerned my mind, with all of this experience and all of this training supplied to me on the state and federal level … I felt like my roots are here and it’s time to pay off in the financial investment made in me,” he said.

‘Major obstacle’ Charles Andrews, the mayor-elect of Monroeville, Ala., visualized here in this photograph during his period with the Alabama Department of Public Security. Andrews was picked in 2010 by President Barack Obama to act as

the U.S. Marshal in Mobile.(file picture). For Andrews, he will need to utilize his experiences to take on the challenges plaguing Monroeville. The city has a decreasing population of 5,718 locals which represents a 12% decline in between 2019 and 2010, according to the latest Census update. More than a quarter of the city’s homeowners live in hardship, and 12% lack medical insurance. The typical family earnings is $34,250, which is well below the state average.

Financial development is the greatest obstacle in Monroeville, where the city is still pained by the loss of tasks at Vanity Fair Brands as the fashion industry outsourced its operations offshore in the 2000s. The county was struck hard during the nationwide Economic crisis in 2008, as more than 1,000 tasks were cut from a host of business including Georgia-Pacific, Harrigan Lumber Co., and Standard Furnishings Production Co. Georgia-Pacific, in 2015, announced it was closing its Monroeville operations, shedding another 100 tasks.

” Monroeville is not unusual, “stated Tucker.”In villages all over the South, and quite honestly, all over the United States, those economies have actually gone down. Monroeville was a fabric town and Vanity Fair was a significant industry there beginning in the years after The second world war. However those jobs are lost to globalization, either moving offshore or through automation taking control of. Generating jobs and businesses will be a major difficulty for the new mayor.”

Monroe County’s unemployment rate of 10.9%in July, is

greater than the state average.

” Jobs are what we require in Monroeville, like every village in Alabama,” said Tonja Carter, president of the Mockingbird Business, which puts on the annual adaption of “To Kill a Mockingbird” play during the months of April and May.

Monroeville courthouse

Inside the Old Court House Museum in Monroeville, Ala., is a tourist draw for the small city of 5,700 resident. It has been restored to its 1930s appearance. This is the view from the bench. (file image).

Tourist, perhaps, is what makes Monroeville unique over other small Southern communities thanks to its track record as the”Literary Capital of Alabama”where Lee, Truman Capote and other authors called home. But tourism throughout Alabama has actually taken a hit during the coronavirus pandemic. In Monroeville, the play was canceled this year and created extra pressure on restaurants and hotels that normally rely on business. Tourism is also down at the Monroe County Heritage Museum, which remains open however has actually seen a 40%to 50%decrease in guests, according to museum director Wanda Green. ” Monroeville has really three things going for it– wood(industry), agriculture and

tourism,”stated Andrews.”‘ To Eliminate a Mockingbird ‘plays a substantial part of that tourism. Because of Covid-19, that was lost a bit.” Ghee said that economic advancement will loom large over Andrews’ period as mayor and will likely be his most significant challenge.

“His entire life he’s been working in law enforcement and, as you understand around the nation, we are having an issue with police so that is his most significant plus,” stated Ghee. “But where he will need more help with is economic development. He’s never been in politics before. We remain in alarming need (of new financial advancement) and we tried a couple of tasks, but they have not worked out.

He included, “It’s difficult to get financial advancement here. We don’t have a significant four-lane roadway near us. It’s 40 miles away to Evergreen and 40 more to Atmore (where Interstate 65 lies, the closest interstate). It’s tough to hire, in my opinion, if you do not have a major four-lane (road) running through your county.”

Elbrecht stated that Andrews’character will be a plus for the city as it pursues extra market.

“The man has great individuals abilities,” he said. “I think whatever he confronts, he will be thoughtful, considerate and make the ideal decisions.Source: al.com

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