Alabama Walk of Fame

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This article is about the sidewalk installation in Birmingham. For the Alabama Football Walk of Fame at the University of Alabama, see Denny Chimes.
Title star for the Walk of Fame

The Alabama Walk of Fame, also called Stars on Third, is a public recognition created to honor famous Alabamians in a fashion similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is composed of five-pointed stars carved from 1" thick slabs of rose-colored granite laid into sidewalk on the south side of 3rd Avenue North, between 18th Street North and 19th Street North.

Original induction

The original Walk of Fame was installed in 1989 on the 1800 block of 3rd Avenue, outside the Alabama Theater. The idea was suggested by Michael Gene Pierce of Jasper and championed by Birmingham Landmarks director Cecil Whitmire and Operation New Birmingham's Linda Nelson.

The budget for the initial project was $39,000, of which $9,000 went to the actual sidewalk work and $30,000 went toward producing the program, ticket sales for which were expected to recoup the entire budget with any extra going toward Birmingham Landmarks. VIP tickets for orchestra seats and admission to a reception with the honorees were sold for $50. Regular reserved seats were $20 and balcony seats were $10.

A selection committee was assembled, including Whitmire; Bob Carlton, entertainment writer for The Birmingham News; Mary Jean Parson, communications writer, teacher, and consultant; John Ray, theatrical and special events promoter; Judy Stone, executive director of Alabama Public Television; Mark Stricklin, director of the Alabama Film Office; Gail Trechsel, of the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

The induction ceremony was held at the Alabama Theatre for the first group of honorees on September 9, 1989. The event was part of the "Alabama Reunion", a two-year promotion of the Alabama Department of Tourism. For the event 3rd Avenue was cordoned off and the honorees arrived by limousine to a red-carpeted sidewalk with searchlights. The ceremony was hosted by Catherine Gee, Elizabeth Fischer, Janet Hall, Gene Lively, and Neilan Tyree and featured entertainment by "Alabama Celebration", a song and dance group created especially for the Alabama Reunion. Many of the inductees attended the ceremony in person.

The star directly outside the theater entrance was used to display the name of the entire installation, "Alabama Walk of Fame". A surplus star, with a misspelling of Phillip Alford's name, was given to him and displayed at his home in Shelby County.

Later additions

Though the original installation extended only for one block, the addition of new honorees was planned to become a regular event with stars added to a four-block area on both side of 3rd Avenue North between 18th and 20th Streets and both sides of 19th Street North between 2nd and 4th Avenues. It was also anticipated that the Alabama Music Hall of Fame would help nominate famous musicians to expand the Walk of Fame.

Stanleigh Malotte, house organist of the Alabama Theatre from the 1930s to the 1950s, was the first person added to the Walk of Fame since the opening ceremony. His star was unveiled during a special tribute at the Alabama Theatre on October 19, 1991. Malotte is the only inductee to be neither born nor raised in Alabama, but was declared a "citizen of Alabama" by a special gubernatorial proclamation.

In 1992 James Hatcher signed on to produce a new star-studded Alabama Walk of Fame theatrical production in October 1993. Whitmire had already begun planning to surprise him with his own star outside the Theatre. Hatcher died of a heart attack on March 19, however. His star was unveiled instead following a special tribute featuring vignettes from his 43-year career as a director which was staged on May 7.

Another star for singer Jake Hess, inscribed with the title "Mr. Gospel Music" under his name, was dedicated just prior to the August 30, 2000 taping of the "Gaither Christmas Homecoming Show" at the Alabama Theater for The Nashville Network.

In 1998 the sidewalk bearing the stars was disturbed as part of the construction of the McWane Center in the Loveman's building. The existing stars were replaced, set in circular concrete pads with new brick pavers cut around them. Whitmire anticipated that Alabamians famed for their contributions to science would be honored near the science museum and that the opposite side of the street might honor politicians such as George Wallace, race car drivers like Davey and Clifford Allison, or Miss Americas like Yolanda Betbeze and Heather Whitestone. Additional stars on 4th Avenue North near the Carver Theater would honor music luminaries.

At that time, despite the stars honoring non-natives like John Badham, Truman Capote, and Malotte, Whitmire claimed that going forward "[the nominees] must have been born in Alabama and done something notable to make Alabama famous ... we have to be able to prove without a doubt that they were born in Alabama."

Inductees and ceremonies