Birmingham Press Club

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The Birmingham Press Club (formerly the Newspaper Club) was a social club founded on January 1, 1887, originally for newspaper workers, but later opened to news professionals in radio and television. The Press Club was known for its frequent "roasts" of public figures, including, later, its annual "Razzberry Awards" banquet.

The club's founding was celebrated with a New Year's Day banquet for twenty-three charter members at Gasser's restaurant. J. L. Watkins of the Birmingham Age was the first president, George Cruikshank, editor of the Birmingham Chronicle was vice-president, J. D. Ponder, city editor of the Chronicle was secretary and W. L. Hawley, city editor of the Age was treasurer. Directors included F. C. Morehead, R. H. Watkins, C. M. Hayes, Goldsmith, Barnard and West.

The club was reorganized on August 25, 1899 at a meeting chaired by John Rountree. Richard Johnston of the News was elected president, John Sparrow of the Birmingham Ledger was made vice-president, M. Ben Mayer of the Birmingham Age-Herald became secretary, and H. W. Laird of the News became secretary. New directors included Harry Berney of the Age-Herald, J. H. F. Moseley of the Birmingham Labor Advocate, and John Hornady from the News. The newly-adopted constitution of the club limited membership to, "actual newspaper men, engaged in the editorial and business departments of newspapers regularly published." The club estimated that it hoped to enroll the "fifty or so" active newspaper men in the city.

In the fall of 1904 the slate of new officers included Emil Lesser of the Birmingham Courier as president, Frank Barnett of the Alabama Baptist as first vice-president, Leon Friedman of the News as second vice-president, C. M. Stanley of the Age-Herald as third vice-president, H. P. Roberts of the Ledger as secretary, and H. S. Ryall of the Age-Herald as treasurer. As founder and publisher of the Catholic Monthly beginning in 1909, Father James Coyle of St Paul's Catholic Church was also a member of the Press Club.

In its early years the club hosted its annual banquet at the Hillman Hotel. Once it was completed in 1913, the renamed "Newspaper Club" occupied the 27th floor penthouse of the Jefferson County Savings Bank Building (City Federal Building). It was there that Birmingham News staff artist W. Paul Pim married advertising department staffer Lenna Hales on July 14, 1917. Shortly thereafter, though, the club fell into inactivity.

The Birmingham Press Club was again reorganized with a new constitution on 1921. In later years the club moved its meeting place several times. By the early 1930s it had found a new penthouse location on the roof of the Bankhead Hotel. Later it met at Smith & Hardwick booksellers in the Clark Building at 406 20th Street North for several years before ending up at 2030 Morris Avenue.

Editorial cartoonist Charles Brooks was president of the press club in 1968-1969. In 1974 the club turned its annual "roast" banquet into the Razzberry Awards, with proceeds from ticket sales helping fund college scholarships for aspiring journalists.


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