Posted by William Nunnelley on 2003-09-12

Entrepreneur-philanthropist Joseph S. Bruno and statesman-diplomat William Rufus DeVane King have been elected to the Alabama Men's Hall of Fame at Samford University.

The two will be inducted during the annual Men's Hall of Fame luncheon Tuesday, Sept. 23, at The Club. Tickets to the 11:30 a.m. event may be ordered by telephoning 726-2728 at Samford.

Founded by the Alabama Legislature in 1987, the hall recognizes men "whose lives have impacted the state, nation and world." Honorees must have been deceased at least two years. HOF board members represent Alabama's seven congressional districts. The Birmingham Women's Committee of 100 sponsors the program.

Bruno (1912-1996), born in Birmingham the son of Sicilian immigrants, took a job in a neighborhood grocery at age 12. Six years later, with $600, he opened a small grocery store of his own downtown. In 1935 he opened a second store.

Bruno's business was thriving by the 1950s and grew dramatically in the '60s and and '70s, ultimately numbering 250 stores. Bruno gave back to his community, supporting numerous education, medical and church causes.

The president of Italy named him a Knight Officer of the Order of Merit and, as a model American rags-to-riches story, he also received the Horatio Alger Award.

King (1786-1853), from Dallas County, was vice president of the United States when he died, the only Alabamian elected to executive office in history. He was the first U.S. Senator from south Alabama and also served as ambassador to France.

Born in North Carolina, King was a legislator and congressman in his native state before being appointed U.S. ambassador to the Court of Russia and the Two Sicilies in 1816. Returning to America in 1817, he moved to Alabama before statehood in 1819, building a plantation near Selma. He helped draft Alabama's first constitution and was elected to the U.S. Senate, serving for most of the next 34 years. King was named ambassador to France in 1844 and served four years. A strong Unionist, he helped win passage of the Compromise of 1850.

King was elected vice president on the ticket with Franklin Pierce in 1852, but died of tuberculosis less than a month after his inauguration in the spring of 1853.