Alabama Men’s Hall of Fame inducted two respected citizens from political and technological life Tuesday, Sept. 21, during a luncheon at The Club in Birmingham.
The induction of veteran Alabama Congressman Tom Bevill of Jasper and technology entrepreneur Mark C. Smith of Huntsville brings the number of Hall of Fame inductees to 64. Founded by the Alabama legislature in 1987, the hall recognizes men “whose lives have impacted the state, the nation and the world.” Honorees must have been deceased for at least two years.
Plaques honoring Hall of Fame inductees are displayed in Samford University’s Harwell G. Davis Library.
Both of this year’s honorees, noted Hall of Fame chair James W. Lee, “exemplify the character and accomplishments of the men we seek to recognize.”
Bevill, who died in 2005, served in the the U.S. House of Representatives for more than 30 years (1966-1996), becoming Alabama’s longest-serving congressman. As chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, he was known for his influence on many energy and resource management programs, including the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
“He loved being in Congress, and understood its workings,” said his daughter, Susan Bevill Livingston.
“His Alabama projects rose from his belief in using federal funds to improve living standards for Alabamians,” she said of his strong philosophy about making jobs available and putting people to work.
A master at building coalitions between colleagues from both sides of the political aisle, he realized that getting legislation passed was more important than hewing to party lines, said Livingston, an attorney in Birmingham. “Dad’s life was defined not by what he did, but by who he was.”
He was especially proud, she said, of his efforts to create the Little River Canyon National Preserve in northeast Alabama. “He believed preservation was important to the state.”
After retiring from Congress, Bevill, an attorney who had earned his law degree after serving in World War II, returned to his law practice in Jasper.
The family was also represented at the luncheon by the honoree’s daughter Patty Bevill Warren and his son Don Bevill. Granddaughters Elizabeth Livingston and Louisa Warren unveiled his plaque.
Smith, who died in 2007, was an entrepreneur, engineer and philanthropist who created Alabama’s first data communication company, Universal Data Systems, Inc., in 1969. He later cofounded ADTRAN, a leading global networking and equipment provider with more than $480 million in annual revenues.
Longtime ADTRAN associate and friend Thomas R. Stanton described Smith as one who was “technically capable, a genius,” but who also “talked with the pace, tone and deliberation of someone who knew what it took to be successful. There was no doubt that Mark was a winner.”
Stanton noted that the honoree filled the company with especially capable people. Smith’s steadfast belief in the ability of the individual to make decisions, and his dislike for bureaucratic structure, created an environment, he said, “where people engaged their hearts and heads everyday for the betterment of the ADTRAN family.”
Later in his life, Smith became co-founder of Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnolgy, embracing biotechnology the way he embraced life, “with both arms and with his big heart,” said Stanton.
Smith was involved in the Huntsville community through civic and community organizations ranging from schools, to museums to the arts, all with the goal of making Huntsville and Alabama a better place to live, said Stanton, chairman and CEO of ADTRAN.
Smith’s plaque was unveiled by his widow, Linda Smith, and their children, Clay Smith and Cynthia Smith Hughes.
Also at the luncheon, elementary school student Rilee White was introduced as winner of the Hall of Fame’s student essay contest.
The contest involved Birmingham area fourth-grade school students who were invited to write about previous Hall of Fame inductees. Rilee, now a fifth grader at Vestavia Central Elementary, wrote her award-winning essay on George Washington Carver, who was inducted in 1993.
She received a $150 check and a resolution from the Alabama legislature. Rilee is the daughter of Veronica Henley and Ronald White.
The Alabama Men’s Hall of Fame program is sponsored by the Women’s Committee of 100 for Birmingham, Inc. Kathryn Hicks Porter is president.