Birmingham’s Shipt, tech industry and civil rights history, featured on NPR’s Here & Now

Birmingham, Alabama, Birmingham Innovation Week, Sloss Tech
Shipt headquarters, via

Early this week, I had one of those pullover in the car to listen to the radio moments.

It was after lunch, and as usual, driving back home, I was listening to WBHM.

What made me pullover?

A national radio broadcast was talking about Birmingham’s growing tech sector and Shipt.

On air at the time was Here & Now, a public radio magazine program produced by NPR and WBUR in Boston and distributed across the United States by NPR to over 450 stations.

The popular “deep dive into the news” and human interests program has an estimated weekly listening audience of 4.5 million people.

Stories on Birmingham

16th Street baptist Church
16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Within the past month, Here & Now has provided its national audience two powerful stories about Birmingham’s past and its future.

On April 30th, the program told the story of Sarah Collins Rudolph, the fifth little girl that survived the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.

Birmingham Alabama
Four Little Girls statue at the entrance of Kelly Ingram Park in front of 16th Street Baptist Church

Titled – 4 Little Girls Died In The 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing In 1963. A 5th Survived – Here & Now host Robin Young  interviews Rudolph about losing her sister Addie Mae Collins and her own subsequent struggles, years after the tragic event. An excerpt:

“Rudolph says she’s not surprised that many have never heard of her. She says she was “just a survivor.” But she admits, with a little prodding, that she’s a carrier of history. In fact, she remembers every detail of that Sept. 15, 1963. “

It is a deeply personal  eleven minute interview and story.

Shipt and Birmingham’s Future

Birmingham, Alabama, Shipt
Shipt employees, via Shipt

The second Here & Now Story was about Shipt and the ongoing transformation of Birmingham.

The May 15th story titled – Once An Industrial Hub, This Alabama City Is Attracting Tech Talent To The South – featured Shipt’s founder Bill Smith, their CEO  Kelly Caruso and  Shipt shopper Blakely Segroves.

Here & Now does a wonderful job capturing Smith’s story – how he came up with the idea of Shipt and why he loves the Magic City.

From the May 15th Here & Now broadcast:

bill smith shipt Birmingham's Shipt, tech industry and civil rights history, featured on NPR's Here & Now
Bill Smith, founder of Shipt. Photo via Shipt.

Smith, a high school dropout who’s become something of a hometown hero, says keeping the business local was his key to success.

“It is the culture here, and culture in the South is treating people well, and loyalty and … extra special touches,” he says. “And I love Birmingham. I grew up here and I am so motivated to make this the best place it can possibly be.”

Both Here & Now stories examine Birmingham’s past and our march toward a brighter future, especially in the tech sector nationwide.

They are both “must hear” stories

More NPR stories about Birmingham coming

Birmingham, Alabama Skyline
Birmingham, Alabama skyline. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

According to Chuck Holmes, WBHM’s General Manager, Here & Now host Robin Young was in Birmingham in April for 3-4 days and actually aired a show from the WBHM studios.

He  informed Bham Now more national NPR shows are coming. For example, the host of the interview show 1A, Joshua Johnson, is scheduled to air stories about Birmingham and Alabama in November on 1A Across America.

WBHM has also launched One Small Step,  a national project by StoryCorps aimed at examining and  breaking down boundaries created by politics. WBHM is  one of just six stations from across the United Stated chosen to participate in this exciting initiative.  It is likely, subsequent national stories  about Birmingham will follow.

Participate in One Small Step

Screen Shot 2019 05 18 at 4.11.48 PM Birmingham's Shipt, tech industry and civil rights history, featured on NPR's Here & Now

One Small Step is looking for participants from all walks of life. Check out their program – HERE.

Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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