9 Magic City legends make Birmingham Business Hall of Fame

John Hand
John Hand Building Clock Tower. Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now

The Kiwanis Club of Birmingham, the world’s largest Kiwanis, announced last week the 2020-21 class of inductees into the Birmingham Business Hall of Fame. 

Nine remarkable Birmingham business leaders have been chosen for this year’s class.

Since 1997, the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham has inducted Magic City business leaders into its hall of fame as part of the club’s more than 100 year old  mission to build a stronger community.

Kiwanis Birmingham
View of Vulcan from Kiwanis Centennial Park, photo by Pat Byington

The community is invited to join the Kiwanis Club on August 26th, 5:30 pm. at the Harbert Center in a ceremony recognizing these outstanding business leaders.  For additional details, including how to purchase a banquet ticket to  the event, visit – https://kcob.org/event/bbhof 

How Are the Honorees Chosen

According to the Kiwanis Club, the Birmingham Business Hall of Fame Committee annually selects business leaders to induct into the hall of fame who have shown strong leadership and made extraordinary contributions to the Greater Birmingham area. Inductees can be living or deceased.

This year’s group includes leaders and  entrepreneurs in  banking, healthcare, marketing and advertising and real estate.

The 2020-21 honorees are:

Grayson Hall, Jr. – Hall  recently retired as Chairman and CEO of Regions Financial Corp. in 2018. He began his 38 -year banking career with AmSouth eventually becoming its chairman, president and COO. As Chairman and CEO of Regions, he helped build one of the strongest banks in the nation right here in Birmingham.

Kiwanis Club of Birmingham – Birmingham Business Hall of Fame inductee Grayson Hall. Photo via Kiwanis Club of Birmingham

John A. Hand –  A leader of the Alabama banking financial community for more than 40 years. Hand became comptroller at First National Bank of Birmingham. During his administration there, the money on deposit doubled. A pillar of the community, in 1970, the 21 story First National Bank building on 1st Avenue was named after him.

Kiwanis Club
Kiwanis Club of Birmingham – Birmingham Business Hall of Fame inductee John Hand. Photo via Kiwanis Club of Birmingham

Elmer B. Harris – Alabama Power’s Chairman and CEO from 1989 – 2002, during his time as CEO, Harris saw a need for a childcare center near Alabama Power in downtown Birmingham, which inspired him to join with other corporations to build Elmer and Glenda Harris Early Learning Center. 

Kiwanis Club of Birmingham – Birmingham Business Hall of Fame inductee Elmer Harris. Photo via Kiwanis Club of Birmingham

Dr. Basil I. Hirschowitz  – Creator of the first fully flexible endoscope ( a device that can look inside a body) while on the medical school faculty at the University of Michigan. He brought the successful device to Birmingham in 1959 and joined the UAB faculty. Dr. Hirschowitz’s endoscope has changed the medical field and how physicians diagnose their patients. 

Kiwanis Club of Birmingham – Birmingham Business Hall of Fame inductee Basil Hirschowitz. Photo via Kiwanis Club of Birmingham

Thomas E. Jernigan – An entrepreneur, Jernigan  founded and manufactured different objects from furniture to developing commercial properties. Jernigan’s most notable accomplishment was Marathon Equipment Co., which was recognized as the largest commercial trash compaction manufacturer in the world. Though Jernigan founded a variety of manufacturing companies, his legacy proceeds through the Thomas E. Jernigan Foundation, a program in Birmingham to help churches provide holiday relief for those in need.

Kiwanis Club of Birmingham – Birmingham Business Hall of Fame inductee Tom Jerigan. Photo via Kiwanis Club of Birmingham

Billy Charles Martin – Founder of Martin & Associates in 1959, which became Martin, White & Mickwee Advertising. Later, he founded Martin Advertising which is still prominent today. Martin had a guiding hand in developing and growing much of the advertising industry in the Birmingham area. 

Kiwanis Club of Birmingham – Birmingham Business Hall of Fame inductee Billy Martin. Photo via Kiwanis Club of Birmingham

William R. Pettiford – A minister at the 16th Street Baptist church, Pettiford  established Alabama Penny Savings Bank the first black-owned and operated financial institution in Alabama, Pettiford is considered one of the most influential Black leaders of his time. With his influence, he petitioned Birmingham to open the first high school for Blacks. He also established the Christian Aid Society to help sick members of 16th Street Baptist Church and bury its dead.

Kiwanis Club of Birmingham – Birmingham Business Hall of Fame inductee William Pettiford. Photo via Kiwanis Club of Birmingham

Dr. Shelley Stewart – A living legend, Stewart was first known as a radio personality in the 50’s and 60’s. Dr. Stewart was on air for 55 years, becoming the longest-running radio talent in the country. From there, he expanded into marketing as the President and CEO of o2ideas, one of the country’s largest privately held corporate communication companies. Dr. Stewart continues to impact the community through his Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, which helps young people prepare for adulthood.

Kiwanis Club of Birmingham – Birmingham Business Hall of Fame inductee Shelley Stewart. Photo via Kiwanis Club of Birmingham

W. Edgar Welden, Sr. – Welden is the founder of and business partner in various successful real estate companies, like Weldenfield. He also founded the Birmingham Athletic Partnership, a non-profit organization which supports Birmingham’s public middle and high school athletic programs. The organization has spent over three million dollars on behalf of Birmingham school children. 

Edgar Welden
ASHOF and scholarship program Chairman Edgar Welden. Photo via ASHOF

Birmingham’s 150th Birthday

The Harbert Center in downtown Birmingham. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

A great way to celebrate Birmingham’s 150th birthday – remember the induction ceremony/event is scheduled for August 26th, 5:30 at the Harbert Center. Check out the winners between 1997-2020 – and Reserve a ticket to see this year’s inductees today.

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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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