Remember When: Why celebrate the Alabama Bicentennial

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 14, 2019

Browsing through some old newspapers, I ran across an article written during the American Bicentennial year of 1976 (1776-1976). It was written by the Chairman of the Andalusia Bicentennial Committee, the late Joseph C. Wingard. Penned in the February 29, 1976 edition of The Andalusia Star News, the column is titled, “Why Celebrate A Bicentennial?” Since this year 2019 is the year of the Alabama Bicentennial (1819-2019), I thought some of Mr. Wingard’s lasting words might help us in asking that question of why we as Alabamians should celebrate this year’s bicentennial. Let me share with you readers some excerpts from his essay.

“I am celebrating America’s Bicentennial for the same reason that I celebrate the birthday of my mother. I love her. I love America, and I never grow tired of saying it. The love I have for America is specifically an appreciation for the heritage and promise of her beauty, culture, people, philosophy, and opportunities.”

American Beauty – One only has to have glimpses of pictures in the nation’s finest magazines to see America’s beauty from the tumbledown rock coast of Maine; the sun-golden Florida dunes; the matchless redwoods of California; the wild flowers in the Rockies; the sunsets over a thousand lakes; the pine-clad country roads of Alabama and Georgia. One doesn’t have to turn the page of a magazine. He can simply turn around and find beauty in America all about him.”

American Tradition and Symbols – What would America be without the merriment of Christmas, the golden unity of Thanksgiving, the spirited picnicking of the glorious Fourth of July, the worshipping of God in church on Sunday morn. Whose eye doesn’t sparkle when he sees the Great Seal affixed to the president’s lectern, Old Glory braving the wind against a sky of blue and white, the Liberty Bell in Independence Hall, the aging parchment of the Declaration of Independence, the great American eagle winging silently over his domain, morning breaking over Mount Rushmore, or the Statue of Liberty in the golden haze of an afternoon sun? These symbols are all grand in their beauty and meaning.”

American Culture – The definition given culture by the English education is ‘the best that has been thought and known in the world.’ America’s culture is extremely rich not only because it consists of native accomplishments but also because it consists of adopted accomplishments of other nations. Four areas of our cultural heritage can be emphasized – Literature, Music, Art, and Architecture.”

“Every child should grow up with a library in his home and reading should be as natural a part of everyday as saying one’s prayers. Americans are the ‘heirs of the ages’ enriched with books of every nation as well as our own virgin literature that is grand, inspiring, and glorious!”

“Our world should be filled with music which inspires and gladdens the heart – folk music, classical music, wholesome popular music. The walls of American homes should be made educational as well as attractive with reproductions of great art in the world. Art books should be available in the home for perusing.”

America is blessed with beautiful public buildings as well as private homes which ennoble the spirit. Each American can do something for the glory of the nation by making the home even the simplest of construction a place of beauty by keeping it orderly and clean, by surrounding it with trees, shrubs, and flowers, and always looking for ways to improve one’s property.”

“A lack of acquaintance with the fine arts cripples one’s ability to have imagination. Without some degree of imagination, one is terribly limited in his every walk of life. One should be dedicated to life-long study and learning to foster imagination.”

American Philosophy – The love I have for America stems from an appreciation for the philosophy of America. An American believes in work, honesty, liberty, fair play, opportunity, education, improvement, pride, optimism, enthusiasm, family, the arts, and God.”

“The average American man is honest, hard-working, family-loving, church-going, neighbor-helping, and patriotic. The average American woman is kind, conscientious, loving to her family, and concerned for the finer things of life. The promise of tomorrow is that these kinds of folks will continue to govern this country.”

“When I was a boy, my father told me to take care of other’s things better than I would of my own. His attitude should be the attitude of this nation. We should pride ourselves on public property, clean waters, clean roadsides, public parks and gardens, grand buildings, and community centers.”

American Opportunities – The opportunities in America are sometimes in our own ‘backyard’ so to speak. Anything that anyone wants to do that is good, he may do in America. This idea is the theme of a wonderful book called ‘Acres of Diamonds’ by Russell Conwell. In his book, the author tells of a man who leaves his home to search for his fortune. His successor discovers diamonds in the man’s own backyard. It was there all the time. All that is good, one can find right where he is. Any good thing a man will do, he can do in his own American backyard.”

“This is the glory of opportunity in America – we can do good for ourselves and for others. The greater story is doing good for others. Service is love in action. Charles Dickens expressed the idea in his ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Dickens’ book is certainly the greatest blessing to mankind ever written outside the Bible.”

Conclusion – In America we have a heritage of beauty, culture, great people, philosophy, and opportunity. We have the promise of these blessings in all our years if we will but appreciate and nurture them. Sometimes I wonder why God allowed me to be born in such a great place as America. I believe that he gives any of us that blessing so that we may make the best of ourselves in His service as a nation. I hope that as long as I live, I will continue growing in an attitude of appreciation, that I will better myself in every way that I can, and that I will leave behind me a world made a bit better and more beautiful because I have walked here. I celebrate the great American Bicentennial, because I do love my country so.”

All that was written about in this particular account by Mr. Wingard in 1976 during the celebration of America’s Bicentennial appears to be relevant today as we celebrate Alabama’s Bicentennial. Alabama has natural and manmade beauty. The state has a culture all its own as shown in part by the books that have been written and enrapture the readers with stories in Southern settings, in the Southern cuisine we partake of and enjoy, in the traditions we follow, in the songs we sing, in the arts and crafts that continues to be created, in the architectural style that abounds the design of the homes and public buildings, in the great people who have sprung forth in every generation, in the hope that we have of the younger generations that we endeavor to teach our history to, and in the accomplishments that have been and are being made from the ideas and work of industrious citizens.

It has been tagged in slogans by state tourism promoters that “Alabama Has It All.” From the first native American inhabitants who set foot on the soil following the wild animals’ pathways to the pioneers who came by foot, on horseback or on covered wagon, we Remember When they were all looking for in that frontier a land of opportunity and a better way of life. Through hardships, dangers, toils, and snares, these pioneer and modern Alabamians soon found and find over and over in these past 200 years that Alabama does indeed have it all! That is why we are celebrating the Alabama Bicentennial!


     Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at