Editorial: Cecil Whitmire

The following is an editorial from FOX6 WBRC-TV General Manager Lou Kirchen, first aired on Tuesday, August 26, 2010:

It all began with love for an old pipe organ…one with leather parts that needed to be lubricated...to be cared for.  The Wurlitzer organ lived in an old building that, but for that love, would probably have been destroyed.   Enter Cecil Whitmire, whose passion, for theater organs and the music they produce, saved both the organ and its beautiful home, the Alabama Theater.   

Randy Mize, a WBRC staffer, also a music lover, popped into my office the other day, and asked if I had seen the story about Mr. Whitmire's passing.  He began to talk about Cecil, explaining what an impact he had had on Birmingham…about his commitment to the Alabama Theater and to bringing folks back downtown.  Randy said, "You must do an editorial about this great man" and gave me some information about his life. I began to read and to talk to people who knew Cecil.

The folks I talked to described Cecil as generous, humble, unassuming, having an appreciation for every human being.  Mike Calvert of Operation New Birmingham, described him as a visionary who could motivate others to embrace his vision, to give their time, their money for the good of preserving our history in downtown Birmingham.  Mike said Cecil was able to accomplish all that he had because his love for the Alabama Theater was balanced with a good measure of business sense.  His wife, Linda, who, passed in 2001, was devoted to the theater, too, Mike said.

What a loss for our community.  What can we do to honor his life and his work?  He envisioned the area around the Alabama Theater becoming a theater district.  The Lyric, an old vaudeville theater across the street was also a project of his. Its restoration is not yet complete.  Maybe you can help.

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