BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The community is rallying together for a former disc jockey who was influential during the civil rights era. Paul—“Tall Paul”—White passed away in 2001, but a fellow DJ discovered there is no marker at his grave site.
Bob Friedman is director of the Birmingham Black Radio Museum. He started collecting oral histories of Birmingham’s black radio scene dating back to the 1930’s. Friedman retired in 2011, but went back on the air Friday to talk about Paul White and try to raise donations.
“He had a roll call...," says Calvin Sexton.
Calvin Sexton says as a young man, the roll call “Tall Paul” would do filled students with pride.
“Woodlawn Colonels! Are you there Parker thundering herd? And you hear your name, you hear your school’s name and hey, I gotta go to school!”
Paul would have been 83 on Friday.
“He was cantankerous and conflicted and courageous, all three at the same time,” says Friedman.
White traveled the world before he even had a formal education. Friedman says “Tall Paul” was really 6’5 despite what records say.
“His high school record says he was 6’11! I guess to most people, he looks very big!” says Friedman.
His career took off at WEUP, the first black-owned radio station in Alabama. He was news and sports--bringing Alabama A&M football to radio for the first time, traveling to all historically black colleges. Friedman is constantly blown away by Paul’s efforts.
“Sometimes, sometimes you can just feel the energy of somebody who wants to really make a difference. I just lose it around Paul. I feel connected to him, even though we fought like cats and dogs for four months!”
He connected with the youth working at WENN. Some saying he gave codes over the air as to where the student activists were meeting, or where police activity was. He was once hailed by Martin Luther King, Jr.
“No one knows the importance of “Tall Paul” White and the massive non-violent demonstrations of the youth of Birmingham in 1963,” says King.
And now Friedman wants his life to be remembered and a marker placed where his body rests.
“He talked about politicians and keeping them honest. He talked about young people and their need for jobs and a good education. He talked about a reason for crime. He was a revolutionary brother in his time,” says Friedman.
They’ve raised about $3,000 and are collecting still. If you’d like to donate, contact Bob Friedman at the Birmingham Black Radio Museum at 205-902-9487.