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Column: A love letter to Alabama

By WILL WHATLEY, Alabama Daily News

While I’ve spent most of my life in Montgomery, I feel as if I’m from all over Alabama. My dad’s family is from Dothan and my mom’s from Gadsden. I was born in Birmingham, where my wife’s family lives, and my family vacations in Orange Beach. And after an extended stay in Tuscaloosa (four years and a football), I graduated from the University of Alabama.

Having connections to these various areas lends to me feeling that they’re all a part of me and make me who I am. Whether it’s deep sea fishing in the Gulf, fried grouper at Barrentine Fish Market & Oyster Bar in Dothan, visiting my grandparents on Weiss Lake in Leesburg, catching a show at the Oak Mountain Amphitheatre, or spending a Saturday in the shadow of Bryant-Denny, there’s always something about these places that make me feel at peace.

But there’s so much more to our sweet home than just college football. No matter your interest, there’s something for everyone here. Birmingham is the site of medical innovations and a budding culinary scene that’s garnering national attention. It’s also the spot to be for good music along with Muscle Shoals. Montgomery is a city on the rise thanks to growing industries and the military. Mobile is the birthplace of Mardi Gras and the MoonPie Drop. And Huntsville can build a heck of a rocket.

Not many states can boast about their geographical features like Alabama can either. From the mountains of north Alabama (or as my college friends called it, “The Thunder”), to the white sandy beaches of our coastal communities along the Gulf, and the serene beauty of our numerous rivers, our home is a treasure trove of natural wonders.

But what truly makes Alabama special is her people. From the righteously defiant like Rosa Parks and Autherine Lucy, to sports stars like Henry Aaron and Bo Jackson, to modern-day troubadours like Jason Isbell, the Drive-By Truckers, and Lee Bains III + The Glory Fires, we have people from all walks of life showing firsthand the greatness of our people. But it’s the granddads in their rocking chairs on front porches, the mothers frying chicken and making collards and cornbread, the kind and personable people working the counter at small-town stores who are the lifeblood of our home. They are the colors in our rainbow that everyone can look to and know the beauty of what’s in store here.

Alabama houses so many beautiful things that these examples feel woefully incomplete. From the arts to technology, from the store fronts to the industries, from neighbors to strangers who’re just new friends in disguise, it just feels special here.

It feels like home.

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