Alabama doesn’t have a functioning Music Hall of Fame.
The one it does have, on U.S. 72 in Tuscumbia, remains closed thanks in large part to the state Legislature’s 2011 decision to remove the museum’s funding from the sagging General Fund budget. That was two years ago. Little has happened since.
That’s a shame, considering the cultural significance Alabama musicians wield in our state. It’s a list too long to include here, but here’s a brief refresher of the state’s noteworthy stars: Nat King Cole, Hank Williams Sr. and Jr., W.C. Handy, Sam Phillips, Jimmy Buffett, The Commodores, Alabama (the band), Eddie Hinton, Emmylou Harris, Martha Reeves and Percy Sledge.
Few states can match that roster.
Recent developments give us hope that the Hall of Fame can reopen in the near future. Tuscumbia Mayor Bill Shoemaker is spearheading an effort to gain support and funding through a variety of sources that will match a potential $500,000 donation from a donor over the next five years.
To his credit, Shoemaker is going on the offensive. Among his proposals is to get nearby cities and counties to pledge 50 cents per resident for five years; to raise hotel and motel rates by $1 a day per room; to ask business owners and manufacturers to pledge $1 per employee; and ask Gov. Robert Bentley to chip in, as well, to match local funds.
Not everyone shares a strong appreciation for Alabama music, so this is no assumption that Shoemaker’s efforts will work. Here in Calhoun County, it’s been hard enough the last decade to get the different municipalities to work together on the redevelopment of the former Fort McClellan. Only now is that gaining steam.
We’d like to say the Hall of Fame’s best bet would be the state Legislature reinstalling its funding, but that’s likely the longest shot of all. The lingering effects of the Great Recession and the miserly leadership of the Republican-controlled Statehouse make it highly unlikely — if not improbable — for the state to again pay for the Hall of Fame anytime soon. And that reality leaves people such as Shoemaker grasping for any funding they can find.
The Alabama Music Hall of Fame should be open. The state’s heritage warrants the expense. We’re hopeful that hidden somewhere within these fundraising efforts is a viable solution.