Being the youngest of eight children and losing his father at the age of 14, Bailey was more mature than the rest of us. He took his studies seriously and physically carried himself with a confidence and sophistication unknown to his classmates.
By our senior year, he was writing for the local weekly newspaper. As editor of our high school newspaper in Aliceville, he changed the mimeographed gossip sheet into a printed tabloid with worthy news. He cajoled us into writing assignments and selling ads to finance his first newspaper, The Stinger.
Our paths crossed infrequently at the University of Alabama. He was always friendly but busily committed to the Crimson White, for which he served as editor, and seriously committed to his studies of Spanish and Southern history. By graduation, he wisely followed his heart and dedicated himself to a search for truth through journalism.
Over the years, he would call occasionally to verify an Aliceville memory for a story he was writing. When he returned to teach at the university, he tried to find ways through his position to revitalize Aliceville. He supported an effort to re-initiate a newspaper at Aliceville High School. He had his graduate students create an early blog on Pickens County, posting their human interest and historical stories to the Internet.
He was dedicated to his students but his real passion, after his love of family and journalism, was his steadfast commitment to the reform of Alabama’s 1901 Constitution. Although, difficult for him, I am sure, he bravely challenged his friends in the Aliceville Rotary Club, the majority of whom were forested landowners and strongly opposed to his reforms, to think beyond their personal interests.
His wife Kristi and I laughed and cried recently when we moved his manuscripts to the University of Alabama Libraries. Kristi was honoring Bailey’s intentions and I was pleased to be receiving his manuscripts for the university he loved.
Bailey was an Aliceville High School honor graduate. As such, he delivered one of the five graduation addresses based on lines from our class song, The Impossible Dream. Though I do not remember the text of his address, I do remember the theme, “To be better far than you are.” It was the theme and legacy of his life.
Mary Bess Paluzzi is associate dean for Special Collections for the University of Alabama Libraries.
• Bob Davis: Fix your state!
• We need to follow through
• He led with his heart
• A teacher’s voice lingers
• A prophet in our midst