“How can we get them to back off tearing down this historic structure? Who can talk some sense into them? Will they listen to Mayor Arrington?” I asked.
“I doubt if they’ll pay any attention to the mayor. Or anyone else. I’ll ask Ferd if he thinks he could make any headway with them as Vice-Chair of ONB and a store owner, but I think we’ll probably need to meet with them. They’ve probably focused on the income potential of a parking lot. Rates have gone up. I”ll get back to you.”
Late that afternoon, Bill’s secretary left a message that we would meet on Friday morning at the third floor conference room at the Birmingham News. I filled in Ed LaMonte, the Mayor’s chief assistant. I did not want him or the mayor to be blindsided by a City Council Member or a reporter. I knew Bill would not tip off a Birmingham News reporter, but the owners could complain to a Post-Herald reporter or directly to Mayor Arrington.
When I entered the high-ceilinged conference room with rich magenta drapes hung from a valence that spanned three windows, Bill was sitting comfortably at the head of the long oval table next to two diminutive older men in the cavernous space. On the opposite wall a stained glass window bordered with vivid green vines framed a printer in his apron setting type on an old press. Set into the glass were the words of Thomas Jefferson: “Liberty depends on the freedom of the press.”
I was introduced to Allen Haskell and John Beard by Bill in his most affable manner. Mr Haskell was a very thin, sallow man of advanced years, probably over eighty, and he reminded me of the farmer with a pitchfork in Grant Wood’s painting. Mr. Beard appeared to be almost as old with heavy eyebrows over deep set dark eyes. Mr. Haskell wore a brown suit with a wide, florid tie. Mr. Beard had no jacket and his wrinkled, white shirt was open at the collar.
Mr. Yielding introduced himself formally when he arrived precisely on time. A gold tie clasp and a Jefferson Federal lapel pin complemented his sleek suit and striped regimental tie. He stiffly took a seat at the table.
Bill began with a summary of the progress under way in downtown, citing the landscaped median and street trees on 20th Street, the three new high-rise bank buildings at Fifth and Twentieth, and the city-funded parking decks. He dwelt on the proposed 666-space deck next to the City Federal Building that would serve all the employees and customers within walking distance including their building in the next block. Bill concluded by saying there were some federal programs for renovation of historic buildings, and asked me to summarize them.