Tuesday, July 8, 2014 is a day I will never forget.
During the middle of our tour of the Florida panhandle, Dixie and I scooted down the coast to Mobile Bay for an absolutely unforgettable private event at The Supper Club in Point Clear, Alabama. Before telling about the event, a little backstory is needed.
Almost a year ago to the day, I was in Point Clear at the Grand Hotel for the 2013 Alabama State Bar Annual Meeting. On the Friday of the seminar, I was at Lakewood Golf Club across the street from the Grand and was about to play in the State Bar golf tournament. While eating my lunch in the lounge area of the club, I noticed a tall man heading my way. I stopped in mid chew of my sandwich as the realization hit me. “Good Gosh Almighty, that’s Lee Roy Jordan.” Lee Roy and the fellow he was with took a seat right behind me. Well, as I was literally born and raised on stories about Lee Roy Jordan and the great Coach Bryant teams of the ’60’s and The Professor actually includes a cameo by Lee Roy and teammate Billy Neighbors, I was astonished to find this man, a great hero of mine, sitting directly behind me. Eventually, I was able to manage the courage to turn my chair to introduce myself. Then, I proceeded to talk a mile a minute to Lee Roy and his friend about my book, about how he was one of my heroes, etc. Lee Roy, who I suspect gets stopped on a daily basis by fans such as me, was a complete gentlemen about the whole deal, and said he looked forward to my book. Then his friend snapped a picture of us together.
The fellow that snapped the picture was Joe Bullard, owner of Bullard Automotive in Mobile. As I was a bit star struck talking to Lee Roy, Joe mercifully guided the conversation and Joe and I learned we had a few mutual friends. Before leaving for the golf course, I exchanged business cards with Joe. Upon return to Huntsville, I sent Joe a Thank You email and told him to be sure to look for my book when it came out in January.
Flash forward six months to February 2014. In an effort to promote my book signing in Fairhope at the Page & Palette bookstore, I reached out to Joe, telling him about the signing and inviting him to come. In response, I got an email from Joe that said he was going to be in New Orleans that weekend, but that he would be sure to pick up the book. Then, a couple days later I got an email from Foncie…
Foncie Bullard is Joe’s wife, and she emailed me, saying she had pre-purchased a copy of the book for Joe from The Page & Palette, and asked if I ‘d sign it for him at the signing. I, of course, did so and a few weeks later I got an email from Foncie saying that Joe had started and finished the book in just over a day. Then, the emails began to be more frequent, as she informed me that she and Joe had recommended The Professor to others in their group of friends on the Bay, and all of them were really loving the story. On a trip to Gulf Shores for another signing, Foncie asked that I sign ten more copies of the book for some of their friends who were going to Sea Island to play golf, two of whom were Lee Roy Jordan and his wife Biddie. This was unbelievable, I thought. Then Foncie invited us to dinner. She said I had some “fans” on the Bay and they all wanted to meet me and Dixie. I really couldn’t hardly believe that these folks wanted to meet me, but we set a date for the dinner for July 8.
A few days before the date of the dinner, Foncie said that they had reserved The Supper Club in Fairhope for the event, and that we had the place to ourselves. Appriximately 30 folks would be there, including New York Times bestselling authors, Winston Groom and Andy Andrews, along with Lee Roy and Biddie Jordan and various other of their friends who had enjoyed the book. I was completely stunned! She also asked me to bring books, so that the group could get additional copies for family and friends. At this point, I began to wonder whether Foncie Bullard was an angel from heavan.
The night finally arrived, and to say that it was unbelievable is an understatement. I talked at length with Lee Roy Jordan, who showed me his Dallas Cowboys’ Super Bowl ring, the first of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl victories, and said several times how much he enjoyed the book. Jimmy Dill, also a member of the ’61 team, was present with his wife Paige, and Jimmy was quick to point out that the team members who came to the trial to support Tom would likely have worn crimson coats to the courtroom instead of blue blazers. Then, Lee Roy said the crimson ones might not fit anymore, and Jimmy agreed that maybe the blue would’ve been ok, which led to a round of laughs by everyone.
Also present was Winston Groom, whose blurb about my book contributed so much to me finding a publisher. Winston is truly one of the nicest gentlemen I have ever met, and catching up with him was awesome. Winston’s good friend, Jimbo Meador, was also present with his lovely wife, Lynn. Winston dedicated his novel, Forrest Gump, to Jimbo, and Tom Hanks actually studied Jimbo’ voice as he was formulating how he would play Forrest in the movie adaptation. Seriously, this entire night contained one “pinch me” moment after another. One guest who I especially enjoyed speaking with was Mr. Angus Cooper, longtime member of the Alabama Board of Trustees, and the owner of The Supper Club along with Felix’s Fish Camp in Mobile. Mr. Cooper nearly brought me to tears when he talked about how moving and emotional the book was for him, especially the part where the 1961 team members show their support for Tom at the trial.
Though the night was a three hour fantasy of highlights, one of our favorite parts was being able to sit next to Andy Andrews and his wonderful wife, Polly, during dinner. Andy is the New York Times bestselling author of The Travelor’s Gift, The Noticer and numerous other works of fiction and non-fiction. He is also one of the most sought after corporate speakers in the world. Having the opportunity to sit at the same table with Andy and pick his brain about all things writing, publishing and books was just invaluable and something I will never forget.
When the night was over and we were back at the hotel, I found that I could not sleep, pacing the floor in our room and asking Dixie over and over: “Did that really just happen?” I had to look at the pictures to convince myself that it did. We will forever be indebted to Joe and Foncie Bullard for putting together such an unforgettable experience. We are so grateful for their encouragement, support and friendship.