Awash in the Crimson Tide, I’ve made it, and am about to have a genteel Southern dinner (at the riverside Cypress Inn — they have peanut butter pie!) before my talk. Tomorrow: grits and red-eye gravy — and hopefully biscuits — for breakfast, and ribs for dinner.
The campus here is lovely, and large, with the huge Bryant-Denny football stadium (now being enlarged to contain 101,000 seats!) looming above it all. Nearby is Foster Auditorium, where George Wallace made his futile bid to prevent black students from enrolling on June 11, 1963 — an event that I’m old enough to remember. There’s a museum to Bear Bryant as well, whose statue (along with those of other championship-winning coaches) stands outside the stadium. Large fraternity houses line the main drag, and on the side streets are gorgeous houses, shaded by old oaks, which are said to be the purview of wealthier faculty members.
I’m told that Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, lives nearby, and can be seen going to the campus library from time to time. But one is advised not to approach her for a signature!
Fig. 1. The humongous Bryant-Denny stadium
But what most impressed me was the President’s house, cheek by jowl to the stadium. It’s said to be one of only two buildings on campus that weren’t razed by the Yankees at the end of the Civil War. Imagine living in a place like this — your own Tara!
Fig. 2. President’s house, University of Alabama
And so to fuel up for the big evolution talk. . .
Post mortem: It’s always hard to tell from the inside how these things went, but I was very pleased. Despite a nagging bronchitis, I soldiered on about the evidence for evolution, and I think it went well. Lots of people showed up, the questions were intelligent and wide-ranging, and even my criticism of religion as a cause of anti-evolution sentiment was received well. (One person did say that my comments on religion might have been inimical to my message about evolution.)
And I sold a lot of books! I think the best gauge of audience reaction will be in the Tuscaloosa paper, or perhaps even on this website. All I can say is that everyone I’ve met — especially my hosts — has been friendly and (dare I use the word) accommodating. Bring on the biscuits!
Oh, and one more astounding fact: the head football coach at Alabama makes four million dollars per year!