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Bob Carl Bailey remembered for achievement

     Entrepreneur and community advocate Bob Carl Bailey is being remembered as an out-spoken man of compassion by those who knew him best.
     Bailey, a native of Leighton, died Monday at his Tuscumbia radio station, WZZA.
     "Bob Carl Bailey was a friend to man, a friend to the community as a whole, and he devoted his life to helping others." said the Rev. Charlie Burgess of Leighton.
     "You can't say that about a whole lot of folks."
     Bailey, who friends say was in his late 60s, broke new ground for blacks in a quiet way, though he was passionate about building the economic potential of African-Americans.
     Huston Cobb Jr. of Leighton said Bailey was the first black he knew of involved in local radio, the first black police officer (Huntsville) and the first black car salesman in the Shoals.
     "He could have been the most outstanding black politician in the area, but he never wanted the praise," Cobb said. "He did a lot behind the scenes."
     Billy Underwood, chairman of the Colbert County Democratic Executive Committee, said Bailey has considerable political clout and possessed tremendous insight into the dynamics of the black community.
      "He was a consummate advocate for black prosperity and ideals," Underwood said. "He was one of the most articulate people I ever met."
      Underwood said Bailey was a man of intellect and political independence.
     "Bob Carl Bailey was his own man and could not have had a party affiliation label," he said.
     Though politically independent, Bailey was close to Republican Gov. Fob James and worked to elect blacks to statewide office, regardless of party affiliation.
     Arthur Graves, a Tuscumbia business owner, said Bailey's generosity to the poor was well-known, but he did not want recognition for his charity.
     "He was a champion of the down-trodden. People who couldn't find help from any other source could get a sympathetic ear from Mr. Bailey." he said.
     He never took the spotlight, but he really stood behind anything that would improve the quality of live in the black community," Graves said.
     Bailey bought WZZA in 1972, said Ella R. Johnson, who worked as a receptionist and talk show host at the station beginning in 1985.
     Bailey expressed his concerns and views on the air and allowed others who sometimes did not see eye to eye with him to use the air waves as well, she said.
     "Some said he was controversial, but he didn't mind discussing his point of view and allowing others to give theirs," Johnson said.
      As a radio station owner and advocate of black prosperity, Bailey had a keen interest in the burgeoning Muscle Shoals music industry during the 1960s. He connected FAME Recording Studios owner Rich Hall with Leighton native Jimmy Hughes, who wrote and recorded the hit single that allowed Hall to build the fabled studio.
     "He was always helpful to me to search out and find talent in the areas, especially black talent," Hall said.
     Hughes, who in 1962 was working at a local factory, wrote "Steal Away," which went to No. 17 on the pop charts in 1964. The record helped establish the world-famous Muscle Shoals sound.
     Hall said he and Bailey frequently discussed the lack of good hotels, air service and restaurants in the 1960s, elements that would have helped attract more big name recording stars to Muscle Shoals. Hall said the lack of good accommodations for blacks in the 1960s was a nagging problem when booking recording stars.
     Bailey is survived by three children. Thompson and Son Funeral Home is in charge of funeral arrangements.

[SOURCE: The Times Daily, 17 Apr 2001, pages 1 and 4, Section B. By Robert Palmer, Staff Writer.]

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