Monthly Archives: October 2002

City Council President Arrested In Animal Cruelty Case

City Council President Arrested In Animal Cruelty Case


One week before the originally scheduled hearing on Birmingham City Council President Lee Loder’s animal cruelty charges, municipal Judge David Barnes dismissed the case in an “expedited” hearing called on October 17. Barnes questioned not only the arrest of Loder without a warrant, but also misinformation on the police report regarding where the dog was found and what the judge termed “inappropriate” procedure taken by the city’s law department. Due to the law department’s representation of Loder as president of the City Council, it recused itself from the case and appointed a special prosecutor. Barnes complained that the department had issued subpoenas for the hearing even though it had recused itself.

The emaciated dog being bathed by the authorities after impoundment.

In a telephone interview the day after Barnes dismissed the case, City Attorney Tamara Johnson disagreed with the judge’s assessment, explaining that even though special prosecutors were hired, the city can still provide resources [including subpoenas] with which to try the case. The law department, however, can not tell a special prosecutor how to try cases, according to Johnson. The city attorney said she had contacted Barnes to tell him that a conflict of interest existed with the law department as well as with any municipal judge handling the case, since municipal judges are appointed by the City Council. (Loder’s Administration Committee recommended reappointment of Barnes this past August.) Johnson added that the law department was not informed of the expedited hearing until two days before it was scheduled. She said she had no idea Barnes was going to hear the case when she first contacted him. It had originally been scheduled to be heard by Judge Agnes Chappell on October 24.

According to a police report filed September 26, Lee Loder’s dog was reported by Paul Clark, a carpenter working in the neighborhood. Clark described the dog, a 60-pound mixed breed named Stokely, as “skin and bones. I saw the condition of the dog. You had a chain that was so knotted up it was like a rigid bar. It wouldn’t even sag. For me that’s inexcusable . . . He had severely limited movement. I’d be surprised if he had more than a three or four foot radius that he could maneuver in . . . The dog’s ribs were sticking out and its eyes were sunk in. The dog was right at the point of starvation.” The police report confirmed that the dog appeared to be starving and was so emaciated that “all bony prominences [were] evident from a distance.” The animal was chained up in a fenced-in area out of reach of shelter due to the chain being “wrapped and hooked on his neck,” according to the report, which added that the dog was soaked and shivering after two days of rain. Animal cruelty officer Dana Johnston, who investigated the case, called Birmingham-Jefferson County Animal Control, which impounded the dog until October 10, when it was released into the custody of Loder’s veterinarian, Dr. Jerome Williams (who will eventually return the dog to Loder).

Photos taken September 26 of Lee Loder’s dog chained in the rear of Loder’s house.

The dog reportedly had heartworms, intestinal and external parasites, and fleas. Williams examined the dog within 24 hours after impoundment. “I found the heartworms. I was told by the vet [at animal control] that she found intestinal worms and fleas.” Williams wrote in a letter regarding his observations to Judge Barnes, “Based on my personal observations of Stokely’s demeanor, his age, his vital indicators, his laboratory tests, and his medical history, I am of the opinion that the animal’s condition at the time of his impoundment was within acceptable normal range.” In an interview the day after the case’s dismissal, Williams described the dog as underweight when taken to animal control, but added that “skin and bones” was not a description that he would use, as the police report had.

The chain had become so knotted that the dog was unable to reach shelter.

Williams has been seeing Loder’s dog since 1996 and reports that worms have been a problem in the past. When asked if Loder had regularly addressed health problems concerning the dog, the vet described Loder as “not being an ‘ideal’ client,” but added that the majority of his clients “are not optimum.” He said that Loder had brought the dog in regularly for shots [according to the police report, Loder could not tell the arresting officer the last time the dog had received his rabies shot]. The dog was still in Williams’ custody at press time. The veterinarian reported that the dog was “responding well” to care.

Police spokesperson Lt. Henry Irby said animal cruelty officer Dana Johnston’s office received a call stating that there was a dog being abused. Irby said that officers did not know who the dog belonged to when they impounded it. Loder was contacted once he was discovered to be the owner. “We asked Mr. Loder to come in to talk,” said Irby. “At that time he was placed under arrest and then released on a $500 bond.”

Loder addressed the issue in an October 15 interview, two days before the case was suddenly dropped. “We do dispute the claims that there was criminal neglect,” said Loder, who would not comment on whether the dog was kept chained on a regular basis. “I don’t have any problem talking about this but because it’s a legal matter and the matter’s in court, I really don’t want to go into details.” Loder insisted that the dog was given “reasonable care,” adding, “I’ve had a dog all my life and taken care of dogs very well. I don’t think that’s a question. I love them, and that’s why I have them.” The Council President said that no complaints had been lodged against him in the past regarding the animal. Loder expressed concerns about the impoundment and arrest procedures, noting that provisions for a 10-day notice were not utilized, which Loder says is often the case. “I wasn’t given the opportunity that I think other people are generally given, which is if there was a concern that was raised, to address it . . . and I’m not agreeing that the concern was one that had to be addressed. . . . That was an option [giving notice] for somebody who believed I was a credible person. . . . One of the things that I cherish and try to make sacred is being honest, being responsible, and being credible. And you do that for days like this-I don’t want to be treated differently than anybody but I think I’m a credible person who is responsible and who ought to be believed when they make a statement about something.” Loder added, “After this is all over-and this is going to be resolved very soon-there will be no question regarding my care for this dog.”

Loder said he explained to animal control officers that it was “all a misunderstanding.” He said that he offered to take the dog to the vet before he signed the $500 bond but was “not given that opportunity.” Loder said, “I expect my name to be cleared through the courts. And after that, for those who still have suspicions, I’ll have the dog and he’ll be there [at Loder's home] and I’ll let folks see him since he’s become a public figure now.” &

All Hail the Mighty Boll Weevil!

All Hail the Mighty Boll Weevil!


Not only does Enterprise, Alabama, boast the only monument in the world dedicated to an insect, the town may also have the most pilfered statue ever. From its perch in the town square, the huge black boll weevil that is hoisted in the air by a cement goddess in a flowing gown has been stolen four times in 83 years. The goddess was once stolen as well. Only in Alabama do you find a community worshipping an insect, but there’s some history behind this odd scenario.

The boll weevil (anthonomus grandis) burrowed its way into the hearts of Coffee County residents in 1915, devastating cotton fields as it migrated from Mexico through Mobile. Farmers were forced to diversify their crops, inadvertently revitalizing the Enterprise area and thus the boll weevil was subsequently revered as a savior of sorts .

Coincidentally, Dr. George Washington Carver arrived in Alabama to take over the agricultural department at Tuskegee University around the same time that the boll weevil invaded the state. Carver preached crop diversification to save Alabama’s soil, its nutrients having been depleted by the planting of cotton year after year. He stressed crop rotation, mainly sweet potatoes, pecans, and peanuts. (Cotton farming had left the dirt rich in phosphates, ideal for growing peanuts.)

The original bug shrine did not include an insect. The woman held only a fountain over her head until 1949, when a black metal boll weevil was added. Five years later the bug was stolen. Even the Saturday Evening Post covered the theft. Enterprise City Hall received a series of cryptic telephone messages that whispered, “You’ll find him in a cotton field!” but despite the tips, the boll weevil was never recovered. A larger bug replaced the original, but this time with the anatomically-correct six legs instead of four. In the early 1970s, the boll weevil and the woman holding it were stolen, only to be found two days later in a patch of weeds along a rural highway. The bug was again stolen in 1981 and 1998. The most recent theft left the goddess with shattered arms and a crack down her spine. Fortunately a mold had been cast several years earlier at the request of the Atlanta History Museum, and the replica of the original statue was unveiled during the 1998 Enterprise Christmas parade.

Enterprise hosts the Boll Weevil Festival every autumn, with arts and crafts, food, and live music on Main Street at the town square. This year’s event will be October 26, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Call 334-347-0581 for details.

You Are Here

You Are Here

A 1657 map from the Rucker Agee Collection shows Floride Francois (Georgia and South Carolina), and Floride Espanole (the Southeast).

Defining one’s place in the historical world has always been a natural preoccupation of the curious, particularly cartographers and explorers. During November and December, the Rucker Agee Collection of the Birmingham Public Library will offer the public a glimpse at such perceptions of the South’s geographical location in history with “Maps-1540 to Today, From the Collection of Rucker Agee.” Comprised of 60 Eastern hemisphere maps dating back to the 1500s, the exhibit chronicles the development of Birmingham and the Southeastern region. Included in the exhibit are an original woodblock map from 1540 detailing the Spanish discovery of America, and a 16th-century Swiss map featuring renderings of Caribbean islands where seafaring trade ships docked.

The Rucker Agee Collection has been at the library since 1955, and an endowment keeps the collection of almost 4,000 maps updated with the most current charts available. “It’s fascinating to watch how various peoples used the land-the French, the Spanish. Everybody sticks to the coast and then they move in on the inland rivers,” says Marjorie White, director of the Birmingham Historical Society.

“Holster maps,” carried by British troops during the Revolutionary War, will be on display along with land surveys that included the east and west coasts of Florida, possibly used to identify landing sites for British vessels. An 1818 chart of Alabama is featured as the first map of the state. (Alabama officially achieved statehood in 1819.) Included are lands for sale by the state as well as territory inhabited by Indian tribes. There is also an 1849 geological map by Irish geologist Michael Tuomey that was used in the mining of Alabama’s mineral resources, especially coal and iron. Ages and types of strata are included with river systems and towns. The future location of Birmingham appears on a bed of limestone between two huge coal deposits.

The exhibit runs from November 1 to December 31. A reception will be held Sunday, November 3, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Call 226-3600 for details.

Vet On Wheels

Vet On Wheels


For dogs and cats devastated by the anxiety of veterinarian waiting rooms, Dr. Vaughn Walker offers an option that resurrects a tradition long forgotten by the modern world: a doctor who makes house calls. “Seventy years ago that’s how veterinarians worked, going to homes,” says Dr. Walker, who started Comforts of Home Vet Care last April, one of only two licensed small animal mobile practices in the state.

“Lots of animals do better in their own environment. They’re usually calmer, more willing to be worked with,” explains Walker. “I pretty much handle the routine things: vaccinations, heartworm checks, check-ups-minor stuff. I’m not really equipped to handle emergencies. No general anesthesia, just mild sedation. I don’t put them totally under because that requires things such as oxygen and monitoring.”

Front porches, living room floors, and kitchen tables generally serve as examination areas. Pregnancy tests, gastrointestinal problems, ear infections, and the treatment of minor injuries are among the services offered. Walker occasionally sees exotic pets but most of those are difficult to treat. “I’ve seen a few sick lizards, and I do wing and beak trims on birds,” says the Doc.

Home vet care can be an indispensable asset for the elderly who can’t drive or have difficulty corralling an animal for the arduous trip to the vet. Most of the dogs Walker has seen have been large breeds, which can be difficult to squeeze into an automobile. Dr. Walker will even transport your pet to the clinic in his Jeep Cherokee (which he keeps stocked with iced-down vaccines) should the need arise. His fee for a house call is a flat $40, regardless of the number of animals to be examined. Any vaccinations, blood work, or other tests are additional costs.

Dr. Walker services Jefferson and north Shelby Counties from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and is affiliated with the Galleria Animal Clinic. He can be contacted at 907-4000. For pet emergencies, call Emergency Pet Care at 988-5988.

Time to Retire and Count the Flowers

Time to Retire and Count the Flowers


Jimmy Fortune, left, Phil Balsley, Don Reid, and Harold Reid, collectively known as The Statler Brothers, harmonize with each other during a performance in Abilene, Texas. The Statler Brothers have announced that their current tour will be their last. After 38 years and over 500 awards in the music business they are retiring at the end of this year.

The Statler Brothers caught the world’s attention in 1965 with their unintentionally psychedelic hit “Flowers on the Wall,” a strange but catchy musical diatribe that captured the attention of America’s youth with the paradoxical refrain “smokin’ cigarettes and watchin’ ‘Captain Kangaroo’ . . .” As revolutionary notions of Flower Power bloomed in the 1960s, the song’s lyrics raised the eyebrows of suspicious parents, who were convinced that anyone singing about “counting flowers on the wall” while watching a kiddie program must be making subliminal drug references.

Anyone familiar with the squeaky clean Statler Brothers knows that nothing could be further from the truth; the song is about staring at wallpaper from sheer boredom. Probably the closest the Statlers ever got to illicit substances was watching Johnny Cash descend into amphetamine hell early in their career when they were his opening act for eight years. The Statler Brothers are so all-American that they still live in their hometown of Staunton, Virginia, (population 22,000), where they purchased their former elementary school and converted it into Statler headquarters.

After 40 years as country music’s first successful singing combo since the Carter Family, The Statler Brothers are currently engaged in a farewell concert tour, with a show at Huntsville’s Von Braun Center scheduled for October 24. Two nights later, the final Statler concert will be in Salem, Virginia.

Mixing gospel-style harmonies, rural comedy, and nostalgic lyrics on small-town life, The Statler Brothers (only two are actually siblings) were originally known as the Kingsmen until another group by the same name scored a mega-hit with “Louie, Louie.” A box of Statler tissues in a hotel room inspired the new moniker in 1964. “We might have been called the Kleenex Brothers,” quips bass singer Harold Reid. The follow-up single to “Flowers on the Wall” was the oddly titled “My Darlin’ Hildegard,” followed by “You Can’t Have Your Kate and Edith, Too.” Among the Statlers’ biggest fans are novelist Kurt Vonnegut, who dubbed them “America’s poets,” and Quentin Tarantino, who introduced “Flowers on the Wall” to a new audience with its inclusion in the film Pulp Fiction. The Huntsville concert begins at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $41.50. For more information, call 715-6000 or visit