It was 1948 and in the little town of Arab, big things were happening. My longtime friend and client, Cecil Ashburn, told me this story as we sat in the den of his home atop Monte Sano Mountain overlooking the beautiful city of Huntsville.

In the post-World War II era, returning soldiers were building homes and opening businesses and the town of Arab was changing. A new high school was under construction and Main Street was being paved.

Cecil Ashburn had secured the contract to pave Main Street in Arab and was standing watching his new equipment preparing the roadbed. He happened to be standing in front of Jim Leak’s home on the north side of town when he was approached by Mr. Leak.

Jim introduced himself and after becoming acquainted made a surprising request.

“Son, I’ve got a job for you,” he said.

Taking a brown paper sack from Cecil’s coat pocket and using the stub of a pencil, Jim began to draw a rough diagram. Cecil had no way of knowing that Jim Leak was the wealthiest resident of Arab and a close friend and supporter of “Big” Jim Folsom, the recently elected governor of Alabama, but he surmised that here was a man of substance who was accustomed to giving orders – and to having them obeyed.

For more on this story please pick up Wednesday’s Tribune or purchase an e-edition.

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