MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Traveling the streets of Mobile with Mel Showers is a special treat because he had seen a lot of changes over the years.
Photojournalist Arnell Hamilton and I rode down Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Avenue absorbing invaluable nuggets of history not nearly as quickly as Mel was throwing them out.
To truly understand Mel, we ended up where his life began, The Bottom.
“Rose Ann Haven, this is The Bottom..the city you can’t go any further. If you want to go farther to the north here, you would be in dead swamp. It’s 100 percept swamp and when I was a little boy this is where we used to spend a lot of time exploring.”
The Bottom, an all-black neighborhood, is about a mile west of Downtown Mobile.
Gone are Mel’s elementary school, Owen Elementary, and homes where good people lived.
“The Bottom has produced lawyers, educators, other professionals, and The Bottom has also produced a news anchorman.”
After military service in 1969, Mel began his broadcasting career overcoming critics. He discussed the journey in 2015 when he was inducted into The Alabama Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame.
“In those early years when the hate mail would come in..not quite used to and not quite ready for a person of my complexion to hit the air…but, I kept smiling,” Mel recalled.
Mel’s mother, Mrs. Annie Mae Showers watched him take his place in the Hall of Fame ceremony held in Birmingham. She died in 2017, but Mel hears her words very clearly.
“You might be from the Bottom, but you don’t have to act like it,” said Mel.
Her point, he explained, was that despite negative perceptions, one doesn’t have to act in the matter people expect.
“In her opinion, we were not colored folks, second class citizens. We were first class citizens”, said Mel.
Mrs. Showers refused to allow her children to use colored restrooms or drink from colored water fountains.
“We would walk from here into Downtown Mobile and my mother would try to make sure that we used the restroom, and drank water before we went downtown”.
She also refused to let them use the side colored entrance at the Saenger.
The same theatre where Mel regularly receives awards on stage. A symbol of how he continues to inspire others both black and white to pursue their dreams, in his humble ‘Mel Showers’ fashion.
“They probably are saying to themselves, ‘if he can do it…I can do it’..and that’s true. If I can do it then anyone can do it. That is for sure.”
You can watch the original story of Mel being inducted into The Alabama Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame by clicking here.