2011 Emailed responses to "Legislation from Steve Phillips "

As an avid diver, I would like to make known my support for HB-104.  I believe clarifying the language in the original bill is an important and necessary step to prevent the further persecution of history buffs and amateur archeologists such as myself.  Currently I spend a good bit of time and money in other states where the laws are friendly towards divers, and documented recoveries are embraced by the state, and by people who realize without hobby divers, much of these things will forever be lost to our society.  I have not met one single diver over the years that have ever looked to make a profit from our hobby.  We do it because we love history, we cherish our findings as treasures, and we get a great amount of satisfaction from being able to share our findings with schools, museums, friends, family, and anyone else who would like to enjoy them.  The argument that our cultural resources will be open to hordes of looters and profiteers is in my opinion nothing more than a scare tactic by the opposition.  The type of diving, and the level of experience required to make such recoveries in itself will exclude a very large majority from ever attempting to participate in such an activity.  In closing, I ask that you please consider giving HB-104 the opportunity to be voted on by the full Senate.
Thank you for your time and service to our great state

Jarrett Kitchens - Birmingham
As a member of 4 Avocational Archaeology Societies and a Paleontology Council, I ask that you support HB 104 written by Steve Phillip. I also support their mission as advocates of fair and balanced preservation laws. The citizens of Alabama and visiting Tourists should not be subject to arrest and prosecution for recovering an isolated artifact, (ie: a lowly arrowhead) while recreating in and along Alabama Rivers.

The Alabama Historical Commission and the Division of Historical Resources should be investigated for conflicts of interest and abuse of public trust. Please let me know if it is your desire to have Alabama Citizens arrested and prosecuted for recovering a broken piece of pottery or an arrowhead, which until recently were considered by the state to be non-essential artifacts.

Senator , Please Stop the abuse by voting for HB104. It is poor public policy to not have a means for citizens and tourists to recover an occasional relic and be subject to prosecution..

Jacky Fuller
I am asking for your support in the passing of HB 104 that supports the diving & recovery of single artifacts in the navigable waters of the State of Alabama as written & formed by Steve Phillips of Birmingham & Representative Jim McClendon. I am a Civil War author and have authored 2 books and over 200 magazine articles about the American Civil War and many of the artifacts that I have written about came from the navigable waters of your fine state of Alabama.

You and Alabama are greatly appreciated

Charles Harris - Ooltewah TN
I write to urge you to support, and vote for, House Bill 104, which seeks to amend the Alabama Underwater Cultural Resources Act in order to clarify the definition of a "cultural resource" and add a definition of "artifact" to that act.  The amendment would make it clear what is, and isn't, permissible with respect to artifact hunting in Alabama's navigable rivers, something that is sadly lacking in the current law.

I am not an artifact hunter, but I am an active scuba diver, and I majored in history at the University of Alabama.  As such, I have a deep appreciation for the isolated artifacts that are rusting away on the bottom of our rivers.  We owe much to the dedicated divers who enjoy recovering, preserving and sharing these artifacts.  It is a disgrace that these law-abiding divers are being harassed and even arrested by bureaucrats and others trying to protect their "turf."  I personally attended part of the trial of Steve Philips in Selma several years ago, and know from that experience how badly this law needs to be clarified.

I urge you to support and vote for HB 104.  I have been one of your supporters for many years.  I think this is the first time I've written you about any pending legislation.  Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.

John Watson - Vestavia Hills
As a very proud citizen of Alabama (Calhoun County), I am particularly proud of our state’s natural resources and their availability to the public.  It is our gorgeous parks, reserves, and public natural resources that help make our state one of the best in the nation for anyone who loves the outdoors.  Outdoor opportunities in Alabama are clean, natural, safe, and accessible.  I would very much like to keep them that way.  As such, I am asking our state senators, and in particular, the Senate Government Affairs Committee members to please represent us, Alabama citizens, in support of HB-104.  

Sherry Snider - Calhoun County
Steve and his family are some of the finest people one could ever know - the Selma prosecution was a travesty and I can tell you that at least one of his primary accusers had selfish motives.  I am going to call each and every one of these senators to SUPPORT Steve and his work.  If not for Steve and other divers, diggers, collectors researchers like him who are willing to share their knowledge and artifacts I would have little to write & lecture about.

The history associated with the relics and other materials that they recover, preserve and share with those of us who have a common interest would otherwise be lost to time.  To me it is ironic that the very institutions and individuals who have done so little to locate, recover, preserve and share the materials supposedly being protected by the misguided and misapplied state laws are the ones who now have even less to offer and fewer resources to share.

I have not encountered a single Selma-recovered artifact that was found and preserved by the City, the County, the State or the so-called federal government.  To my recollection all have been found and donated or loaned by individuals.  The surviving Selma gun tubes were NOT Selma recoveries.  S-5 & 10 were war prizes off the CSS Tennessee II - the yankee government gets that credit, granted.  S-5 was returned to Selma around 1982 primarily due to the efforts of private citizens.  S-26 was a local recovery sponsored by the UDC in Gainesville, AL a century ago.  S-81, 85, 87, 97 & 111 were "saved" by the citizens of Columbus, Georgia. S-74 (perhaps the Citadel tube is S-70) and 76 were recovered in or near Charleston.  S-95 and 96 were recovered by private parties near Jackson, Alabama.  When S 46 and 53 are pulled from the Pee Dee River this year (?) it is likely that that work will be privately funded tho undertaken jointly by agencies and/or institutions of the states of North and South Carolina.  Only the two 6 lb experimental Brooke tubes that were kept (privately) in Selma for decades after the war were "sponsored" by the city - beyond the three noted at the end of this paragraph. FWIW,  One of these 6 pound experimental 6 pounders was stolen after being mindlessly placed in the most vulnerable locations imaginable by city fathers many years ago.  Three other Selma recovered yankee made and CS "appropriated" field pieces were lost/stolen/misappropriated/ sold many years ago.

So, don't tell me all about what artifacts need to be protected by our various government entities.  If left to their means and planning most will never see the light of day.  If they really wanted to add something to the game they would join with the diggers, divers and collectors to locate, properly record and preserve these pieces of our history instead of trying to hoard sites that will never be investigated because of a lack of resources and KNOWLEDGE about the very artifacts they purport to protect.  Instead, the entire system of archives and history as formally operated by the State of Alabama has been financially gutted and much will soon be lost.  That institutional memory cannot be replaced.  I would have hoped more intelligent heads would have prevailed in the state budgeting process (and the system was already under funded and, in places, grossly mismanaged).

Steve Phillips has forgotten more about much of this material than most government employees will ever know - some exceptions to this statement do apply - but damned few.

In case anyone misses my point here - I'm ready for a fight - bring it on!

Opinions expressed in this preamble are strictly my own and no attribution should be attached or implied - these are my personal remarks.

Steve, I thank you for sharing your collection and I support your efforts.

William Lockridge - Mint Hill NC
I am an attorney in Birmingham, and have been for thirty years.  I have been a diver for over twenty years and have dived in the Alabama River in Selma many times.  Bill 104 will modify the current law in that it will allow us, again, to dive legally in Selma without law enforcement harassment.  I have been stopped on two occasions diving in Selma and detained by law enforcement, when doing nothing wrong.  The law as it is written now is subject to misinterpretation, and as such is bad law.  Bill 104 will clarify the law and make it easy to understand. 

Diving in the rivers of this state and others is a hobby of mine.  I enjoy diving and collecting artifacts which I find.  I have never sold an artifact and never intend to.  My position is that these things are the bottom of rivers, where very few people go.  If left there, no one will ever know about them.  If we can dive and bring them up and preserve them, then I think good is accomplished.

Bill 104 is a good bill and should be passed.  I have to be in Court in Birmingham on Tuesday and cannot attend the public hearing, but would like to be there to support what I believe is good legislation.

Erskine Mathis - Birmingham
The purpose of this message is to voice my SUPPORT of HB104.  I am a recreational diver and I strongly feel that a citizen of this state should have the right to collect isolated finds NOT ASSOCIATED with a designated underwater cultural resource site.

I have been detained before for recreational diving and had my bags searched.  It was not a good experience.  I do not like to be perceived as a lawbreaker.

I would appreciate your support of HB104.

Kevin McCauley - Huntsville

I am a native of Selma and for the past 7 years I have researched the role of that community (full time) in the War of Northern Aggression.  At this point there are few historians better informed than I am concerning the role Selma played during that period.  I am a published writer and frequently lecture on that subject matter.

If not for the diggers, divers and collectors who make up the "community of interest" outside the formal community of archivists, archeologists and historians normally consulted in such matter I WOULD HAVE NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT!  There are no significant resources available  from the City, County, regional agencies, State or Federal governments nor have any significant efforts been made to FORMALLY evaluate the archeological resources of the Alabama River in Selma by ANY agency related thereto, notwithstanding a rumored study paid for by the State (and not even available to the public).  There are few (if any) archeologists known to researchers who can speak knowledgeably on the subject of Selma and her relics.  If they exist and are available I'd like to meet them.

The recovery and preservation of relics from the Alabama River in Selma AS A RECOGNIZED PUBLIC ACTIVITY dates to at least 1970.  I can document relic recoveries and academic work that will predate that by at least 15 years.

Was it illegal to dive in the river prior to 2003?  Not if you review the records and understand that it was a matter of local economic activity actively encouraged by city officials during the 1960's and 1970's - to the point that there was at least one established dive shop located on Water Avenue specifically catering to recreational divers seeking to recover relics from the river.  Divers came from distant locations - many out of state - to dive in Selma.  Frequently photographs of recreational divers displaying their finds - often side  by side with city officials - appeared in local papers. This speaks to the question of "official" awareness and/or objections more loudly than any other argument.

For many years these recovered artifacts have been studied, written about, and are now featured in books and references that serve to preserve the knowledge and educate those with an interest in the history of Selma, the Black Belt, the Iron & Coal Industry in the Upper Cahaba River Basin, Alabama and the Confederacy - not to mention the many many ancillary areas of study associated with all of these.

Failure to pass HB104 into Alabama State Codes will irreparably harm the collection, preservation and distribution of information regarding the history of the State of Alabama.

I invite your questions, comments and debate.

William Lockridge - Mint Hill NC

The extremely simple but significant point is that unless divers and other interested individuals find such isolated items no one will.  That should be said over and over.  No one else is looking for them.  They will simply waste away.  The “professionals” do not “waste” their time looking for isolated items.  They want major finds such as ship wrecks and such which are not in contention.

Julian M. Brook - Birmingham

Copy of message I sent to Sen. Beason

Dear Sir,

I write to you today concerned about the heritage of our great state. As a voter in Blount county it saddens me to see some lawmakers being swayed by individuals who are only concerned with their own academic standing and ambitions. These academics, (usually transplants from other states) look down their collective noses at the good people of Alabama and feel that they alone should be the custodians of our heritage. These people have no desire to learn the technical skills necessary to recover and preserve the artifacts that are the legacy of our great state and yet have the audacity to try to stop great southern patriots from doing it. I dive with men who recover, preserve and display artifacts from the rivers here in our state. They are hard working, church going, fathers and sons with a great love for the heritage of our state. The sad fact of the matter is that without recovery and protection these artifacts will disappear and our children's children will only have the word of so called " intelligentsia" to establish their ideas concerning the history of the great state we live in.

Sir, it was an honor to vote for you and I know you will do the right thing and vote yes for HB104.

God bless you sir and God bless the great state of Alabama,

Marvin Lee Hudgins - Cleveland AL