James A. Head, Sr.
The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 2002 and 2010.
James A. Head was born on October 20, 1904, in Tiffin, Ohio. His father George Washington Head was a native of Kentucky, and his mother, Mary Elizabeth Horton Head, a native of Pleasant Ridge, Alabama. Following the death of her husband in 1913, Mary Elizabeth Head moved the family back to Alabama where they settled into a home in the Norwood section of Birmingham.
Mr. Head attended Barker Elementary School and later Paul Hayne School, dropping out of high school after one year to help support the family. He mowed lawns, delivered newspapers, handled orders for a wholesale drug company, and worked as timekeeper at a local foundry company. At 18, he was offered a job as salesman of office systems for Library Bureau, a manufacturer of library system products and furniture. After a brief stint in the company’s New Orleans office, he returned to Birmingham and started his own business – James A. Head and Company – at the age of 22. Over the years, his business grew and prospered, and Mr. Head became an icon in the library community. A major portion of the Birmingham Public Library and seventy to eighty percent of the libraries in Alabama have been supplied by Head and Company over the past seven decades.
Mr. Head’s community contributions are legion. He served as a member of the Homewood City Council, Homewood Library Board, and Jefferson County Personnel Board; chairman of the Red Cross Campaign and the Jefferson County Victory Bond Drive; member and founder of the Jefferson County Good Neighbors Committee; and president of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. The Young Men’s Business Club named him Man of the Year in 1950, and in 1960, he was appointed to the Advisory Committee of Alabama to the Civil Rights Commission. He was inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame in October 2001, and was a recipient of the Rotary Club of Birmingham’s Spain-Hickman Distinguished Service Award.
During the 1960s and ‘70s, Mr. Head was a voice of reason and moderation. He recognized the debilitating effect that racial conflict had on the city he loved, and as a force for racial reconciliation, he was willing to take significant economic and personal risks on behalf of his community.
Mr. Head always considered church and religious activities an important part of his life. He was a member of Southside Baptist Church since 1942, serving as deacon and member of the Board of Trustees. In addition, he led many successful charitable endeavors, serving as co-chairman of the campaigns to build Holy Family Hospital in Ensley and Baptist Hospital Montclair. For over sixty years, Mr. Head was a member of the National Association of Christians and Jews, serving as chairman emeritus for more than twenty years. He listed his service with the Association as “the most important thing I have ever done.”
Mr. Head married Eugenia Evans in 1927, and the couple had four children: James Jr., Alan, Eugene, and Virginia. Mrs. Head passed away in 1981.
Mr. Head passed away on December 21, 2010, at the age of 106.