Business Trailblazers

Founded in 1973, the Alabama Business Hall of Fame honors Alabama business leaders and entrepreneurs who have bettered their state over the course of their careers. This year, the Alabama Business Hall of Fame will induct six leaders across a broad range of industries, including technology, licensing and sports medicine.

The Hall of Fame was established by the University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Commerce Board of Visitors. Candidates are nominated by a 24-member committee, which represents all major regions and industries within the state. Nominees are then examined by a14-member board, which sets criteria and weighs each candidate’s accomplishments and entrepreneurial qualities.

To qualify, a candidate must make a substantial positive impact on his or her community while bringing fame to Alabama through industry, philanthropy and other leadership qualities. One must also either be retired for three years, or be 65 years or older if still working.

The 2017 inductees will be honored at a ceremony at the Haven in Birmingham on November 9.

Charles Adair

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Charles Adair

Financial expert Charles “Eddie” Adair is president of Kowaliga Capital, an investment firm that serves clients primarily in the Southeast across multiple industries.

Adair studied accounting at the University of Alabama and later attended Harvard Business School for the Advanced Management Program. His career began in Birmingham, where he worked as an accountant for Haskins Sells.

Adair was certified as a public accountant in 1972 and joined Durr-Fillauer Medical Inc. the following year as a controller. He worked at the pharmaceutical distributor for nearly 20 years, rising to the role of president and COO and later joining the board of directors.

When his firm was acquired in 1992, Adair transitioned to private investing.

Adair transitioned to venture capital in 1993, acting as partner for both Cordova Ventures in Georgia and Kowaliga Capital in Montgomery. Beyond Kowaliga Capital, Adair has served on the boards of Tech Data Corp., Torchmark Corp. and Rayonier Advanced Materials, bringing decades of experience to a variety of industries. “Working with boards and other organizations is a way to give back, ” he says. “I want to share my expertise and help companies avoid mistakes I’ve seen in the past.”

This corporate involvement has allowed him to engage with a diverse range of professionals. “I really enjoy working with strong management teams, ” he says. “I’m working with large, international companies now, and I’m happy to participate with different countries and cultures. It’s an occasion to learn.”

Adair also has been involved in a number of community and civic organizations including the Montgomery Area Red Cross, United Way, the UAB Health Services Foundation and Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce. At the University of Alabama, he is a member of the Culverhouse College of Commerce Board of Visitors and President’s Cabinet.

Adair credits the host of team members, entrepreneurs and mentors he has worked with over the years for support whenever it was necessary. “Through a career, you never do everything by yourself, ” he says. “I’ve been blessed with many good people.”

Bill Battle


Bill Battle

While Bill Battle played for the Crimson Tide and coached the Volunteers, his collegiate sports legacy reaches far beyond his time on the field. Through his own company, Battle pioneered the industry of collegiate sports licensing, shaping a market in its early days and scoring millions in royalties for hundreds of universities.

Battle was introduced to collegiate sports by his father who worked at Birmingham-Southern College as head of the physical education department, intramural director and director of athletics.

“I grew up on the campus and attended basketball and baseball games, ” he says. “Often the students would let me join in intramural softball games.”

Battle studied at the University of Alabama and played football for Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. He later went to the University of Oklahoma to work as a graduate assistant coach under Coach Bud Wilkinson. “I learned very valuable lessons in all academic classes at Alabama and Oklahoma, ” he says. “Lessons learned playing for Coach Bryant and coaching under Coach Wilkinson were also very valuable in preparing for the world after college.”

While Battle received a solid foundation in subjects like anatomy, kinesiology and psychology, his time with the coaches allowed him to hone discipline, time management and conditioning. “Probably the most valuable lessons were learning to push through physical and mental discomfort, and even at times pain, in pursuit of achieving successful goals, ” he says. “Those life lessons have been a critical part of any success I may have enjoyed.”

Battle worked as head coach at the University of Tennessee in the 1970s, but moved to Selma to pursue a career in business. He worked at Circle S Industries from 1977 to 1983, helping CEO Larry Striplin grow the company from $12 million in annual sales to $60 million.

In 1979, Striplin invited Battle to fly to Palm Beach to negotiate licensing rights for golfer Jack Nicklaus. “At the end of the day, we left with exclusive licensing rights to produce and sell golf gloves and golf accessories, using the Golden Bear logo, ” says Battle. He found the concept of licensing and royalties fascinating, but would be too busy to explore further until another major opportunity presented itself.

In 1981, Bear Bryant told Battle that he was looking for a new agent. “I thought we might be able to do for Coach Bryant what Golden Bear did for Jack Nicklaus, ” says Battle.

Upon securing rights to Bryant’s name and likeness, Battle and company realized that the Alabama logo would need to be licensed as well. “I went to campus and asked where the licensing department was. No one knew what I was talking about, ” says Battle. After knocking on doors all day, Battle found Assistant Purchasing Manager Finus Gaston. He told Battle that while UA and other schools had entertained the idea, there was nothing in place yet. Battle brought word back to Striplin that they could generate a powerful program with 40 to 50 schools.

“I learned a lot about licensing from our relationship with the Disney and Nicklaus organizations as licensees, ” says Battle. “I also studied what the NFL and other professional leagues were doing in licensing. But probably the most valuable asset in putting the collegiate consortium together came from my growing up in a college environment and my 16 years’ experience in college coaching.”

When the Collegiate Licensing Co. was founded in 1981, the retail market for licensed goods promised about $10 billion. Over the next decade, it grew to near $65 billion, with collegiate licensing making up $2.2 billion in that time.

“It was time for trademark owners to understand the value of their intellectual property, to protect them through trademark, copyrights and patents, and to assert control of the quality and type of products that appeared in the marketplace, ” says Battle. “The NFL created team sports licensing in my opinion, as Disney created entertainment licensing.”

In 2007, worldwide sports and entertainment media company IMG announced the acquisition of Collegiate Licensing Co.

Battle is a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. He is also a founding member and president of the Crimson Tide Foundation.

John Johns

Over the course of his career, Gadsden native John Johns has amassed an extensive list of community service and philanthropy.

Johns graduated from the University of Alabama in 1974, and four years later earned law and MBA degrees from Harvard University.

After Harvard, Johns moved to Birmingham to work with Cabaniss, Johnston, Gardner, Dumas & O’Neal, first as an associate, later becoming a partner. In 1984, Johns was founding partner of the Birmingham-based law firm Maynard Cooper & Gale. Following his time at the firm, he worked at diversified energy company Sonat Inc. as vice president and general counsel.

Johns joined Protective Life in 1993 as executive vice president and chief financial officer. He was named president and CEO, helping the company’s net income and assets achieve remarkable growth through various roles. And recently, Johns was named executive chairman of the company.

In the past, Johns has acted as chairman of the Business Council of Alabama, Birmingham Business Alliance, McWane Science Center and the Greater Alabama Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He is now on the boards of Genuine Parts Co., Regions Financial Corp. and Southern Co.

Johns’ philanthropic work has supported a variety of causes and campaigns. His career-long involvement in civic issues includes the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Governor’s Tornado Action Recovery Council and the Woodlawn Foundation.

For his civic service, Johns has been honored by the American Cancer Society, Boy Scouts of America and Black Belt Community Foundation among others. In 2013, Johns was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor.

Don Logan


Don Logan

Publishing executive Don Logan couldn’t have predicted how his career would accelerate when he made the transition from data processing to publishing. “The opportunities I’ve had brought me to some great companies and introduced me to great entrepreneurs, ” he says. “I wouldn’t have changed a single thing.”

Raised in Hartselle, Logan studied mathematics at Auburn University in the 1960s. “I was the first in my family to go to college, ” he says. “I wasn’t sure what subject I should take. At the time, it was common for men to go into engineering, but that wasn’t for me.” He would later receive a master’s in mathematics at Clemson.

While at Auburn, Logan worked as a co-op student with NASA. “There I began to learn about computers, ” he says. “In those two years, I learned a lot about data processing.”

At the start of his career, Logan thought he would become a teacher. However, he chose to move to Houston, Texas to work for Shell Oil. Looking for a smaller company to work with, he later joined Progressive Farmer, now known as Southern Progress. He was hired after applying to an ad in the local paper and helped the company automate its subscription mailing process.

In 1979, the company launched Oxmoor House, a book-publishing division. With knowledge of the computer systems involved, Logan was asked to helm the project. “We had to start everything from scratch, ” he says.

Following years of growth, Logan became president of Southern Progress. In 1985, Time Inc. offered to buy the company. “We decided that it was a good time to sell, ” he says. “Southern Living was doing very well. It was the largest public acquisition in Time Inc.’s history.”

In 1992, Logan was brought to New York to serve as COO of Time Inc. “I expected it would be a challenge at first to adapt to New York from living in the South, ” he says. “Accents started to smooth out over time, and it all worked out.”

Logan was named CEO two years later and led the company through 10 years of remarkable progress. Logan became chairman of Time Warner’s Media Communications Group in 2002, handling new divisions like film, music and television. “All in all, I was there around 14 years, ” he says. “Growth was steady. It was a great run there.”

After returning to Alabama, Logan has remained involved in local civic issues, sports and enterprise. He is a founding member of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and serves on the executive board of the Birmingham Business Alliance. He has previously served on the boards of the Magazine Publishers Association and the National Book Foundation.

Logan considers the organizations he joins as meaningful opportunities to serve. “There must be a need, ” he says. “I want to help and make a positive contribution. I must have a serious interest in it. I don’t want to join a board and then not be involved.”

A lifelong baseball fan, Logan owns the Birmingham Barons with his family. When ESPN announced that it would sell B.A.S.S., he entered a joint venture to acquire the angler organization. “I’ve been an avid fisher since 40, ” he says. “I had an interest in B.A.S.S. for a long time and jumped at the chance to get them.”

Dorothy Davidson

Originally from Virginia, Dorothy Davidson, Ph.D., has invested heavily in the city of Huntsville through both industry and philanthropy. “Business, science and arts all help the country, ” she says. “They’re necessary to keep moving forward and are all worth supporting.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics in 1956, Davidson worked for the U.S. Air Force as a research mathematician at the Pentagon. While working with the Air Force, she participated in a management intern program, expanding on her education in business administration and mathematics. After developing search algorithms for the U.S. Patent Office, Davidson began working on Department of Defense programs in 1965.

Prior to her role as chairman and CEO at Davidson Technologies, she worked with the U.S. military, NATO and private industrial firms, designing advanced systems for information retrieval, defense, and command and control. “These things have played an industry role for a long time, ” she says. “In this world, I knew that they would always be a factor.”

She met Julian Davidson, Ph.D., in Germany while working as a contractor with the Ministry of Defense. The two would later marry and move to Huntsville, Julian’s hometown. They founded Davidson Technologies there in 1996.

When her husband died in 2013, she took over as CEO. The company has grown with her leadership, as Davidson has introduced cyber intelligence to DT’s scope of capabilities. “There are changes that have taken place within the industry, ” she says. “You have to change with them.”

Now a Huntsville resident for 25 years, Davidson is wholly dedicated to her community. “Giving is very important to me, ” she says. “I believe in education and the arts. I supported those things with my husband and want to continue to promote them.”

Davidson has donated generously to regional science and art initiatives, including $5 million to the University of Alabama in Huntsville Innovator’s Center. She has also supported the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s Davidson Center for Space Exploration, The Huntsville Museum of Art and Auburn University’s student engineering center.

The philanthropist also encourages emerging professionals and young businesses to take root in Huntsville, allowing the regional industry to expand. “I want to see businesses get started, ” she says. “Young businesses can fail without support, so it’s important to help those that are trying to contribute to their industry.”

Dr. James Andrews


Dr. James Andrews

Orthopaedic surgeon and injury prevention advocate Dr. James Andrews has contributed decades of research and advancement to the field of sports medicine. His work has improved medical understanding of elbow, knee and shoulder injuries.

Andrews attended Louisiana State University as a champion member of its pole vaulting team. After graduating from LSU’s School of Medicine in 1976, he did his residency at Tulane Medical School. During his surgical fellowships, Andrews worked in Lyons, France with Dr. Albert Trillat, a pioneer of knee surgery.

A renowned surgeon, Andrews has aided numerous athletes, including a host of professionals and sports icons. He has mentored more than 250 fellows in the sports medicine and orthopaedic fields. He has also published numerous books on the subjects of sports medicine and injury prevention.

A Birmingham resident since 1986, Andrews is a co-founder of the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, part of the St. Vincent’s Health System. In the early 2000s, colleges approached Andrews about a new medical facility in Florida, with a special focus on injury rehabilitation. The idea developed into the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, a research, education and clinical facility. Andrews performed the facility’s first surgery in 2007.

Andrews has worked with several sports teams as a medical consultant, including the Birmingham Barons, Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Redskins. He is also medical director for Auburn University intercollegiate athletics and senior orthopaedic consultant for the University of Alabama.

In addition to his involvement with collegiate and professional teams, Andrews is a member of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, Arthroscopy Association of North America and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He co-founded the American Sports Medicine Institute, where he serves as chairman and medical director.

In 1992, Andrews was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. He has also received the NCAA President’s Gerald Ford Award for his leadership and advocacy for intercollegiate sports. Throughout his career, he has performed more than 45, 000 surgeries, and his work has proven invaluable to the health and safety of countless athletes.

Thomas M. Little is a freelance contributor to Business Alabama. He is based in Birmingham.


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