Alabama Academy of Honor

Barrett Shelton

The following biographical sketch was compiled at the time of induction into the Academy in 1976.

As the publisher of The Decatur Daily, Barrett Shelton had promoted the economic development of North Alabama for more than 50 years.

Mr. Shelton was born in Columbia, Tennessee in 1902. In 1911 he moved with his family to Decatur, where his father established The Decatur Daily. From 1920 to 1923 he attended Washington and Lee University, and in 1924, after his father's death, he became the sole publisher of the Daily.

Mr. Shelton's campaign to bring about the development of North Alabama began during the Great Depression, when the town of Decatur was faced with economic collapse. Believing that an over-reliance on the cotton crop was the source of the community's woes, he argued for economic diversification and in 1930 founded the Chamber of Commerce to bring industry to North Alabama. As a result a number of companies established plants in the Decatur area during the 1930's and 40's, including the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, the Nebraska Consolidated Mills Corporation, and the Ingalls Shipbuilding Company. Later, to stop the exodus of the area's young people after World War II, Mr. Shelton also joined together a number of North Alabama municipalities and electric cooperatives into the North Alabama Industrial Development Organization. Plants and corporations brought in by this association now provide jobs for more than 4500 workers, and include the Amoco Chemical Corporation, the Monsanto Corporation, 3-M, and the Worthington Corporation.

A substantial amount of electric power was needed to accomplish this transformation, and Mr. Shelton looked to the Tennessee Valley Authority to supply it. A supporter of TVA since its creation, Mr. Shelton served for many years on the board of directors of Citizens for TVA and testified before Congressional committees on the Authority's behalf. He also helped to organize the Tennessee River Valley Association and supported the plans to connect the Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers, by serving as a three-term member of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority.

During the past 10 years, with the economic development of North Alabama well under way, Mr. Shelton has become interested in improving other aspects of life in the region--notably, health care. In the late 1960's he helped to establish the Tri-County Appalachian Regional Health Planning Commission to apply for grant money from the federal government. Composed of representatives of Limestone, Lawrence, and Morgan Counties, this organization has undertaken some ambitious projects, including the consolidation of health services throughout the tri-county area, the establishment of an outpatient mental health clinic, and the organization of health data from all three counties into a Comprehensive Health Record Information Service.

Throughout his 50 years of public life, Mr. Shelton has participated in the work of many governmental, charitable, and community organizations. Among these are the Advisory Board for the University of Alabama in Birmingham, the Alabama State Planning Board, the Morgan County chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and the Decatur Community Chest, which he helped to transform into a county-wide United Fund during the 1950's.

Professionally, Mr. Shelton belongs to the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the journalistic fraternity, Sigma Delta Chi. In private life, he is a Mason, a member of the Decatur Kiwanis Club, and an elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Decatur. Awards he has received include honorary degrees from St. Bernard College (Litt.D., 1967), the University of Alabama (LL.D., 1969), and Athens College (LL. D., 1973) and the first Grover C. Hall Memorial Award for excellence in journalist given to him by Troy State University in 1975.