Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Passing of Sir Marvin

     Marvin Whiting was never knighted by royalty, so my use of "Sir" is strictly honorary, but he always sounded as if he had been!

Marvin was the first person ever named archivist for the city of Birmingham, and one of the first people I interviewed in the city when I moved there in 1976.

     His Virginia Tidewater accent, his beard, and his ever present pipe gave him an air of aristocracy, and lent gravitas (not that he needed any) to every story he told. And tell them he could!

     I learned more about the history of The Magic City from Marvin than any book I read.

    Marvin passed away on Friday at the age of 76.

    His obituary in The Birmingham News called him a passionate historian for the city, and of that there is no doubt.

   I tried in recent months to help him secure a copy of two silent movies with connections to Birmingham.

   One was the 1928 film Honor Bound. The other was Coming Through, another silent flick. Both were written by a Birmingham author...Jack Bethea.

   Marvin wanted them for the Birmingham-Jefferson History Museum.

   I'm sorry to say I was not able to find them.

   Some late in life photos of Marvin are here, though they don't show the smile that never seemed to be far away.One of them shows him in his impossibly crowded home on the Southside, packed with things he'd collected: books, of course, and art, and, well, stuff.

   If it's true that a library vanishes when someone dies, Marvin's passing means the loss of an entire library system. Rest in Peace, my friend.

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