A Christmas Memory and a Lifetime of Performances

“…there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace, goodwill toward men.’”

The site was a church building located on the south side of Birmingham, AL at 10th Avenue and 12th Street. That building still exists, now the property of UAB and is known as the Honors House.

As a kid growing up in Second Presbyterian Church, the Preacher and some other “grownups” decided that I should be the child to recite this passage from in front of the church on the Sunday closest to Christmas. I do not know what year it was, but it was after WWII, but still in the 40s. It was a daunting task. I was afraid that I would not be able to memorize the scripture. I felt sure that I would blow my lines if I did memorize them. As I recall it, there were other children dressed up as angels and maybe a couple of shepherds.

On the appointed Sunday, I approached my task with lack of confidence, but I ascended the stage and pulled it off. I was amazed at how well my memory had done. I was thrilled at the response I got from the congregation. Several of the elders thought that I should look for a career where speaking was important. Who knew?

During my lifetime there were three other events which stand out such as this one. As a senior in law school, I was asked to deliver a speech on behalf of the law students and shared the stage with a Justice of the United States Supreme Court, a congressman, and several other dignitaries. Following that address, Frank Spain, who was an icon in the Birmingham area approached me and told me he predicted that I would be a great lawyer. That was a real confidence boost. Still later, I was running for office and made more than 100 speeches throughout Alabama including one where I said, “I want to serve you very badly.” The son of the Postmaster General of the United States was in the audience and gave me a catcall which was something to the effect that he was sure that I would serve very badly. I won that election.

Finally, a few years later, I was in the midst of a jury trial where my client had suffered devastating injuries, but the largest verdict in a personal injury case up to that time in Alabama was $650,000. I felt that this case justified a larger jury verdict and I discussed it with my friend Cliff Emond who was trying a case down the hall in the same courthouse. I asked the jury to return a verdict in favor of my client in the amount of $1 million. After some deliberation, they did. Thereafter, one of the jurors told me that he had served on five other jury trials in Alabama and that I was the greatest lawyer he had ever heard. While I am sure he was wrong, his words reminded me of those of the people at Second Presbyterian.

– David Wininger