In a city with a population of 88,000, one person represents 0.0011363636363636363% . Yet that one person can make a significant impact.
Today we lost a person who, if you’re a resident of Hoover, has impacted your life, whether you know it or not.
That person was Dan Fulton, an educator who retired from the Birmingham City Schools system, and who’s lived in Hoover since the mid-1950s. In December 2016, Mr. Fulton was honored by the Friends of Hoover as being the 2016 Hoover Volunteer of the Year.
I first met Mr. Fulton in 2013. The Hoover City Schools Board of Education had just approved a recommendation by then-Superintendent Andy Craig to eliminate school bus service beginning in the 2014-2015 School Year. The vote was 4-1, with Board Member Derrick Murphy casting the only No vote. There was much uproar in the community over this action, and many of those who were shocked by the news had never attended a school board meeting or a Hoover City Council meeting. I had attended both on a regular basis, and had spoken at many. It was important that residents speak up at the meetings to voice their displeasure of the action, so I organized a meeting on instructing people how to speak at this meetings effectively.
My first meeting was in Bluff Park at Artists on the Bluff in late July 2013, and it was there that I met Mr. Fulton. I remember he sat in the back and, after the meeting, introduced himself. He gave his background and added that he was suffering from stage-4 cancer, but wanted to help as much as he could. Little did he know then how much of an impact he would make in the next three years.
The Bus Debacle, as I like to call it, became contentious between the residents who opposed it, which consisted of the majority of Hoover parents, and Mr. Craig. Mr. Fulton was big on having signs, and he paid to have signs made up for the newly formed group “Save The Hoover Buses”. Ironically, the bottom of the signs all had a web site address on them: www.hooverforum.com . After being dormant for a few years, I had purchased the domain from the previous owner and re-launched the site. Mr. Fulton decided to point people to our site for updates.
Later that year, after the Board of Education voted to rescind the vote to eliminate buses, several of us who were involved in the fight to keep the buses, including Mr. Fulton, were honored by the Friends of Hoover as Volunteers of the Year. That would be the first of two times that Mr. Fulton received this distinction.
One thing that the Bus Debacle did was increase attendance at both Board of Education and City Council meetings. Before the bus announcement, there would only be two or three of us at Board meetings, suddenly the room was standing-room-only. In the front row of every meeting was Mr. Fulton holding a recording device.
After the Bus Debacle simmered down, Mr. Craig followed it up in July 2014 with an announcement that Hoover City Schools would be rezoned. This action resulted in another uproar by Hoover residents and parents, and Mr. Fulton was there to be not only a vocal opponent, but also with this recorder.
For those who have not attended Board meetings or Hoover city council meetings, you should know that there is a period of public participation, which is a term used to describe a time when members of the audience can come up to speak about anything that was on their mind. Mr. Fulton took full advantage of these periods. Many times the council or Board members would attempt to limit Mr. Fulton’s time at the microphone. Each and every time they failed miserably. Mr. Fulton would get to have his say and nobody was going to stop him.
Another interesting fact about Mr. Fulton was that you really didn’t want to debate him on a topic he knew a lot about, or something that he was passionate about. He knew his facts and he came prepared to defend them. Just ask some of the former council members who attempted to spar with him.
In 2016, or as Mr. Fulton would refer to it, “Hoover Vote 2016”, Hoover held it’s municipal election. Beginning in 2013, Mr. Fulton lobbied those he felt would make a good council person, promising to make a campaign contribution. Many of us took him up on his offer. Many of us wouldn’t have had campaign funds had it not been for Mr. Fulton’s desire to get people he had confidence in to run for office, those he felt would support the schools, something he, as a former educator, was very passionate about.
Mr. Fulton’s impact on the City of Hoover wasn’t limited just to politics. He wanted to make sure that people were up to date on what was going on at Board of Education meetings and Hoover City Council meetings, which is why he always sat in the front row with his audio recorder. If for some reason the speaker wasn’t loud enough, Mr. Fulton would encourage them to speak up.
After each meeting, Mr. Fulton would take the recorder home, upload the audio and post it to his own YouTube page for everyone to be able to know what took place.
The Hoover Board of Education realized that Mr. Fulton was right, that the entire city needed to be able to see and hear what was going on at Board meetings, so in 2015 they began to live-stream meetings and today have permanent cameras streaming each meeting. The very first meeting using the permanent equipment was dedicated to Mr. Fulton.
Many of us who ran for Council in 2016 also felt that live-streaming the meetings was important and promised that a system would be put in place to accomplish this. The last City Council meeting in February debuted the new system.
A few weeks earlier Mr. Fulton had gone into hospice care, as the cancer that he’d been fighting for so many years began to take its toll. Frail as he was, Mr. Fulton was brought to that Council Meeting by long-time Hoover advocate Arnold Singer. Mr. Fulton sat in the front row and even got up to speak at one point when Council President Gene Smith asked if he’d like to say a few words about the new video system. The entire room burst into laughter when Mr. Fulton approached the microphone, cleared his throat and said those words he’d spoken so many times before “Dan Fulton, 1400 Alford Avenue, Hoover…” (Mr. Fulton addresses the council at the 1:20 mark on the video)
Mr. Fulton’s philanthropy didn’t stop at campaign contributions. He donated to several causes, including our own Learning To Be The Light, an organization that refurbishes computers and gives them to low-income Hoover City Schools students. If you were for the schools, Mr. Fulton was for you.
Thanks, Dan, for what you did for the City of Hoover. The city is forever changed for the better thanks to you.