Former Calera mayor dies after illness

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Former Calera Mayor Carl Prichard died early Thursday, April 22, at Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 73.

Prichard, a Calera resident for 34 years, was instrumental in obtaining a new high school building for the city while serving as the school’s PTA president in the late 1970s.

He also was a key player in facilitating relocation of the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum from Birmingham to the Calera a few years later.

&uot;He was so proud of the railroad museum and the fact that it attracts people from all over the country who come and visit Calera,&uot; said his oldest son, Matt Prichard.

David Coombs, a volunteer at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum in Calera, remembered the work Prichard contributed to the museum.

The museum was originally located in Birmingham, and Coombs said vandalism and uncertain lease circumstances constantly hampered the museum.

Then, in 1981, Prichard found land for the museum in Calera.

The property, owned by CSX Railroad, included an old railroad line, which was extended after the museum relocated. When CSX asked for close to a half-million dollars for the property, Prichard stepped in.

&uot;Carl went to CSX and talked the owners down to about $50,000, which was much more affordable for us,&uot; Coombs said. &uot;He pleaded our case.

&uot;He facilitiated all of that. It might not have happened without him,&uot; Coombs said. &uot;We’re going to miss him.&uot;

Prichard, born in Canton, Ga., northwest of Atlanta, was one of five children of Lloyd Prichard and the former Ada Bell Kemp.

The family moved to the Knoxville suburb of Alcoa, Tenn., where Prichard attended school. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and in 1954, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Tennessee.

Prichard traveled the southeast during the 1950s, working for an oil company and then a silverware maker.

He then became well known in the clothing business in Alabama, starting in 1959 selling Dickie menswear and then, in 1964, representing Wrangler jeans and western wear.

In 1965, he married the former Erma Ruth Walton, a graduate of Shelby County High School in Columbiana.

It was while pushing for reconstruction of Calera’s 1920s-era main high school building that Prichard first gained county-wide attention.

Prichard led a delegation to Montgomery to plead the city’s case, one of several continued efforts to take Calera’s needs to the state and national level.

Prichard, who also served on the Calera board of school trustees, ran unsuccessfully for county school board in 1978 but was elected as Calera’s mayor in 1980.

While Prichard was mayor, the city doubled the size of Oliver Park, bought land for a new city hall, obtained a federal grant of more than $200,000 that helped it build an industrial park and upgraded the sewer system.

Prichard also served as president of the Calera Chamber of Commerce and the Civitan Club. In addition, he was an officer with the Shelby County unit of the Alabama Utility Consumer Association.

Survivors include his wife, the former Erma Ruth Walton of Calera; sons, Matt Prichard of Pembroke Pines, Fla., and Rhett Prichard of Alabaster, Ala.; daughter, Nancy Hill of Calera; a brother, John Prichard of Jacksonville, Ala.; sisters Mildred Graves of St. Petersburg, Fla., and Margaret Harrison of Fayetteville, N.C.; grandsons, Rodrigo, Alejandro and Guillermo Prichard; granddaughters, Emily Hill and Regan Prichard; and many nieces and nephews.

Service for the former mayor was Sunday, April 25, at Bolton-Letlow Funeral Home in Columbiana.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations in Prichard’s name be made to the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum, Box 727, Calera, AL 35040, or to the American Cancer Society, Suite 201, 1100 Ireland Way, Birmingham, AL 35205