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My Grandfather

Tom Vail wearing Trump Hat at Minneola, FL

     My paternal grandfather, Robert Vail, died when I was around 5 years old.  I barely knew him, and remember very little about him.  At the time, we lived in a very small house in Arlington, Virginia, less than 5 miles from Washington, DC.  My grandparents lived about 6 blocks away (less than a mile).  Occasionally, I would walk to their house with my mother to visit during the day, because at that time, our family had only one car.

Grandparents with ME at one month old – February 1958

     Long before I was born, my grandfather owned a farm in a small town named Bay Minette, in Baldwin County, Alabama, around 50 miles from Mobile, AL.  My father, 5th of 8 children, born in 1927, grew up on that farm, and in that small town, in the years of the Great Depression.  In addition to being a Farmer, my grandfather was a Newspaperman, a Postmaster and also involved in politics.

Map of Bay Minette, Alabama area
Baldwin County Alabama and Bay Minette map

Bay Minette is in Baldwin County, Alabama, around 50 miles from Mobile, AL.  Bay Minette became the County Seat of Baldwin County in 1900.

As a Farmer, my grandfather grew gladiolas in a field, and shipped them to Chicago as cut flowers, by rail, in baskets (hampers) packed with ice.  This was in the mid to late 1930s.  At that time, he was a leader, both in his cultivation and in the marketing and distribution methods he used.

1940 Newspaper article about the Vail Gladiola farm

1941 Newspaper article about the Vail Gladiola farm

A Leading Newspaperman

In the 1930s, my grandfather was the editor and eventually, the Publisher of the local newspaper, The Baldwin Times.  His brother, Tom Vail and wife Mary Vail, also worked with the newpaper as writers and editors.

In 1974, my grandfather was inducted into the Alabama Press Association Hall of Honor at Auburn University.


Outstanding newspaperman


“Vail numbered among his friends President Franklin D. Roosevelt.”


“Vail believed in the power of the editorial, writing some powerful opinions.  These gained state and national attention.”

(A subsequent owner of the Baldwin Times bought another newspaper from the family of Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird.  The Baldwin Times was sold in 2018 for $2,000,000).

     Both my grandfather and grandmother served as Postmaster (and Postmistress) in Bay Minette.

My Grandfather served as Postmaster of the Bay Minette Post Office from June 1934 until December 1940, when he moved to Washington, DC (living in Falls Church, Virginia) to work in the office of Congressman George Grant.  In the interim, my grandmother, Mary Vail served as Acting Postmaster from January until October 1941, when she joined my grandfather in Virginia and a new Acting Postmaster was appointed.

Bay Minette Postmaster List
Alabama Secretary of State Primary Election Results (1931)

My grandfather also served as Assistant Clerk for the Alabama State House in 1931.

While writing this page, it occurred to me that my grandfather, Robert Vail, had a number of similarities to Benjamin Franklin – a very distant relative.


Both were:

  • Postmasters
  • Newspaper Publishers
  • Editorial Writers
  • Involved in the Legislature