The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


March 4, 2013

Retired executive works to improve rural Alabama


"Interstate systems are being built all over the country, but we can't seem to finish something like U.S. 80 that was started so long ago," Hodo said. "The same thing applies to health care. It's as though rural Alabama has been forgotten."

The biggest question involving the proposed I-85 project is which route to take — north or south of Selma. The same problem happened in Uniontown over bypassing a historic house. That debate went on for about 20 years.

Interstate highways and completion of U.S. 80 haven't consumed much of Hodo's retirement time. He has other interests, too. His newest job is serving as chairman of the Nature Conservancy of Alabama.

Hodo has earned his share of awards during a long, productive career as an industrialist, but nothing can beat the pleasure of touring places that have been protected by his organization.

"Right now, we are working on canoe access points from Birmingham all the way to old Cahawba," he said Thursday as he drove toward Alabama's first capital, where he enjoyed a leisurely stroll along a walkway toward a slough that feeds into the Cahaba River and, eventually, the Alabama River.

Recent flooding has turned part of the area into a muddy mess, but the walk was worth it when Hodo reached an elevated viewing area where he could see birds circling high overhead.

The confluence of the two rivers is historic. It's the place where Alabama's first capital was created, where Union troops were housed at a Confederate prison camp, where changing times and Selma's emergence as Dallas County's leading city signaled the end of Cahawba as a viable community.

"What a fantastic sight," he said. "It's something everybody in Alabama ought to see at least once. This can be a perfect recreational site one day with camping, hiking, canoeing and other family-oriented things to do."

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