Alabama loses a local legend

Published 9:55 pm Tuesday, September 9, 2008

James Clifton “Cousin Cliff” Holman Jr., a longtime Birmingham television personality, died Monday after entertaining generations of children across central Alabama. He was 79.

I remember being an elementary school student in Midfield, Ala., in the early ’80s. Cousin Cliff came to our library to perform a magic show and probably to promote reading (I was about 7 years old, so I don’t really remember). By the time Cousin Cliff made his way to my school, he had been on television off and on for more than 30 years. In Birmingham, he was a walking legend, especailly to those of us who watched him every morning as we got ready for school.

Unfortunately, Cousin Cliff’s show was 86’d in the early ’90s, thanks to some federal regulatory law regarding educational television.

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Cousin Cliff was forced to remove cartoons and commercials from his show, essentially killing a show that was a staple in the breakfast routines of children across central Alabama. His program moved to the zoo, where he used magic tricks to teach viewers math, but eventually the Alabama Cable TV Network was forced to pull the plug on ‘The Cousin Cliff Show.”

Having a child of my own, it’s clear that children’s prgramming has changed drastically in the past 20 years, and in many cases, it’s probably for the better.

But Dora the Explorer and Spongebob Squarepants don’t have the same appeal in 2008 as Cousin Cliff did to a child in the ’80s. Being in the audience of his show was a badge of honor, and it’s a memory you take with you forever.