Bill Brackin dies

Published 12:29 am Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bill Brackin, founder of Lakeview Nursery and Gardening Center, completed business college in Montgomery, and worked there with Swift and Company before transferring to Selma in 1950.

He remained with Swift until 1964, leaving to open a plant nursery locally, fulfilling his dream of being in the horticulture business.

At the time, Selma had no garden center, so Bill opened one on land four miles out on the Summerfield Road, where there were also two catfish ponds and a cabin soon to be built for the Brackin family weekends.

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“We all enjoyed it,” recalls his wife Ann Brackin, “and so did our friends, more friends than we knew we had. My mother Kathleen Denson and her friend Leika Collins loved fishing from the pier, catching hampers of catfish and dragging them up the hill.”

Lakeview Nursery business prospered, growing to the point it needed more room and easier access to town, so Brackin moved it to Medical Center Parkway and expanded the business to include landscaping and irrigation.

He also began the downtown beautification project in Selma, taking a personal interest in the selection of Broad Street trees as well as making entrances to the city more attractive. The appearance of residential neighborhoods and public areas were also among his concerns.

His family says, “He refused to allow a weed to grow anywhere if he could help it. In these last years, even after he had to use a walker, he continued getting rid of weeds. And living in a heavily wooded area, he also kept the birds and squirrels fed daily.”

Friends and family recall that his special interest was teaching school children about plants and trees and vegetables. He did landscape work at Edgewood and Meadowview Elementary schools and gave parties for the students at Halloween, Christmas and Easter, with gifts and refreshments for each.

In his office there are hundreds of letters from school children, thanking him.

This, written in May 2000, states: “Thank you for the yo-yo. I gave my brother mine. I liked the Mickey Mouse. I love Mr. Brackin. I love Mr. Brackin’s gifts. I love Mr. Brackin’s partys. Love, Shaquita Hurt.”

Brackin was long-time president of Alabama Nurseryman Association and a lifetime member of Alabama Sheriffs Boys and Girls Ranches Builders Club. He was a charter member of Elkdale Church, a Sunday school deacon and treasurer. In 1973 he received an award from Governor George Wallace for rescuing a woman from her overturned automobile that was submerged in a creek in an accident he had sighted from the highway.

Photos from a family album reveal a little-known and much enjoyed fact about Brackin’s military service in World War II. He was a member of the horse-drawn calvary, stationed in Japan, and he never tired of giving reasons for the need of horses then and there.

His sense of humor extended to the gifts he made of personally ordered small cans of Sun-Dried Alabama Possum to appreciative friends. Fortunate indeed are those who on special occasions received quarts of his homemade pepper relish.

Bill Brackin will always be remembered for his wonderful sense of humor, his appreciation of his friends, his respect for nature and God’s creatures and for his love of children.