Breeding also has real life

Published 12:56 am Sunday, August 16, 2009

Selma’s designation as the “butterfly capital” of Alabama has prompted numerous events and promotions benefiting the area and its people. The success of these events came as the result of unrelenting effort by Mallieve Breeding, Selma native and continuing sponsor for a green Selma.

She was born Aug. 29, 1921, the second daughter of Sarah Spann Small and Charles Albert Wicker, who was transferred to Selma by Western Union about 1918. The Wickers’ older daughter, Dorothy, was born in 1918 in Selma’s Union Street Hospital.

With the Great Depression hitting Selma, a number of businesses closed. Wicker bought a business from Puryear’s and opened Wicker Transfer Co., which he operated successfully. At his death in 1967 it was the oldest transfer company in the state.

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The Wicker house was on Pettus Street in Selma’s Ward 3. Byrd School was less than a half-block away and both Dorothy and Mallieve enjoyed the school, where Miss Annie Pegues was principal, Miss Mamie Ward taught first grade and the shaded backgrounds were a play yard for the entire neighborhood.

In accordance with the customs of the time, Mrs. Wicker enrolled her daughters in private social improvement lessons. “I took art from Mrs. Fowlkes who lived in a house on Abbott,” Mallieve recalls. “I loved it, had a wonderful time, but my teacher did not suggest that I come back.”

Breeding enjoyed her junior high and high school years, graduating with the Selma High School Class of 1939. “I have always been grateful that Selma schools taught us to be accepting and understanding of the people around us. An example which some may remember was Bobby Webster, who was different but never suffered because of it.”

She added that academically, “Selma schools were great. When my class at Huntingdon College was tested for academic placement, every entering Selma student skipped English. We had already had it all.”

While a sophomore at Huntingdon she met Charles Breeding, an instructor at Maxwell Air Base, at a social function arranged by Marx Leva to introduce young ladies to the young cadets.

“Charles was not my original date but he called me and I started dating him, some others, too. I loved military life, the people who made you feel you could do anything, who taught pride in being part of the community.”

She married Charles Breeding Feb. 22, 1941, at the Wicker home in Selma. The Breedings were stationed at Maxwell, then Arcadia, Fla., Carlstrom and then Dorr Air Bases. Their daughter, Beverly, was born there. Breeding was promoted to captain and transferred to Union City, Tenn. He was later returned to Maxwell where their twins, Nancy and Charles, were born.

“That was an experience. I was so huge you could see me coming around corners and I couldn’t do anything. Shortly after they were born, Charles was sent to England as squadron commander, taking over James Stewart’s squad and I wrote him about the children. The twins were 18 months when he came home and Beverly was not quite 4.”

He had 13 years seniority and rank of lieutenant colonel, but his father-in-law was in ill health and needed help with his business. In 1956, the Breedings returned to Selma, living in house restored by her father across the street from the family home, and their children enrolled at Byrd and Tremont schools.

For a time, Breeding assisted in the family business. After earning his CPA status he worked, first with Harry Hooper, then with the firm of Stack, Galliher and Breeding.

Breeding’s first involvement came with membership in the City Garden Club and organizing Junior Garden Clubs for children with learning disabilities.

She still feels an obligation to maintain interest in keeping Selma beautiful. The Butterfly Garden, in her honor, at School of Discovery is a major concern that she often speaks about to schools and to clubs, hoping to use it in the future as a classroom.

She is also active in First Presbyterian Church and frequently thinks of ways to make children proud of their school and their town, saying, “Children are the place to begin.”

Mallieve Wicker Breeding is seldom seen without a smile, a laugh and words of cheer. She enjoys her daughters: Beverly Breeding Perkins of Sylacauga and Nancy Smith of Selma. There are six grandchildren and “12 great-grandchildren, scattered from Birmingham to Dothan to Wilmington to Illinois, the oldest 13, the youngest 3.”

Breeding also enjoys her home, designed like the Gorgas House by her husband and Harold Nichols to fit on a rise of wooded land on the outskirt of Selma. Sheltered by great trees, verdant with shrubs and flowering plants and soothed by the trickling water of a small pond, the rear grounds are delightful year-round, and perfectly attuned to “The Butterfly Lady.”