Mr. Spann, I Presume

If you live in Birmingham, you’ve seen this guy a lot in the last 48 hours. It’s James Spann, the meteorologist on our local ABC affiliate. We had such bad weather all day yesterday that he was on the air for about 18 straight hours keeping folks in our viewing area informed about the dangerous weather heading our way. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to watch him in action, especially when there is imminent bad weather, you know how passionate he is about his job. We got to hear about why that is last Friday. 
James came to speak to our homeshool group. There were only about 30 of us, so it was a fun, relaxed setting where he could  share and we could respond and ask questions. He was just as friendly and down-to-earth in person as he is on TV.
He told us the story of his life. He was born in Huntsville, and raised in Greenville for a little while. After some unfortunate life experiences, he and his mother moved to Tuscaloosa so that she could get a degree from the University of Alabama and support them. He went to public schools in Tuscaloosa. It was at the age of fourteen that he became interested in amateur radio operating, and reporting on significant weather events fascinated him. That interest in broadcasting developed further when he became a DJ while at the University of Alabama, a student in electrical engineering. A few more significant weather events, and he changed his mind and decided to switch to the meteorology program at Mississippi State University. And we are so glad he did.
Life and work moved him around a bit with stints in Birmingham, Dallas, and the metropolis of Demopolis, Alabama, where he owned a radio station with present ABC News anchor and co-worker Dave Baird. But television meteorology would chase him down. James told us that he has never prepared a resume and never applied for a job. Every job he has ever had would come to him through hard work, passion about what he does, and knowing people in places of influence. What makes him so passionate about telling people about the weather? He has seen it’s devastating effects when they aren’t warned.
James has covered many severe weather events, all of which fuel his passion for warning people to get out of imminent danger. He told us about covering Hurricane Frederick in 1977. He told us about reporting on the Blizzard of 1993 and its effects on people. But the storm that most seemed to affect him was the tornado or April, 1998. It was late that afternoon that an EF-5 tornado ravaged the Birmingham outskirts of Oak Grove, Rock Creek, Hueytown, Bessemer, and other small communities. Thirty-two people lost their lives that day, and you can see the pain in James’ face as he tells their stories. He is so emotional about it that you would think it just happened. It’s because he has become friends with many of the survivors. He shares the pain of their loss. He carries their griefs. And it fuels him to keep going. It fuels him to work harder to get people to respect bad weather warnings. He so wants every house to have a weather radio that he will provide one if you can’t afford it. He loves his job. He sees it as his personal ministry and calling from God. God has certainly given him the platform to help people.
Besides being a self-proclaimed weather geek, James is a children’s worship minister. He leads children’s worship every Sunday at Double Oak Community Church, a church he helped plant several years ago. He loves leading kids to worship God. He says it comes as easy to him as predicting the weather. And the kids love him. He has a wife and kids of his own. A wife and kids that adapt to his schedule of getting up at 5:00 every morning and going to bed at 11:00 every night. We didn’t get to meet them, but I’m sure they are just as amazing as he is. James said that he has kept this schedule since he started working at fourteen years old. In case you have lost track, that’s a lot of hours at work helping people.  


  1. […] cities across our country. First there was Melanie’s post about San Antonio. Then there was James Spann’s “Best Way to the Bama Beaches“, which encourages Birminghamians to get off the […]

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