Chervis Isom

Chervis Isom

Chervis Isom was born in rural Franklin County, Alabama, located in the northwestern part of Alabama in the hill country, from where his parents had originated. His family moved to Birmingham when he was a young child of three to four years of age, to the urban community of Norwood. It was there in Norwood where he delivered newspapers during his adolescence. He attended Norwood Grammar School, Phillips High School (1957), Birmingham-Southern College (B.A. English and Philosophy, 1962) and Cumberland School of Law of Samford University (J.D., 1967).

Upon graduation from Law School, he accepted an offer to practice law in the small firm of Berkowitz, Lefkovits, Vann, Patrick & Smith. Thirty-six years later, the firm of Berkowitz, Lefkovits, Isom & Kushner merged its practice with the multi-state law firm of Baker Donelson Bearman & Caldwell, adding the name “Berkowitz” to its name. He has retired from his law practice after fifty-four years with the same firm, and now devotes his time to family matters but still finds time to push words around on the page.

In 2014, Chervis Isom, who lives in Birmingham, published The Newspaper Boy: Coming of Age in Birmingham, Alabama, During the Civil Rights Era.


Author’s note: I’ve used the old-fashioned, at-the-time-polite terms “Negro” and “colored” to describe the African Americans who appear in these stories. I hope you will understand I have no intention to offend anyone by my choice of those terms. For integrity’s sake, I’m merely using the vernacular of the time. (From The Newspaper Boy by Chervis Isom, 2013, page xiii)

He pointed to large, raised letters near the end of the dusty eight inch steel pipe. With one swipe, I brushed them clean. “Made in Belgium,” I muttered, as if he needed my translation. Then he stalked away. I studied the dozens of identical pipe stacked in the yard. The electric grinder he had given me, now hanging from my hand, seemed wholly inadequate for the job I had been told to do.

As I dithered, trying to figure out the best way to begin, I noticed the colored guy—they called him Arizona—watching me. His neutral face showed no emotion, but I knew he must have been amused to watch a college boy flounder in ignorance and incompetence.

How do I begin? I wondered. Is there a place to sit? If I sit on the pipe, will it roll? There must be a trick to this somehow. Arizona watched quietly. After a few moments, I looked at him. “You done this before?”