By Donna Cornelius
Journal Features Writer
If he wanted to, Don Logan could cover his office walls with awards, certificates and photos.
His career as chairman and chief executive officer at Southern Progress Corp. and at Time Inc. led to a lengthy list of honors, including the Henry Johnson Fisher award, the magazine industry’s highest tribute, and induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor.
Logan was the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame’s 2011 Distinguished American Sportsman. Auburn University, his alma mater, gave Logan its Alumni Association National Achievement Award, while the University of Alabama named him to its College of Communication and Information Sciences Hall of Fame. Auburn, Clemson University and UAB presented him with honorary doctorates.
During his years with Time, he had the opportunity to go to the Olympics, to attend 10 NCAA Final Four events and to rub shoulders with entertainment stars and business moguls.
And that’s just the short list.
In Logan’s office at Seek Publishing in downtown Birmingham, two framed magazine covers – one of Bassmaster and the other of Field and Stream — catch visitors’ eyes. Both reflect one of Logan’s passions.
“I get calls all the time to invest in things,” said Logan. “If it doesn’t fit my passion, I’m not interested.”
Logan and wife Sandy lived in Birmingham while sons Jeff and Stan were growing up. In 1992, the Logans moved to New York when he became Time’s CEO. The couple returned to Birmingham in 2006 – but not so Logan could relax and take it easy.
“I didn’t want to sit on the front porch in a rocking chair,” he said.
Logan was on the lookout for a business in which he and both sons could be involved. He decided to buy a half interest in Seek Publishing, a wholesale gift and greeting card manufacturer. Logan later bought the entire company and moved its headquarters from Memphis to Birmingham.
He also made two moves that any sportsman might dream of: He bought the Birmingham Barons, the Chicago White Sox’s Double-A franchise, and B.A.S.S. LLC, a fishing organization owned by ESPN.
The three newest ventures are businesses, he said, not hobbies.
“But it’s nice when you enjoy something and can blend the two together,” Logan said.
While growing up in Hartselle, Logan said, his head wasn’t filled with dreams of big city success. He rode the bus from his home in the country to Morgan County High School.
“I didn’t see myself as much of anything,” he said. “I hadn’t even thought about college until my senior year.
“I worked at labor-type jobs – picking cotton, cutting grass, sacking groceries. My goal was to someday make $4 to $5 an hour at the local plant.”
His decision to go to college was fueled by two factors, he said.
“Some of my friends were going to Florence State Teachers College,” said Logan. “And I’m lazy. I realized I was working very hard but not making a lot of money.”
After a year and a half at Florence State, now the University of North Alabama, Logan enrolled in a co-op program offered by Auburn University. Participants worked for three months and went to school for three months. Logan started out working as a mathematician at the NASA arsenal in Huntsville.
“I’d never even been on the Auburn campus until the first day of class,” he said.
After graduating from AU, Logan went on to earn a master’s degree from Clemson. He began work on a doctorate but, since by then he was married and had a child, decided to enter the working world.
He went to work for Progressive Farmer magazine in 1970 in data processing, the first step to Southern Progress’s top spot.
“Birmingham was a good place to live,” he said. “The kids were involved in sports, and we were close to our families. Birmingham had all the stuff we were interested in but was a place where you could still get around easily and get to know people.”
Son Jeff graduated from Berry High School, while Stan is a Mountain Brook High School graduate.
Time Inc. bought Southern Progress in 1985. Seven years later, Logan made the move to New York City to head Time.
“I had no aspirations to move to New York or to get into the fast lane,” he said. “I wouldn’t have gone there when our sons were younger. It was just good timing.”
During their years in New York, Logan and his wife maintained homes in Birmingham. Once their first grandchild – the couple now has five grandchildren – was born, visits home became more frequent.
“I’d always planned on coming back to Birmingham,” Logan said. “I’m just glad I was able to do it standing up and not in a box.”
In addition to Seek Publishing, Logan quickly found new fields to conquer by buying the Barons and BASS. He’s a lifelong baseball fan with fond memories of listening to St. Louis Cardinal games on the radio with his father, and he’s an avid fisherman.
Logan said the recent decision to move the Barons from Regions Field in Hoover to a new stadium in downtown Birmingham was based on several factors.
“We’ve had a great run in Hoover, and I have deep roots there. The stadium is well-maintained and in great condition, but it’s almost 25 years old.
“The trend now is to have stadiums downtown,” he said, “and building a new facility rejuvenates franchises and gives you additional markets. We should be able to attract more people from the business community.”
His love for fishing has taken him to places like Brazil, Bolivia, Christmas Island and Alaska.
“I’d like to go to some of the lakes in Mexico if it wasn’t so dangerous,” he said.
It’s hard to imagine that Logan has much spare time, but he’s a bookworm as well as a businessman.
“I love to read,” he said. “I read 100 books or more a year, plus magazines. Right now, I’m re-reading ‘Lonesome Dove.’”
He and Sandy now live in Mountain Brook, in a house they’d owned in earlier years.
Logan’s professional and personal contributions to Birmingham make his love for the city evident. But there’s always room for improvement, he said.
“Birmingham could use a bump in its self-image that needs to come from the entire region working together,” he said. “It needs a combination of political leadership from all the entities in our region and from the business community.”
Logan Will Headline
Mt. Brook Luncheon
Don Logan is the guest speaker at the Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce’s second annual Chamber Luncheon, set for Feb. 9 at 11 a.m. at The Club.
Register online at www.welcometomountainbrook.com. Call 871-3779 for more information.