Honorary Alabamian

I am an honorary Alabamian, even though Florida is my home state. It’s kind of a long story, but I promise, if you bear with me, this will be a complete waste of your time.

I first became Alabamian in a hotel lobby full of Alabama officials. It was sort of like spring break check-in at some fancy resort. Only these weren’t teenagers with suntans. These were white-haired people with sport coats and extremely low centers of gravity.

I went to the front desk and checked into my hotel room.

A guy behind me in line said, “So, you’re the keynote speaker for the Alabama Governor’s Conference?”


“Where in Alabama are you from?”

“I’m from Florida.”

“What? And YOU’RE our keynote speaker?”

“That’s right.”

To which he replied, “Huh!”

The enormous auditorium started to fill up. And I’m talking about a room the size of a rural school district. I kept having this feeling that I didn’t belong here. What was I doing? I’m not an Alabamian. I was starting to feel pretty dumb.

Another man shook my hand and said, “So, what part of Alabama are you from?”

“I’m not,” I said. “I’m from the Panhandle.”

He gave a confused look, then he said “Why on earth did they hire YOU?”

So things were off to a great start.

I took the stage. I tapped the microphone. I said, “Hello, is this thing on?” But it turned out that the sound system was screwed up. What everyone heard was:


And that’s how the next forty minutes went.

When I finished, nobody was aware that I had concluded my speech because my voice was still reverberating in the airplane-hangar-like room. For all I know my voice is still echoing in that auditorium to this day.

The thing is, I truly love Alabama. That’s probably why I was asked to speak. I write more columns about Alabama than I do about other topics such as my wife, my dogs, the dangers of gout, cornbread, Greenland, etc.

Because where I was reared, the line between Alabama and the Panhandle is blurry. There’s a good reason for this. A few hundred years ago, Florida and Alabama were once part of the same territory. Some scholars even claim that if Alabama would have waited only two more years to become a state, West Florida might have been part of it.

Thus, half of my friends are Alabamians, many of my memories take place in Alabama, I root for Alabama football, and I found my wife in Escambia County.

Furthermore, my current career—if that’s what you’d call it—would be nothing if it weren’t for the state of Alabama.

Years ago, when my first book was published, the first thing I did was order 150 copies to give away for Christmas. I announced this to a few friends. Word spread quickly. The next day my email inbox was flooded with book requests from people in Alabama.

And the funny thing is, I didn’t get a single book request from a Floridian except for my cousin who says he used my book to fix a wobbly table.

So to summarize, the people in Alabama are dear to me. In fact, to show you how deep my connection goes, in Alabama my books are sometimes used in gastroenterologist’s offices as tranquilizers for routine colonoscopies.

I am not kidding about this. Yesterday, one Alabamian wrote to me to say—and this is a verbatim quote—“Monday I’m going in for my first colonoscopy. I’m not allowed to have a cell phone, but I CAN BRING A BOOK so in a way you’ll be there with me.”

You wouldn’t get this kind of love in, for instance, Idaho.

Anyway, some years later I got another chance to speak at a big Alabama conference. When I arrived at the fancy hotel, it was the same scene as before. All the important state officials were wearing khakis and giving skeptical looks when they learned that a Florida man was their keynote speaker.

I took the podium to see several hundred uninterested faces. And I almost turned around and walked off the stage. When I finished my speech, I stepped into the hallway to get some air and to reconsider my career path.

There, I met an old man who was waiting for me. He was skinny, gray, unshaven, and his shirt was untucked. He said, “I was hoping I’d catch you, Sean.”

He had a warm smile, and he looked tired. We shook hands. Then he handed me a tattered book. I recognized it instantly. It was my book. A book I once gave away at Christmas, a lifetime ago.

He told me the book had once belonged to his wife. And before she died of breast cancer, she made him promise to get it signed. Even if he had to do it after she died.

The night of her funeral he read my book cover to cover—my piddly, ordinary, mediocre book. Then he read it again. And again. And a few more times. And now he simply wanted me to sign it.

So naturally, by the time he finished his story the two of us were crying like a couple of blithering idiots. I’m pretty sure I got snot all over his shirt. Then we went to lunch and we talked for hours.

Before we parted, he hugged me. And in a drawl so thick it belonged on cornbread, he said, “Sean, I love you. And I hereby proclaim you an honorary Alabamian, son.”

This morning I woke up in our new home in Birmingham, we just moved in last night. And all these years later, that old man’s proclamation must have finally worked. I guess I’m an Alabamian now.


  1. Carole Moormann - March 7, 2022 6:33 am

    Every column of yours just gets better and better. I look forward to reading this every day.

  2. Richard C. Adams - March 7, 2022 6:37 am

    Any part of Alabama above the Conecuh River just north of Troy is occupied territory; anything north of the gnat line is foreign soil. Birmingham is where Wiregrass Area people send outcasts/traitors/spies/and Florida natives…

  3. Steve McCaleb - March 7, 2022 6:38 am

    Welcome home kid.

  4. Naomi Smith - March 7, 2022 6:41 am

    Thank you for your heartfelt words.
    I once called the state of Alabama home. During my husband’s time in the army, we were once stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama. We lived in Daleville. We enjoyed meeting the people there. Of course they were from all over the US. But we have made a point of enjoying everywhere we have ever lived, over our 53 years. It makes life so much more enjoyable. Naomi Smith

  5. Sandi. - March 7, 2022 7:08 am

    Alabama is lucky to have you there now, Sean. Enjoy your new home!

    • Rosemary Carter - March 7, 2022 10:43 pm

      And we are proud to have you, although many of us Alabama readers can’t understand why you chose Birmingham! Nothing against B’ham, but too far north for those of us in LA!!

  6. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - March 7, 2022 7:34 am

    🙂 Love you man.

  7. Deb - March 7, 2022 8:00 am

    When I go in for my next colonoscopy, I will be sure to bring along one of your books… Much LUV from the Gem State of Idaho! 😸

  8. Ann Marie Bouchet - March 7, 2022 8:10 am

    So glad we share the same state. I am glad you are now an Alabamian.WELCOME!!!

  9. Susan H Poole - March 7, 2022 8:26 am

    So you are now a bonafide Alabamian. WELCOME to your new home. I predict it’s gonna be a great ride for you, Jamie & the pups😍

  10. Leigh Amiot - March 7, 2022 10:11 am

    As a Georgian, you’re still my neighbor! Love the craftsman house drawing. Be sure to plant a tree to honor your move-in year.

  11. Te - March 7, 2022 11:09 am

    Alabama is a much misunderstood state, so you should fit right in.

  12. joan moore - March 7, 2022 11:21 am

    You are more than that, y’all are family! Jump on 65 and come on up in time for breakfast . Tell Jamie I’ll make sure y’all get a warm welcome. She could bring a few biscuits and I will have a big plate of country ham and red eye ready. A copy of your latest will be by my place at the table, so come on!

  13. Linda Massengill - March 7, 2022 11:22 am

    I have lived in Atlanta for 42 years; but when people ask where I’m from I tell them I live in Atlanta but I am from (Marianna) Florida. Don’t ever forget where you are from.

  14. Connie Shepherd - March 7, 2022 11:35 am

    Welcome to Alabama! It is a sweet home indeed!
    RTR 🤗

  15. Sharon Hand - March 7, 2022 11:55 am

    And don’t forget to stand and sing the state song ” Sweet Home, Alabama” as loudly as you can.

  16. Barbara P Dawson - March 7, 2022 12:17 pm

    And an honorary Georgian … and Mississipian … and North Carolinian … and any other state whose citizens’ feelings run as deeply as yours.

  17. Dina - March 7, 2022 12:33 pm

    Another great one!

  18. Anne Arthur - March 7, 2022 12:39 pm

    Enjoy all that comes from here on, sounds like an interesting ride.

  19. Betty - March 7, 2022 12:41 pm

    Welcome to Birmingham! Sleeping in your own bed even if it’s a totally new home is pretty wonderful. Think of all the new adventures you both will encounter. Can hardly wait to hear all about it. If you guys get bored or want to visit a local (who lived in Brewton for 7 years, so I feel you) who can cook on request, just let me know😌. You are both so adorable. We need an update on the dogs though. What are they up to these days? Anyway, welcome Sean and Jamie♥️ Glad you are here!

  20. Patricia Collins - March 7, 2022 12:53 pm

    You may have been an Alabamian all along and just “ thought” you were a Floridian ! Either way, welcome and enjoy your new home Mr Alabamian !

  21. Rhea Wynn - March 7, 2022 12:55 pm

    Welcome to Alabama. I moved here from Missouri about 40 years ago, and I love it. The people are so welcoming, and everyone feels like a part of the family. I married into an Alabama family, much like you did. Great choices for both of us!

  22. Joyce Anders - March 7, 2022 1:03 pm

    Congratulations, Seann and Jamie! You did it!

  23. Kay - March 7, 2022 1:11 pm

    …..and we are now proud to call you “ours”.❤️

  24. Robyn - March 7, 2022 1:12 pm

    Sean, you make it worth getting up in the morning and turn on the wonder gadget of a computer to see what you write. And i’m from Texas! Robyn

  25. Bob Sorrell - March 7, 2022 1:15 pm

    Welcome to your new home and we are mighty proud to have you.

  26. Jan - March 7, 2022 1:21 pm

    I think you have always been an Alabamian as well as a Floridian and probably many others. You are related to those who love you by far more than your present residence. It has more to do with a state of mind not your present address. We who love you claim you in Alabama today just like we always have and I am sure Florida and some other states feel the same way. Welcome Home!

  27. Betty Kelly - March 7, 2022 1:28 pm

    Welcome to Alabama! This is God’s country! Hope y’all love it as much as I do! From your friendly beard puller!!

  28. Cathy M - March 7, 2022 1:46 pm

    So glad you and Jaimie made it. I love the house. You are just in time for our beautiful spring. It will be glorious but you have to live through the pollen war first. It’s worth it, esp. after living with vivid for two years. Spring and Easter are favorites of mine. Beauty and hope. Welcome to our fair city❤️🙏🏻🌷🦋

  29. Melody Wright - March 7, 2022 1:48 pm

    So glad you and Jamie made it safely to Alabama. Had the honor and privilege of meeting you a few days ago in Palatka. I’m the old lady originally from Alabama that makes biscuits with butter and called you good looking. I do so want to move back to Alabama and you may have given me the incentive to do so. Florida is already lonely without you. Stay safe. Oh yeah, you are STILL good looking.

  30. Carter Anthony - March 7, 2022 1:55 pm

    I was in the USAF at Eglin AFB in Ft. Walton for 3 years in the early 70s. Everyone of the native civilians I met wished they were part of Alabama because the Florida state government totally ignored them. At the time, the Panhandle was Lower Alabama (LA).

  31. Kelley - March 7, 2022 2:00 pm

    Welcome! Come see us in Florence, Alabama, sometime!

  32. Gayle Wilson - March 7, 2022 2:16 pm

    Sean, it wouldn’t matter to me if you were from Timbuktu. You make my days lighter and easier to bear when so much is negative and nasty in our world. Welcome to you and Jamie to your new home. Sit back and rest a while.

  33. Margaret Jackson - March 7, 2022 2:39 pm

    Welcome to Alabama!

  34. Paul McCutchen - March 7, 2022 2:43 pm

    Always remember “Home is where your heart is, Not your feet”, or something like that. My cousin in Hoover would tell you to learn to say “Roll Tide” and everything will be alright.

  35. Gordon - March 7, 2022 2:48 pm

    We are so glad to have you in Alabama. We welcome you and hope you will feel right at home.

  36. Sue Jones - March 7, 2022 2:51 pm

    Welcome to Alabama! We like you.

  37. Ruth Mitchell - March 7, 2022 2:55 pm

    Y’all just made Alabama a little sweeter! Welcome!

  38. Lucretia Jones - March 7, 2022 3:06 pm

    Alabama is honored to claim you ours, Sean!

  39. Ashley - March 7, 2022 3:14 pm

    Welcome to Birmingham! I have been following you since a dear friend of mine from Brewton introduced me to your stories! You have made me laugh, cry and think about like in many different ways! Hope you love your new home, looks like you are officially an Alabamian on top of a honorary one!

    • Ashley - March 7, 2022 3:15 pm


  40. Christy Keyton - March 7, 2022 3:16 pm

    I have lives here my whole life. It’s a great place, as you well know. Glad to call you an Alabamian!

  41. Tori - March 7, 2022 3:17 pm

    Just sending love from Idaho, but you’re right, it’s NOT from my colonoscopy appointment. I may not be a genuine southerner, but I visited the Florida panhandle for 4 summers when my father moved there after my parents divorce. And your stories always take me back to what that felt like. <3 Thank you!

  42. Charlotte Virginia McCraw - March 7, 2022 3:27 pm

    I’m not from Alabama, but I’ve been through Alabama. Does that qualify me to say, “WELCOME TO ALABAMA, SEAN.” May you and your wife find much happiness – – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ph3qvnw25eU

  43. Ellouise - March 7, 2022 3:59 pm

    And, as only a true Alabamian can declare, “Rolllll…”. Welcome! We love you so very much.

  44. Paula W Link - March 7, 2022 4:09 pm

    As a fifth generation Alabamian, with 2 more generations living next door, Alabama is richer for having you here. Welcome home.

  45. Annie Walsh - March 7, 2022 4:15 pm

    Sean you should come to Idaho! Friendliest nicest people you’d ever want to meet.

  46. Betty Kemp - March 7, 2022 4:46 pm

    Sean, Welcome to Sweet Home Alabama!! I was born and raised in Eden,Alabama – my Mother called it the “Garden of Eden”! I lived in Fairhope for 25 years and claim it as my adopted hometown! God bless you and Jamie in your new home! RTR!

  47. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - March 7, 2022 4:47 pm

    We are proud to claim you! I saw you in Gadsden and was amazed at your talent to entertain. I didn’t want the time to end when it was over.

  48. Nancy Carnahan - March 7, 2022 4:50 pm

    I grew up in Northern Alabama near the Tennessee River. I joined the AF and have lived in many places, 46 years in California. I still say “home” when referring to Alabama. If it weren’t for kids, grandkids, and my husband, I would be there. My son would like to move there also. Welcome home!

  49. Lucy Lewis - March 7, 2022 4:56 pm

    Welcome to Birmingham! I hope I run into you at Winn Dixie as I occasionally do John Archibald!

  50. Lana - March 7, 2022 4:56 pm

    Well glad to have you. I don’t say that about all who move here you know!

  51. Ann Neptune - March 7, 2022 5:08 pm

    It always amazes me when people say the tactless things to a total stranger! I was born here in Birmingham 73 years ago and only lived away from here for about eight years in the 70s! I normally pride my state, city as being welcoming,! Try not to hold a few crazy folk against us!

  52. Teresa H Trammell - March 7, 2022 5:50 pm

    Welcome home! Glad to have you both in Alabama.

  53. Ginger Smith - March 7, 2022 6:10 pm

    Ha! Everyone in LA has a relative in the panhandle, well almost everyone. Could we call the panhandle LLA…Lower Lower Alabama? It needs to have a nickname to connect it to Alabama. Someone, please suggest it. I’m surprised some of those Alabamians didn’t know the connection. I’ve never lived in either state, but I do know that!

    Okay, Sean, you will have to come to northwest Georgia to speak! If you do, let me know. There are some wonderful wild places in northeast AL as well as northwest Georgia. Hiking, wildflowers, etc. So you let me know!

    God bless y’all! Enjoy Alabama!

  54. cartynol8 - March 7, 2022 6:55 pm

    Another good one!!! You really have a way with words. Don’t sell yourself short, ever!!!

  55. writetouchgirl - March 7, 2022 7:10 pm

    Sean, I just discovered you and love your writing. I also write about Alabama, and for some of the same reasons. I live in Virginia now, but I keep writing about childhood memories, sacred places, and people in Alabama. You have earned your citizenship. I hope you like living in Birmingham. I was raised in Tuscaloosa, and Birmingham was the “big city” that was only 50 miles away. Alabama the Beautiful!

    Emily Walls Ray

  56. Tom - March 7, 2022 7:18 pm

    Welcome to “Sweet Home”, glad you could finally make it and we’re proud to have you.

  57. Linda m Perry - March 7, 2022 7:41 pm

    God bless you an that old man !!!!

  58. Kathy - March 7, 2022 8:05 pm

    My friend Steve Latham loved you. That’s good enough for me. You are definitely an Alabamian.

  59. Stacey Patton Wallace - March 7, 2022 8:28 pm

    Sean, thanks, I needed that. And this native born Alabamian is thrilled that you are now forever one of us. Love to you and Jamie.

  60. Becky+Souders - March 7, 2022 8:44 pm

    Happy New Home ! My husband and I had 14 addresses in our married life, in three different states…. and home was wherever we were together. Lovely sketch with this column, Sean. Pretty home.

  61. Joe - March 7, 2022 8:46 pm

    Moving on up! Better to be a Tide than a Gater.

  62. CM - March 7, 2022 9:51 pm

    Welcome friend, to Alabama. I’ve always lived here; have made many friends here, been educated here and don’t plan to leave until I’m in a little ash pot and likely sprinkled in a nearby mountainous or beach state. I apologize for the crude ‘welcome’ you received at the Gov’s conference. I am disappointed in our politics of the day and those personalities that exercise arrogance, in an attempt to elevate themselves….or at least that is how I see them. Love your column and your ongoing soft touch. Welcome to my state.

  63. Beverly - March 7, 2022 11:07 pm


  64. Julia - March 7, 2022 11:17 pm

    Wishing you and Jamie much happiness in Birmingham! A few weeks before you moved to Birmingham, I moved to TN from Birmingham. The memories of the 28 years there are priceless! I experienced the same task of cleaning out, deciding which things would physically go with me or I’d share (give away). Regardless, every memory resides in my heart and the heart never forgets! Birmingham already loves you, so what a wonderful beginning. I look forward to reading your new adventures.

  65. Mary Berryman - March 7, 2022 11:22 pm

    Welcome to Birmingham, Sean! I’m so glad you are here! Everybody at book club last week was talking about you saying, “Did you know Sean Dietrich moved HERE??”

  66. Holly Putillion - March 8, 2022 12:19 am

    I’m a girl from Mobile that has lived in Florida for 18 years now, first in Jacksonville and now the Panhandle since 2016. You are definitely correct that you practically lived in Alabama anyway. You cheer for the best college team ever. Roll Tide! You were smart, like my husband, and married an Alabama girl. I think you’re exactly where you should be. Birmingham is fantastic and you’ll fit right in. I lived there right after college and it’s the only place in Alabama I’d move back to. Best wishes to you and your wife in Sweet Home Alabama. You’re going to love it.

  67. Mary L - March 8, 2022 12:30 am

    Welcome to Alabama, Sean and Jamie. Good luck and God bless.

  68. Diane - March 8, 2022 1:15 am

    Love ya’ll and Welcome to Alabama!!! I’m in Cullman but hopefully will run into you and Jamie sometime… I’ve loved everything you’ve written.. well at everything I’ve read of yours….

  69. Keloth Anne - March 8, 2022 1:28 am

    Well you’ve always been loved in Alabama 🥰🥰
    So happy y’all are moved and getting settled in to a home that you, Jamie and those loved fur babies will make happy treasured memories for many many years!!
    Love your writings and sending hugs to you and Jamie ♥️♥️
    Love from Ozark, Alabama

  70. mary piland - March 8, 2022 1:59 am

    Welcome home.

  71. Sharon on Southside - March 8, 2022 3:19 am

    Welcome to the neighborhood! So glad you’re here! Looking forward to seeing you April 24!

  72. Chasity Davis Ritter - March 8, 2022 3:44 am

    You’re going to be just fine

  73. suzi - March 8, 2022 12:15 pm

    Thank you for allowing me to journey with you.

  74. dsis3 - March 8, 2022 7:54 pm

    Welcome! There are many parks nearby when you need to escape to a little wilderness: Oak Mountain, Tannehill, Botanical Gardens, Aldridge Gardens, Ross Bridge trails, and many more.

  75. MaryAnn A Dunham - March 8, 2022 10:40 pm

    Precious, Sean! Enlightening, sweet and as always, funny bone tickling!

  76. Ann Bird - March 9, 2022 7:04 pm

    You will always belong to the PanHandel! I don’t know why you moved to Bham! At certain times of the year you have as may “Alabamians” in the PanHandel as you do in Bham! I live in the PanHandel and I am very proud of you!!!

  77. Delphia Smith - March 11, 2022 1:59 am

    Yes you are an Alabamian and we are so glad you and Jamie are here! Welcoming home!

  78. Dianne - March 12, 2022 1:04 pm

    I was born in Birmingham, have lived most of my life in Georgia, have a son and his wife, their two children and their families who live in Birmingham. I love Birmingham, and we are Auburn War Eagles. You will love Birmingham and the wonderful State of Alabama. Welcome home, Sean!

  79. Ann - March 14, 2022 1:02 am

    A number of years ago a very dear friend ( who has since passed) introduced you…well your column…to me, and of course, she was from Alabama! I’m forever grateful for her gift of you and a daily reminder of her.

  80. Pam Williams - March 14, 2022 2:19 pm

    Welcome to Alabama! I love this state. People are friendly, polite and conservative ( that last one is party important to me). We move here many years ago from Wyoming. We got tired of the snow. One year we went back to visit in July and got caught in a blizzard. We had to go to Walmart to buy appropriate clothes. We have friends who just moved from Alabama to Colorado. They said they
    “like snow”. I told them there is a BIG difference between “ liking snow” and living in it for 8+ months of a year. They are now back in Alabama! I’m this state drivers will let you cut into a line of traffic. They use words like “ sweetie” and “honey” and “sugar” when waiting on you. They believe in God. They LOVE their football teams! GO BAMA!

  81. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - March 24, 2022 4:57 am


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