Ask Miss Alabama Callie Walker to tell you a story about her life and it’s bound to eventually circle around to family. John Denver music reminds her of riding in the car with her father as a child. She has a quirky nostalgia for family time spent at Birmingham area McDonald’s play places. She was extremely pleased and relieved, in a way, when her twin brother Michael left the University of West Alabama to join her at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Ask her to tell you a story about the foundations of her Christian faith, and it’s more of the same. A long-time family commitment to a church in Roebuck dates back to her grandparents choosing a place of worship for their children. And the state of Alabama is home to a host of instructors who have embraced the family’s shared passion for music, dance, acting, and the Christian responsibility to environmental sustainability.
A rising senior at the University of Alabama, Callie is a 2015 graduate of Oak Mountain High School who placed first runner up in the Miss Alabama pageant in 2016 and 2017. After two close finishes, she says she had little anxiety in the moments before she was announced the winner on June 9. “I was really at peace with whatever happened,” she recalls. “I knew that Tiara Pennington could do the job completely and confidently. I knew that whatever happened was meant to be.” After receiving her crown, Callie met her mother at the end of the stage for an embrace. But the emotional impact didn’t come until later, when she laid eyes on her grandfather Howard Plott. “He gets really emotional at events, so he doesn’t like to come because he gets embarrassed because he is crying because he’s proud. He had never been to Miss Alabama in the four years I competed,” she says. “That was the first time I had cried that night. It wasn’t even the moment when I won—it was the fact that I had all of my family there with me. That was a really exciting and special moment.”
Art Facts. It seems nearly every member of the Walker family has a knack for the arts. Callie’s mother, Angela Tower Walker, was Miss Alabama 1985, has taught Callie ballet since she was three years old, and is the Director of Ballet at Birmingham Dance Theater in Hoover. All three Walker children—Callie, brother Michael, and older sister Scarlett—performed in the Show Choir at Oak Mountain High School. Michael is studying music education at the University of Alabama and plans to become a choir director. Scarlett graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in musical theater in 2016 and is currently in the Broadway revival of Carouselin New York City. Callie says if she had to choose a household memory that points to just how creative they all turned out, it would be their choices of movies. “We definitely watched Disney movies, but we primarily watched movie musicals—The Sound of Music, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I attest that to my parents, especially my dad, because he really exposed my siblings and I to his love for music. I just am really thankful to my parents for the fact that they really exposed us to a wide variety of music and just the arts in general.” Angela says the family also traveled to New York for live shows and attended local Alabama Ballet and Birmingham Broadway Series productions. Callie and Scarlett both performed in The Nutcrackerwith the Alabama Ballet as children.
Faith Facts. Matters of faith for Callie is also a family affair. Her parents raised her in church since birth, and the family attends Wilson Chapel United Methodist Church in Roebuck, which is the worship community her father, Mike, grew up in. “We have kept that in our family, [and] my grandparents still attend. It’s just been a really big part of our family and how I was raised—going to church every Wednesday and Sunday. I am just lucky to say that the Lord is a part of my life, and I couldn’t imagine life without Him.” Callie says her time at the University of Alabama has allowed her to fully explore her personal faith through exposure to different Bible studies, small groups and worship styles. “I think there’s a lot of diversity, and at the University of Alabama they make it really easy for you to find a group of people or a church that really fits you,” she says. Callie spent her freshman year on campus participating in BAMACru, a Monday night worship event where she was invited to prayer groups or to talk about her faith. She also made a point to visit different churches in the area. “On Sunday I will still go with friends to different services because I have enjoyed exploring the faith within Tuscaloosa,” she says.
A musical theater major, Callie says that if she closes her eyes and imagines herself on stage, “it feels like I’m at home.” At the University of Alabama, she performed in “A Chorus Line” in spring 2017 and “Sweeney Todd” in spring 2018. She has also worked with Red Mountain Theatre Company in Birmingham. Prayer before stepping on stage helps her find peace and purpose both in pageants and local theater. She recalls a particularly meaningful prayer with her dressing room mom before the Miss Alabama pageant began last month: “No matter what happened on the stage, it was all for Him and it was in His plans. That [praying] was just really important to me, and it’s always something that I do before I go on stage at school as well.”
Trash Talk. Callie’s platform, “Let’s Talk Trash: Green Kids for a Green Planet,” also has ties to faith and family tradition. “The Lord has provided us with a beautiful earth that we need to take care of, and that’s very important to me. ‘Let’s Talk Trash’ is promoting the fact that if we don’t do our job as good stewards of this planet and as Christians on this planet, then we are not going to provide a beautiful planet for the people who follow us,” says Callie. “‘Let’s Talk Trash’ stemmed from the fact that my family had already been practicing sustainability for as long as I can remember. My grandparents passed that down to my parents, and my parents passed that down to my siblings and me.” Three years ago, Callie established a simple recycling project in her Meadowbrook neighborhood to address the fact that city and county recycling services did not collect glass. She put letters on mailboxes, set out a collection bin on Tuesdays, and personally hauled glass donations to recycling centers in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. Since then, she has collected and transported more than 1 ton of glass. As Miss Alabama, Callie plans to implement sustainability programs in elementary schools across the state.“They are my primary focus because if you start with teaching youth,” Callie says, “they will form those habits of recycling and hopefully pass those habits on to generations to come.” Schools interested in participating can contact Eve Gray at the Miss Alabama office, 205-871-6276.
- Camille Smith Platt