As Luckie Would Have It
- May 17th, 2023
Palmer Whiting was in his office recently, when he got a call from someone in the Rose Administration building at The University of Alabama. It seems that a diploma, signed by President Denny, that had been stored in the basement for nearly 100 years had been unearthed. The diploma was to be awarded to Whiting’s great-grandfather, Samuel Palmer Gaillard, Jr. in 1917, but he left to fly airplanes for the Army Air Corps in WWI and never came back for it.
“I don’t know how many people can say that they have family who went The University of Alabama for five generations,” Whiting said. “My great-grandfather, my grandmother went there, [my wife] Casey’s grandparents, one on each side, Casey’s parents, and now our two children. I think that’s pretty neat.”
Jill Harris’s father was a chemist, and when it came to the question of children going to college, there was no discussion, so she made her way to UA to become a teacher. She became close with other women in her dorm. On Sunday afternoons, after the weekend’s festivities had died down, she remembered, everyone was homesick.
Bobby Luckie III (BS, Marketing, 1969) saw Jill Harris walk by the steps of Bidgood Hall on her way to the education building, a bow that “looked like a bone” in her hair. Their first date was in December of 1968: they went to a basketball game, and then watched “Laugh-In.” They were married in February of 1970.
The couple moved to Birmingham where Bobby went to work for his father’s advertising and media company. By this time, broadcaster John Forney, “The Voice of the Tide,” had joined the company. Jill recalled that, “John had a million-dollar personality, and Bobby’s daddy looked like Cary Grant, and had a Southern gentleman way about him. He could charm you into doing anything.” Bobby would later become CEO of the company, now called Luckie & Co. The young couple had three girls: Casey, Mary Katherine, and Laura, and the family “worked their life around Alabama football.” Every homecoming, they drove to Tuscaloosa to watch the parade from the steps of the Phi Delta Theta house, Bobby’s fraternity.
No surprise, then, that Casey Luckie chose to attend The University of Alabama and met Palmer Whiting (BS Finance, 1996) through mutual friends while they were both students at Culverhouse.
They had a class together, Management 300. “Casey is still mad that I used her notes and still made a better grade than her,” Palmer laughed. They spent a lot of time studying together at the then-new Bruno library. The two married in 1998 and had three children: Loie, Palmer, and Laura Katherine.
The older two children, Loie and Palmer, are both currently attending the Capstone. When Loie told her father that she was apprehensive about college, he said, “look, you’re about to meet and become friends with the people that you’ll talk to and have relationships with for the rest of your life. And you don’t know those people now.”
This theme of lasting relationships born out of time at UA is one that threads its way throughout the family. Bobby and Jill were part of a supper club that endured for years after graduation. Casey recalls the death of her father in 2019, where so many of her father’s college friends appeared. “So I want to tell my children,” Casey said, “you want to give back to things in your life that have made an impact so that others can benefit the same way that we have.”
From her garden home in Mountain Brook, Jill Luckie entertains guests in the old gracious Southern style. She presses drinks into their hands, ensures that everyone is comfortable. She is a deft conversationalist, easily moving from family history to current events. “Someone on television was saying, ‘we just need to get these old people out of the way,'” Luckie laughed. “I agree! We’ve had our turn. That’s why I want to help.” To honor her husband’s life and legacy, she endowed the Robert E. Luckie III Business Endowed Scholarship, which supports students who have faced hardships in their personal lives or at home and may not otherwise be able to attend college due to financial need.
“I’m not a traveler,” Luckie shrugged. “I go to the beach to see my children. I have everything I need. So I hope I can add to the scholarship in time.”
Her son-in-law, Palmer, manages the money that was left in Jill’s care. But he is also invested in giving. Currently the co-chair of the Rising Tide campaign at Culverhouse, Whiting tells his children, “Look, I have a planned gift to the university. If you don’t follow through on it, I’ll come back from the grave and haunt you.” He hopes to teach the children to give back to the institution that has done a lot for their family. His ultimate goal? “I hope what we do philanthropically for the University helps it be there for the next five generations of my family.”