BY BRUCE BRANUM
The Greenville Standard
In a community of Butler County called Central, there is a church called Spring Hill Baptist Church.
The church had three couples who reached a milestone of 67 years of marriage in 2019.
Those couples are Mowbra and Lilah Branum, James and Wanda Pittman, and Bob and Betty Branum.
Mowbra and Lilah knew each other from childhood as they grew up in Central about a mile from each other.
After they finished their early schooling in the Central Schoolhouse, they attended Greenville High School (GHS) and began talking on a school bus Mowbra drove for GHS.
Lilah was actually a class ahead of Mowbra even though both were born in 1930.
Mowbra joined the U.S. Army on June 10, 1051 and Lilah worked at Hainjes Furniture and Johnson Brothers Jewelry Stores in Greenville.
They were married on Feb. 25, 1952 in Central by Reverend Ralph Mullins while Mowbra was home on furlough from the Army.
Lilah said, “We got married so I could go seem him in California but it wasn’t long before he had to go overseas.
Mowbra served in France and England and was headed to Korea when the troop transport turned around. He got out of the service in March of 1953.
After returning home, Mowbra worked for Bob Gates at a pulpwood yard before starting his own pulpwood business.
In 1960, he was hired by Butler County and worked in the Road Department for 36 years, with 22 of those years driving a Drot excavator.
Lilah worked as a maid during their early marriage days and after their three children were born, she went to work for Bosses Glove Factory in Greenville.
She worked there for over 30 years to help support their family. She began working when Mowbra had a back injury. They both retired in 1995.
Lilah said, “We’ve had a good marriage. He’s my best friend. I never thought I would have somebody that I would be so happy with.”
Mowbra said of their marriage, “It’s a give and take. I think loving one another with all your heart and being best friends is the key to successful marriage.”
They have three children; Joyce, Alice and Glenn, six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.
James and Wanda Pittman, who also live in Central, have a bit of a different love story.
James grew up in Central, then joined the U.S. Navy. Wanda grew up in wheat country in eastern Washington State and then moved to the Seattle area.
They met while James was dry-docked in Seattle for three months for ship repairs. Wanda was operating an Addressograph machine for an engineering magazine.
They started seeing each other and one week later James proposed to Wanda. They had to wait one week for a marriage license and then were married on March 31, 1952.
Wanda laughingly said, “We got married on that day because I wasn’t getting married on April 1, which is April Fool’s Day.”
In September of 1952, Wanda boarded a train to Greenville from Seattle. “I was scared to death. I didn’t know anyone,” she said.
Wanda arrived in Greenville one morning around 2 a.m. and the train conductor arranged for a cab to take Wanda to James’ parents’ house. “Needless to say, they were shocked,” Wanda added.
In September 1953, James got out of the service and worked with Butler County, the railroad, and also attended business school.
Afterwards in 1957, James started working at paper mills in Georgia, then North Carolina, and finally Alabama after he and Wanda moved back to Greenville in 1967.
He retired on medical disability in 1989. Wanda was mostly a homemaker but also worked at Camellia City Florist.
Wanda said of their long marriage, “We grew up in an era where a commitment was a commitment. I think you also have to be each other’s good friends.
“You have to have a lot of compromise, friendship, and faith.”
James added, “The good Lord forgives you for your sins and you have to be willing to forgive. You have to be able to give 100%.”
They had four children: Patti (deceased, Mary Jo, Jim, and Billy; and have five grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and a great great grandchild.
Bob and Betty Branum also live in the Central Community. Before they were married on Dec. 13, 1952, Betty lived in the Friendship Community and Bob live in Central about seven miles apart from Betty.
They were also married by Reverend Ralph Mullins at the Friendship Methodist Church.
At the age of 4-5 years old, Bob developed Polio. After high school, Bob worked at Skinner Furniture and then W.T. Lumber in Greenville and then Chapman.
It was at W.T. Lumber in Chapman that he decided to run for Butler County Circuit Clerk.
At that first election Bob said, “I got more votes than anyone ever had in Butler County. I politicked hard and went all over the county. I’m mighty thankful to the people of Butler County.”
For 36 years Bob served as Circuit Clerk, walking up and down the steps of the Butler County Courthouse to the second floor where his office was located, until his retirement in 1994.
“Climbing those stairs must have been good for me,” he said.
“The hardest thing I had to do was a write a death warrant for a man after his for a murder trial and send to the state. It really irked me having to call for a man’s death.”
Bob served as President of Alabama Circuit Clerks Association for one year and also served for a year on the National Association of Circuit Clerks.
Betty worked for Greenville Manufacturing and then started working as a book keeper for Stabler Clinic in 1971. She retired from the clinic in 1984.
As for the longevity of their marriage, Bob and Betty said it’s a matter of give and take to hold a marriage for 67 years.
“We had some good years and some lean years,” said Bob, with Betty adding, “It’s a lot of compromise. You have to be good friends and have faith in the Lord he will see things through.”
They have two sons: Bill and Barry.