A popular television program that first aired in 1955 and lasted for five years concluded with more than 200 bewildered, but delighted, new millionaires.
The premise of “The Millionaire” centered on recipients not knowing the name of the donor or why they had been picked to become wealthy.
The donor’s fictional name was John Beresford Tipton Jr., a Bill Gates-type billionaire who was conducting a study in human nature.
Lucky recipients were informed by “Michael Anthony,” Tipton’s attorney, not to tell anybody about their good fortune except for their spouse.
Tipton’s only order to Anthony was for him to find out what the recipients did with his money and report back as soon as possible.
Fast forward to today, and we have Bill Porter, a Selma leader who is familiar with the “The Millionaire” series and would love for it to happen in his hometown.
If it should come to pass in the next three weeks, he’s the kind of guy who would hand the million dollars over to two banks to pay off a lingering debt that, at the moment, is jeopardizing the future of the $5 million Selma-Dallas County YMCA.
Time is running out. The deadline is Dec. 31, and while Porter is understandably coy when talking about the problem, his indication last week was that the goal isn’t exactly in sight.
“We’ve got money coming in, but there is a very real possibility that the YMCA could be closed if we can’t raise all of it by the deadline,” said Porter, 69, who grew up at “the Y” and considers it his second home.
Selma is unique when it comes to YMCAs in Alabama. It became the first of its kind in 1858, and the building still exists. Efforts are under way to stabilize it so it doesn’t collapse.
During segregation, a black YMCA was built a few blocks from the original one and not far from a newer one operated by the legendary Paul Grist, for whom it was named.
The newest YMCA, a sparkling successor to the three previous facilities, was built five years ago with expectations that it would last a long time.
A fundraising project raised $2 million and paved the way to complete construction. Then the bottom dropped out as economic problems across the country caused many who had pledged funds to bail out of their commitments.
“We understand how it happened,” said Porter, who directs the new facility. “When you come right down to it, people don’t really need the Y, not when their biggest worry is finding money to feed their families.”