Some of Pell City’s citizens may recognize a familiar face if they turn on 60 minutes Sunday night.
Andy Birchfield, head of the Mass Torts Division with Beasley Allen law firm, is heading up lawsuits against the pharmaceutical company Merck over the drug Vioxx, which was pulled from the shelves in September.
On Sunday he will be one of the featured speakers on the CBS news show 60 Minutes about his involvement in the case.
“We filed out first Vioxx lawsuit nearly three years ago and there are only a handful of law firms that had Vioxx litigation going before the time of the withdrawal,” Birchfield said. “It’s the largest drug withdrawal in history, and because we were out front in this litigation and considered the leaders in this litigation when 60 Minutes was looking to do a story, our involvement came to their attention.”
Birchfield said his law firm currently represents thousands of people involved in the lawsuit, but before he was a lawyer, Birchfield spent some of his younger years living and going to school in Pell City. His mother, Carole Birchfield, was a teacher, and his father Tony Birchfield, was a director of the Sheriff’s Department Boys Ranch.
“We’re thrilled and excited, but really surprised,” Carole said “Andy has always worked extremely hard and has been very passionate. I’m his mother and I’m biased towards him, but he’s always had a deep commitment to helping people.”
The Birchfields moved to Pell City in 1976 when Andy was in sixth grade and in 1982 graduated from Pell City High School before heading off to college at Samford University.
He would later go on to get his law degree from Jones Law School in Montgomery, but his father says in some of his best qualities aren’t things he learned in school.
“Probably the most outstanding characteristic he has is caring for other people and trying to be helpful by dedicating his life to being not just an attorney, but making it count for other people,” Tony Birchfield said. “He is very compassionate. I think his faith in God is the root of his whole life and I think that is where it all stems from.”
And Birchfield’s desire to serve other was noticed early by his father.
“I don’t think there was any question after he was a teenager that he would be serving the public in some area,” Tony Birchfield added. “It was from an early age that I knew he would not just have a job, he would seek a calling.”
Birchfield said growing up in Pell City had influenced his life and his law practice.
“Naturally you’re growing up years influence your life and your practice,” birchfield said. “There’s no question about that, and growing up in a relatively small town I certainly understand the importance of how bad drugs can affect people. The nature of my practice is standing up for the little guy against big drug companies. I guess that’s all part of my growing up.”
Carole and Tony Birchfield recently moved to Dadeville. Some of their friends still live in Pell City and are planning to tune in to 60 Minutes Sunday night.
“I’m anxious to see it,” said John Lonergan, a friend of Birchfields. “Andy is just an example of a kid who grew up right. He’s the kind of person you just knew was going to be successful in something.
“He’s honest, a strong Christian and comes from a good family,” he said.
Lonergan’s wife, Sharon, will also be watching the show Sunday and thinks Birchfield is where he needs to be.
“Andy just believes so strongly in the things he does,” Sharon Lonergan said. “He takes it seriously that he’s helping people. He’s a fine young man.