2021 Birmingham City Election

Chris Woods Wants to Look Out for the City Like a Brother

Chris Woods, candidate for mayor of Birmingham. (Photo by: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Birmingham mayoral candidate Chris Woods could star in the reboot of the 2000 ABC situation comedy “Malcomb in the Middle.”

Except in this one, Chris is in the middle of a household of 13 children.

“I’m right in the middle,” he said over breakfast at Bogue’s Restaurant. “I’ve got three older brothers and three younger brothers, so I’d be the middle boy. I’ve got four big sisters and two little sisters so I’m right there at the middle.

“I got to learn from my older brothers and then I got to be a big brother to my younger brothers,” he continued. “I got put in that position of responsibility with mom to look after your brothers. She would tell my brothers to look after your brother. We’d be going somewhere. That was the beauty about that. We got plenty of attention from being in the middle. You got trained and then you got to be the big brother to the little brothers.”

For the third time, Woods is bidding to be the person responsible for running government in the city of Birmingham. He ran in 1995 and got 4,963 votes, 9.5%, finishing a distant third to Richard Arrington Jr., who got 28,595 votes, 54.8%, to win without a runoff.

Four years ago, Woods again sought the office. This time, he was third in the general election, with 6,961 votes, 18.14%, behind Randall Woodfin, who had 15,668 votes, 40.84%, and then-incumbent William Bell, with 14,025 votes, 36.55%.

Woodfin won the runoff and is the incumbent this time. For his part, Woods said, the difference this time is he is a more mature candidate.

“Maturity is the main thing,” he said. “We’ve been more successful in how we’re reaching voters. The key is to communicate with the voters and making sure you reach them. You’ve gotta reach them.”

The candidate said he and his wife, Cassandra, would have gladly thrown their support behind a candidate who embodied his heart and passion for the city. But, he said, they didn’t see a viable alternative.

“It’s like if David didn’t go slay that giant, who was going to do it?” he asked. “I am not interested in being a career politician, I can tell you that. I’m interested in making a difference.”

Chris and Cassandra Woods were college sweethearts. In the past 20 of their 37-year marriage, she has had off and on battles with breast cancer.

So why did he jump into a third race for mayor?

“She jumped with me. That’s who pushed me,” he said. “My family is what pushed me. She is supporting me every day, and I’m supporting her in every way. Believe me, I hadn’t planned to do this. The conviction on her was we have to do this. ‘You’re called to do it.’”

Woods grew up in an iconic family in Birmingham, the son of Bishop Calvin Woods and the nephew of the late Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. The pair were visible leaders in the civil rights movement in the Magic City.

Calvin Woods said Chris has always been athletic. He put that athleticism on display at Parker High School, running track and playing football. He earned a football scholarship to Auburn University.

“He was well-rounded from a little boy up,” the bishop said. “He always was well-rounded, and he’d pay attention to you. He’d pay attention to you maybe when you didn’t realize he was paying attention.”

The father envisioned Chris becoming a preacher, leading a congregation. But he acknowledges that’s not the calling of this son.

“Chris hasn’t come out and said he’s a preacher just like some his other brothers, but he’s a preacher,” the bishop said. “The Lord showed it to me when he was a little boy. When he was at Auburn University, he was in a religious club. He taught the students there; they held Bible classes. Wherever he’s gone, he has carried his faith in God along with him.

“I know he’s a servant and then, too, God calls people to different things,” Calvin Woods continued. “It’s not always you’ve got to go in the pulpit to do what God called you to do. You can’t hold God down to call folks just to preach, to be in the pulpit. He does more than that.”

Chris Woods is a contractor, the president and CEO of C.W. Woods Contracting LLC. He said his education at Birmingham’s Carrie A. Tuggle Elementary and then A.H. Parker High School set him on that path.

“When I got to Parker, they had the full technical vocational as a curriculum, an entire curriculum,” he said. “It was like a separate school within a school. I was just put on a career path.”

Woods said his not having been in elected office before does not put him at a disadvantage.

“My experience as a businessman, as a personal man, would be an added value because I’m going to have integrity at the center of everything that I do and the best interest of the people,” he said. “You don’t need any political experience to know and do that.”