History of the BCFR

The Birmingham Committee on Foreign Relations was founded in 1943 by Charles Zukoski, Jr., an attorney, political leader, and businessman. Mr. Zukoski, who for most of his career was affiliated with the Trust Department of what is now AmSouth Bank, was active in a number of civic and leadership organizations. For a time, he was Mayor of the City of Mountain Brook. Our Committee was formed in 1943 when the importance of world affairs was at its height during World War II. Charles Zukoski led the group for 20 years. We owe much of our current success to his excellent leadership and vision.

Mr. Zukoski was followed as chairman by Alex Lacey, an attorney and executive with Alabama Gas Corporation. Alex helped build the program from 1963 to 1985 when he was succeeded by Henry R. Vermilye, an Executive Vice-President at SouthTrust Bank. "Terry," as he is called, led the group from 1985 to 1996. In 1996, David L. Carder, an executive with Vulcan Materials, took over and led the group through the year 2001. Under Dave’s outstanding leadership the committee was revitalized and ties were strengthened with the American Committees on Foreign Relations. Importantly, the quality and depth of the speaker programs improved dramatically, and the organization saw an influx of new members. Frank M. Young, III succeeded Dave Carder as Chairman in 2001. Frank, an attorney in Birmingham with Haskell Slaughter Young & Rediker, devotes a portion of his practice to international law. The Committee continued to grow and prosper under the leadership of A.H. Gaede (2007-2009) and Donald B. Sweeney, Jr. (2009-2012), both prominent Birmingham attorneys. Frank Young again led the Committee from 2012-2016.

The chairmanship passed to Kali McNutt beginning with the 2016-2017 program year. Kali is a Birmingham native who recently returned to Alabama after working in foreign policy in Washington, D.C. Kali benefits the committee by utilizing her vast network of think tank experts and diplomats in D.C. in order to strengthen the caliber of the Committee's speakers. A central goal of Kali's for the coming years is to develop relationships and collaborate closely with area stakeholders--K-12 schools, colleges, corporations, internationally-focused non-profits, and elected officials--to expand the offerings of the BCFR. An emphasis will also be placed on recruiting the next generation of Birmingham business and civic leaders to join BCFR and become engaged on international issues.

When the Birmingham Committee was initially founded in 1943, it was affiliated with the Council of Foreign Relations, an organization headquartered in New York City. This relationship continued until the early 90's when it was terminated by mutual agreement. Thereafter, the association with the American Committees on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., was established. 

We are proud of our affiliation with the American Committees on Foreign Relations. Our Committee has taken a positive leadership role in the organization. David L. Carder, a former Chairman, was a member of the Executive Committee of the American Committees for a number of years, and served as ACFR's President from 2005 to 2007. Herb Sklenar was named a Distinguished Advisor at the Annual Meeting in May of 2003. Since 2001, Frank Young, past Chairman of the Birmingham Committee, has been a member of the Board, also serving as ACFR's President from 2007 to 2009.