Political columnist pulls no punches

Published 9:37 pm Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Political columnist Steve Flowers laughing said that he is better known for his addiction to The Pig’s Café’s little white peas than for his columns.

But, to a Rotarian, they would agree that Flowers is not only their favorite columnist but also one of the favorite speakers for the Brundidge Rotary Club.

On Wednesday, Flowers took the Rotarians on a trip down the memory lane of Alabama’s rich and colorful political history.

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Flowers expressed his sadness at the recent death of longtime Brundidge barber, Earl Stinson, and remembered the role that barbershops once played in “retail politics.”

“Gov. George Wallace knew every barber in the state by name,” Flowers said. “That’s where he said his campaign was – in barbershops and beauty shops. When he asked anybody about Brundidge, he asked about Earl Stinson.”

Flowers learned his stumping lessons from Wallace, master retail politician.

“When I first started in politics, I campaigned all the little country stores that were scattered around the countryside,” he said. “Today, Wal-Mart would be the country stores of long ago because that’s where you have to go if you want to see everybody. Retail politics are a thing of the past.”

Flowers spoke fondly of Wallace, whom he said was gifted with an incredible memory that enabled him to remember names of people that he had met in a crowd years before.

He spoke of the colorful “Big Jim” Folsom and his unorthodox way of campaigning and the uncanny way he had of running the state government to his liking.

Flowers said, in the late 1930s, Folsom was running for longtime Congressman Henry Steagall’s seat in Washington. Steagall was getting a lot of heat from his constituents about his shenanigans in Washington and coming home to Southeast Alabama wearing Brooks Brothers suits.

“Congressman Steagall was going to Broadway plays and dining on fine food in New York and was said to be running around with young girls,” Flower said.

“When ‘Big Jim’ got up to speak, he said, ‘Y’all need to bring Henry home. This is a job for a young man.’”

He commented on how “Big Jim” would have handled South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’ situation.

“Big Jim would have said, ‘I’ve got me a good looking girl friend in Argentina. I’ll see y’all in about five days.’”

Flowers kept the Rotarians laughing with his colorful stories about politicians, but he also told them that candidates for the 2010 Alabama governor’s race will be “dialing for dollars” as they attempt to raise the money to put their names and faces before the public.

Flowers said the biggest surprise of the upcoming governor’s race was “Little Jim” Folsom’s decision not to run.

He mentioned Democratic frontrunners, U. S. Rep. Artur Davis and Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Sparks, and Republicans, state Rep. Robert Bentley, Greenville businessman Tim James, State Treasurer Kay Ivey and former Chief Justice Roy Moore – a mix that should make for an interesting campaign season.

The big factor, Flowers said will be the ability or inability of the candidates to raise the money necessary to run viable campaigns.

“That looks like the field unless somebody with money and name recognition comes in the last six months of the campaign,” he said without giving a hint as who that might be.