Alabama politicians: Where are they now?
Published 11:01 pm Thursday, March 17, 2016
A good friend and loyal reader suggested to me that he would like to see a column entitled, “Where Are They Now?” Then I ran into former Gov. Albert Brewer at a Birmingham restaurant and it prompted me to do that column.
Gov. Brewer has always been admired by Alabamians as one of the finest people to have ever served in state government. I got to know Gov. Brewer when I was a young page in the Alabama House of Representatives and Brewer was a youthful Speaker of the House. In fact, he has the distinction of being the youngest Speaker in state history. He was elected to the House from Morgan County at 28 and became Speaker during only his second term at age 33.
In 1966, he was elected lieutenant governor. While serving as lieutenant governor, Lurleen Wallace succumbed to cancer and Brewer became governor in 1968. He ran for a full term in 1970. In the most memorable and momentous governor’s race in history, Brewer and George Wallace clashed. He led Wallace in the initial voting but Wallace overtly played the race card and overcame Brewer in the runoff to become governor again. Brewer made another run for governor in 1978 but Fob James came out of nowhere to defeat the three B’s, Bill Baxley, Jere Beasley and Albert Brewer.
Since leaving politics, Gov. Brewer returned to the practice of law then began teaching at Samford’s Cumberland School of Law, where he has counseled and mentored students and young lawyers, including my daughter Ginny, for more than 20 years. Gov. Brewer has remained active in governing in Alabama through the Public Affairs Research Council. At 87, he is in good health and enjoys his life in Birmingham.
Another former governor, John Patterson, is 94. He lives on his ancestral land in Goldville in rural Tallapoosa County. Patterson has the distinction of being the only man to beat George Wallace in a governor’s race. Wallace was a fiery circuit judge from Barbour County and Patterson was a squeaky clean law and order segregationist young attorney general. Patterson beat Wallace soundly in that 1954 race and became the youngest governor in state history. He was only 33 years old when he took office as governor in January of 1955. He was dubbed the “boy governor.”
Patterson was later appointed and then elected to the Alabama Court of Appeals and served with distinction as a jurist for over 20 years. He is enjoying is golden years on his farm and has a pet goat named Rebecca, who came to his house out of the blue and took up with him. Rebecca follows Patterson wherever he goes. She watches him intensely and animatedly seems to engage in conversation.
Former Gov. Fob James is enjoying his retirement years at his Butler County farm and at Orange Beach. Fob actually retired about 40 years ago at age 40 when he and his brother, Cal, sold their Opelika industry, Diversified Products. Fob chose to spend his personal money to surprise Baxley, Beasley and Brewer in 1978 to win the governor’s race in one of the most notable gubernatorial contests in state political history. Fob was elected governor again in 1994. He is the only person in state history to win the governor’s race first as a Democrat then as a Republican.
Bill Baxley was elected Attorney General of Alabama in 1970 at age 28. He became not only the youngest person elected attorney general in Alabama history but he was the youngest state attorney general in the nation’s history. Baxley served two terms as attorney general from 1970-1978, then came back as lieutenant governor from 1982-1986. Baxley has a successful law practice in Birmingham and is doing well at age 75.
At age 66, Jim Folsom, Jr. is the youngest former governor. He and Marsha live in their native Cullman. They both look great, as always, and are enjoying their life.
Perry Hooper Sr., who was one of the founders of the modern Republican Party in Alabama, is 90. He is retired and living in his beloved Montgomery. He became probate judge of Montgomery County with the 1964 Goldwater Republican landslide. He later became the first Republican Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and paved the way for our current day all Republican Supreme Court.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.